Salvaging the subject of strip mall soulfulness for a second study, I present a regional shopping center of no great distinction. Much like the suburban structures of the previous article, Eagleridge Shopping Center is unusually coy about its name; the massive sign facing Interstate 25 forces the title to the absolute bottom. Most people probably only know it to be “Eagleridge” because that’s also the name of a road nearby. Far more important are the nationally recognized tenants themselves. Eagleridge sits in the northern outskirts of Pueblo, Colorado—by most observations the more affluent side of town—and it features some of the usual suspects, in terms of the big-name category killers: Barnes and Noble Booksellers, Petsmart, Home Depot, T.J. Maxx, Ross, and some smaller food-oriented chains, such as Ruby Tuesday, Cold Stone Creamery, Burger King. It is completely indistinct from hundreds of other shopping centers scattered throughout the country, except for one small amenity that sets it apart.
If the title of this article didn’t already give it away, does this awkward photo make it obvious? On one side of this sidewalk are the entrances to the stores themselves; on the other side are the hoods to a row of cars. And that is strange—subtly strange. Essentially these vehicles can park right up against the structure; the access lane separates this row of parking spaces from the rest of Eagleridge’s massive lot.
Many years ago, before I had even fully considered a profession that prompted me to look closely at urban development, we drove past a strip mall in the suburbs of Chicago that had a nightclub in it. Boogie Nights, I think it was. If the concept of a strip mall with a nightclub wasn’t hilarious enough, Boogie Nights also had a sign that it offered valet parking. Yes, you could drive to the front of the parking lot and pay someone to take your car two hundred feet to a space that you just as easily could have walked. I’m pretty confident that, typical of most nightclubs, Boogie Nights was not long for this world. Why would people would need valet parking for a destination whose surfeit of easily available spaces renders a valet unnecessary? Clearly in the case of this or any strip mall night club, it enables two major types of signaling: the status of the person handing keys over to the valet, and vibrancy of a sought-after, bustling urban space, which is, of course, typical location for most successful night clubs.
Eagleridge vaguely appropriates these concepts.
Call it vanity parking if you want, it’s a configuration far rarer than one might expect, considering how unremarkable of an effort it is. Usually that access lane abuts the sidewalk, which, thanks to its curb cut, serves as a pedestrian refuge from cars traversing the parking lot. But not at Eagleridge. At the very least, this arrangement endows the handicapped and disabled spaces with an added advantage; while these are usually simply the closest spaces in the elongated row in the lot, on the other side of the access lane, this time they are right there, just a few feet from the entrance to Barnes and Noble. But not all these spaces receive the blue-striped delegation; the management at Eagleridge provided the legally required number of handicapped spaces, and the remainder go to whoever wants them. This shopping center indulges American laziness and unwillingness to walk to an unsurpassed degree.
I can’t help but ask: why haven’t other commercial developers tried this same approach? While this isn’t the sole example, it’s certainly rare, and it’s not a particularly bold or expensive effort per se. My concern is that it might create an impression of compromised safety. The fact that the cars make a 90-degree turn into the spaces prevents this configuration from replicating the standard urban parallel parking.
Perhaps the engineers who designed the parking lot stripes decided parallel parking was too tricky for the resolutely suburban target clientele; after all, parallel parking is rarely necessary in an auto-oriented setting. The focus is convenience. But the fact that these spaces are head-on also prompts the discomfiting situation where the front bumper of a car pulling in can get uncommonly close to pedestrians on that sidewalk. And if a motorist loses control, he or she could easily plow right over that curb cut, onto the sidewalk where the pedestrians are, and then right through storefront glass.
Thankfully the parking wheel stop blocks, like the blue one near the truck’s front wheels in the photo above, prevent this mishap. And besides, most developers don’t exactly engineer their parking lots for a freak situation; no one can perfectly design a road or parking lot to completely safeguard the rare instance where a motorist completely loses control of the car. But the design at Eagleridge at least offers a subtly innovative way of conferring more value onto certain “prestige” parking spaces. Although the property manager may not be able to monetize these rockstar spaces—for all the rockstars who go to Petsmart—they at least help distinguish this shopping center from its similar competitors on the north side of Pueblo. Or those in Colorado Springs just forty miles up the road. And, given the continued implosion of retail and the category-killer chains that lease space at these power centers, it may be wise for Eagleridge to set itself up for a future where, to keep its vacancy rates down, it reorients the buildings into a higher density, mixed-use town center. Why not start with the parking stripes?
9 thoughts on “Eagleridge Shopping Center: rockstar parking…in strip mall suburbia?”
‘Per se’ is a Latin term which literally means, “by itself”, “in itself” or “of itself”. Not ‘per say’.
Am aware. And, much like inter alia, it’s usually italicized in the US English so that it is clear what is intended semantically. But I tend to type these promos hastily and carelessly so I do appreciate the observation. And I will make the correction promptly. Thanks!
fair enough. You’re welcome.
You prompted me to dive through my entire blog to catch instances of word misuse in this instance. Throughout the blog’s history, I’ve used “per se” correctly 15 times and bungled it (“per say”) 8 times. So, I guess that leaves me with a batting average of .652?
yikes, you’re almost as much a nerd as I. I’m a self-appointed, self-righteous member of the Grammar Police, Spelling and Usage Division. You obviously see the error of your ways, so I won’t issue a citation this time. Carry on, Citizen! 😉
I am guessing parking of this sort is not common in modern shopping centers due to the requirement for emergency access. Usually the curb in front of the stores is marked as a fire lane or other restricted area. I have seen this type of parking in front of older shopping centers that presumably were built before modern building codes were implemented.
Good point, and thanks for writing. It wouldn’t surprise me if it were common in older shopping center. Though I don’t know the age of Eagleridge, the style of architecture its location within the various concentric rings of development periods for metro Pueblo would suggest that it isn’t more than 25 years old.
Which then begs the question: how did Eagleridge manage to avoid the conventional design for fire prevention. You can barely see it in the final of my three photos, but in the left background, there’s a yellow fire hydrant…in the landscaped tree island separating the vehicular lane from the conventional parking lot. These hydrants are spaced in various islands throughout the site; it’s more obvious here in the far-right of the image: https://goo.gl/maps/EgmxS27kU4vFgX5T8
So really, the most essential item for fire prevention–the hydrant–has merely migrated from one side of the fire land to the other, allowing the lane to a be a bit farther from the entrance, thereby creating the space for some on-street parking right up against the sideway. All said, it’s a clever solution for promoting a design that again allows the creation of premier parking spaces.
This kind of parking isn’t all that uncommon. WIthout thinking too hard about it, I can think of about a dozen places I’ve been to that have it. Green Street Square in Brownsburg Indiana comes to mind. The power center (Target, Best Buy, Bed, Bath and Beyond) on Bell Road and Grand Avenue in Surprise Arizona has this, too.
There are about five or six centers along US 69 in Ankeny Iowa that are set up this way as well. It’s just not that unique. I suspect the situation in Pueblo is due to land scarcity. Most of that northside stuff there is built on fill. Very expensive. Also water is at a premium so you’re going to find less landscaping than you would in the Midwest. Not being critical…just an observation.
Thanks for your observations. I took a look at the two examples you’ve offered. The one in Surprise, AZ does indeed offer parking right next to the row of stores, but only for the in-line (non-anchor) tenants. The big box anchors like Michael’s and Office Max and Home Depot and PetSmart feature an access lane directly next to the entrance sidewalks, thereby preventing cars from parking right next to the structure. I’m no 100% sure why this is, though I suspect (especially with Home Depot) that the broad access lanes ensure that vehicles that need temporary loading/unloading for large merchandise will always be guaranteed the opportunity to do so–an opportunity they won’t have if these rockstar spaces are in constant use. The much smaller Green Street Square in Brownsburg seems to offer exclusively in-line tenants, and does feature the parking immediately adjacent to the structure. Green Street Square is strange for two big reasons: a) it doesn’t even seem to have a floorplate that would allow for a big-box or anchor tenant; b) the corrugated hip roof is an embellishment that hasn’t been in fashion for quite some time. I’d suspect this strip mall is at least 25 years old. So it’s probably used this configuration quite some time.
I’m not going to argue that the rockstar parking approach is obscure or even all that rare. But, amidst the tens of thousands of strip malls still in operation in this country, it would surprise me if more than 1,000 use this configuration. Certainly not the status quo. You’re probably right about landscaping being somewhat less prevalent out west. However, your example in Surprise AZ challenges this, since it has plenty. However, it uses rocks instead of turf grass at each landscaped island, and the trees/shrubs are most likely native to the Mojave/Sonoran deserts and are an example of xeriscaping–good, carefully chosen drought-resistant plantings. It is in the best financial interest of the property manager to use this strategy.
Incidentally, this Pueblo example was merely the first time I’ve noticed it, but I’ve featured another shopping center in this blog that used this parking strategy and it never even occurred to me. When I wrote about this power center in West Virginia, I didn’t really notice the parking, perhaps because it fell more into the mixed-use town center typology, rather than a more conventional big-box oriented center. https://dirtamericana.com/2017/03/power-center-turns-new-leaf-find-grubs/