By this point in the Tweaking Twenties, it’s hard think of any time during the week that a shopping mall would ever be jam-packed, so Thursday at 7:30 pm is just as good of a time as any. For the Springfield Town Center, the image below is probably typical for a summer weekday evening. Not
More times than I can count, I’ve explored the country’s mismatch between the supply of retail-oriented real estate and the broader public’s demand. We just have too many shopping centers. And it’s always been that way. Even in the best of times—the peak of the suburban mall during the 1970s and 80s—our historic downtown storefronts
The streetscape of downtown Martinsburg, the largest municipality (population 17,500) in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle, doesn’t exactly boast an occupancy level one would rate as thriving. But it’s hardly plagued by persistent plywood in the windows of the commercial buildings, and the majority of them look like they benefit from regular maintenance and upkeep. I
Eisenhower Valley and the Victory Center: in an otherwise prosperous area, a vacant office building finds a new lease. Or two.
If the name “ Eisenhower Valley ” in Alexandria, Virginia sounds silly to you, you’re not the only one. Why would a natural feature in one of the nation’s original thirteen colonies share a name with a man whose presidency ended in 1961? Was there a little known colonial Eisenhower family who bumped shoulders with
Mothballed marvel in Northwest DC: how does Chesapeake House stay neglected in such a wealthy part of town?
On a nondescript corner sits perched a mothballed little building, seemingly vacant for years. With plywood on all the windows and doors, it fits the standard characterization of blight. It’s hard to imagine any city with a population over 100,000 in this country that doesn’t have at least one structure sharing this forlorn appearance. Okay,
For much of the twentieth century, it was an all-too-common occurrence: an old commercial structure in a declining downtown struggles to compete with the strip malls cropping up everywhere on the outskirts. Over time, the old building—retail on the first floor, office or warehousing on the next two/three/four levels—becomes functionally obsolete. It’s drafty, the plumbing
Mixed-use town center as the new “organic” downtown: how distinct can they be if they become as commonplace as malls?
The mixed-use town center is a novelty across much of the county. A metropolitan area of one million people is unlikely to have more than one or two of these newfangled nodes, which typically combine housing, retail, offices, hotels, garage parking, and maybe even an institutional use like a school, a library, or a municipal
Although the evidence of ghost towns proves that they exist (or have existed) throughout the country, most Americans invariably associate them with the frontier West: the High Plains, the Rocky Mountains, the Sierra Nevada; the Great Basin, Mojave, and Sonoran Deserts. We also customarily associate the emergence of ghost towns with mining, certainly more than
Chipotle bucks the struggling restaurant trend, by predicting the future. What’s so tricky about that?!
A year ago, the prevailing wisdom among urban analysts was that restaurants would serve as the lodestar for any further downtown revitalization. I shared this sentiment, particularly in recognizing the recent, fashionable emergence of the food hall–a smattering of diverse small-kitchen eateries under one roof. The reality seemed, then as now, that most other retail—certainly
Sure it’s weird, but I know I’m not the only one who has romanticized oil refineries. The way their size generates its own skyline, their incompatibility with the natural world, their unparalleled aptitude at point-source pollution: air, soil, light, probably noise. We witness the staggering cruelty to the dilemma that forms the basis for their