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56 articles

Windowless storefronts: sure, you can’t see in. But is it an oversight?

Silver Spring, Maryland hugs one of the corners of the District of Columbia. Thanks to this proximity, it’s booming as a bedroom community, much like the better-known, ritzier Bethesda just five miles away. It’s an edge city, a satellite suburb with an unusually high concentration of jobs, which owes its current employment density to its

Aberdeen XChange: a growth machine that choked before the engine’s finished revving.

In the Baltimore exurb of Aberdeen, Maryland, a brand-new strip mall sits on a corner at a moderately busy intersection, awaiting a tenant.Aberdeen XChange is not bad looking, as strip malls go. It aligns with contemporary architectural standards for this type of thing: its chief cladding materials consist of tan fake stucco (probably EIFS) and

Mall’s end: brought to you by WBAL.

As a follow-up from my City Journal article last week on the end of retail (and especially malls), neighboring broadcaster WBAL-Baltimore (1090 AM/101.5 FM) asked me to do a brief clip on the future of malls for the Bryan Nehman show earlier this morning.  Nehman’s program runs on WBAL from 5a to 9a each weekday, and my

Gas station dysfunction: prices rising even faster than Venezuela.

A small gas station in a little-known part of the east side of Baltimore is offering the nation’s best deals on gasoline. Here’s a pic taken from this past Friday. Can’t really get a better deal than that. It’s amazing how the Shell station in the background can even compete. But if I closed out

Glyph: even in Mayberry, a traditional retailer needs to leave a strong impression.

As the term “retail apocalypse” becomes increasingly mainstream, it’s a bit comforting to see an all-too-rare example of what appears to be a purely local business trying its hand along an American-as-apple-pie main street. It’s even more comforting when the entrepreneur locates in an architecturally challenging building…and succeeds.Here we witness Glyph, a stationery-centered boutique that

Station Plaza: a strip mall of churches is hardly a shopper’s heaven.

I’ve spotted the storefront church numerous times in the past, both in strip malls and in conventional main streets. Rarely (if ever) have I described it with flattering words. It’s not that I harbor any hostility to the exercise of religion, nor do I feel that church plantings need to take place in conventional ecclesiastical

Service station sentimentality: frozen in time without spending a dime.

On a quiet corner in a mostly residential area, a modest little gas station offers a visual time warp to the 1950s.Where are all the digital numbers?   And how much would it cost just to keep those dinosaur gas pumps working in this day and age? Normally, when we encounter a service station with infrastructure

Old Town Mall MONTAGE: life after people, a mile from Baltimore’s downtown.

Just a few weeks after a moribund mall montage, I’m back, despite the fact that these photo-heavy articles take forever and a day to create. But I can’t resist: like the Midtown Mall in Worcester, this retrograde retail ruin gets little coverage. It’s not a conventional suburban mall—it’s an urban setting, and, also like Midtown,

When steeples compete with summits.

The river-to-rail city of Cumberland, nestled between the prodigious hills that dominate western Maryland, may not be thriving, but it sure offers some charming, timeless vistas.   As is too often the case, this photo only partially captures its objective: the Cumberland skyline—a city of churches. It isn’t a big city at all, so the

Pedestrian upgrades: best intentions aren’t always enough to make the grade.

As pedestrianism intensifies and its strongest advocates promulgate the newest and best practices, we predictably witness compelling or examples well beyond the big-city antecedents. Not surprisingly, we witness the same incremental improvements in accessibility for persons with disabilities, often in tandem with pedestrian upgrades. This should come as no surprise: after all, sidewalks should serve

Mall’s end: brought to you by WBAL.

As a follow-up from my City Journal article last week on the end of retail (and especially malls), neighboring broadcaster WBAL-Baltimore (1090 AM/101.5 FM) asked me to do a brief clip on the future of

When steeples compete with summits.

The river-to-rail city of Cumberland, nestled between the prodigious hills that dominate western Maryland, may not be thriving, but it sure offers some charming, timeless vistas.   As is too often the case,

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