Real Life Regreening
by Ellen Dunham-Jones and June Williamson
What of the middle scale — the ten- to 40-acre (four- to 16-hectare) shopping centers with two or more anchors? What kind of impacts and communities can retrofits build at this scale?
Based on his extensive experience, noted urban designer Andrés Duany believes that it is difficult to establish a sense of place or urban synergy on less than 15 acres (six hectares). However, what smaller shopping center retrofits in relatively urban areas can do very well is restore urbanism.
Uptown District in San Diego and Kirkwood Station Plaza in Kirkwood, Missouri, both restored street connectivity that had been removed by their prior occupants, a giant Sears store and Target, respectively.
At 15 acres in a context with an urban structure, Uptown District strengthens the neighborhood with a great mix of uses, including a community center, while operating as infill, blending into the neighborhood more of less seamlessly rather than being clearly identified as a new "development." On only seven acres (three hectares), Kirkwood Station Plaza contributes a grand public plaza to its surroundings but is too small to itself constitute a neighborhood.
Fifteen acres is also the minimum threshold that the Environmental Protection Agency deems necessary to implement the principles of smart growth. In most cases, these are achieved through densification and the design of complete neighborhoods. However, on smaller parcels or in areas or low or negative growth, de-densification and regreening may be more successful strategies.
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This article is excerpted from Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs by Ellen Dunham-Jones and June Williamson, copyright © 2009, with permission of the publisher, John Wiley & Sons.
The 15-acre (six-hectare) site of a former Sears department store in the Hillcrest neighborhood of San Diego, California, was transformed into a community-focused mixed-use development called Uptown District.
Photo: Courtesy Environmental Protection Agency
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In Phalen, Minnesota, a suburb of St. Paul, the reclamation of a 20-acre (eight-hectare) strip mall site combined new housing with a large public park.
Photo: Ellen Dunham-Jones/ June Williamson
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