Nathan Lewis looks at how to make a pile of dough by bulldozing a big-box shopping center and replacing it with a dense urban neighborhood:
I took the example of a shopping center in Binghamton, New York. Binghamton is probably not a good place to do this, because nobody needs another nine million square feet of floorspace in Binghamton. However, since all shopping centers are basically the same, we can use that example. At a density of 100,000 people per square mile, reached in some Paris neighborhoods, 15,000 people or a third of the entire population of Binghamton could live here. However, those 15,000 people already have houses, so we don’t need to build any more in Binghamton. In a place like Darien, Connecticut, however (an upscale New York City suburb), lots of people might like to live in a place like this (good schools), and pay a premium for it, especially if it was within walking distance of the train station.
Bulldozing this thing is pretty easy, because its mostly just parking lots anyway, and the buildings themselves are rather insubstantial.
This photo is about 800 meters across, and the land plot is about 93 acres. That is quite large, actually.
Here are some of our design goals:
1) We are assuming that we have to interface with Suburban Hell as it exists, so that means lots of parking needs to be provided, and a way for automobiles to get in and out easily. Parking will be in enclosed, multistory parking garages, mostly integrated into multi-use buildings.
2) Our land use plan is something like this:
- 60% building footprint
- 30% parks, courtyards, yards, gardens, and other public and private open space, which consist of Places, not “green space”.
- 10% roadways, broken down into:
- About 20% of streets are Arterial Streets, with two to four lanes of dedicated automobile roadway in the middle, probably some trees or grass as a buffer, and sidewalks on either side. No on-street parking.
- The remaining 80% of streets (by length) are Really Narrow pedestrian-centric streets, of 10-30 feet wide, no segregated automobile roadway, no sidewalks, and no green buffers.
3) Building height is generally 3-6 stories, a typical Traditional City height.
4) Some buildings can be taller, particularly those which are adjacent to Arterial Streets. This would be more of a Manhattan-style Hypertrophic approach. Big buildings and big streets go together easily. So, you can add your 35-story highrise apartments and offices here too, if you want.
5) The treatment of the perimeter is an interesting design point. How should our neighborhood interface with the rest of Suburban Hell? Put a wall around it? (Lots of walled cities are very nice.) Put a green buffer around it? It might be nice for it to be separated from the rest of Suburban Hell, like its own little island of Traditional City fabulousness. Shall we put a row of buildings along the existing very large automobile roadways? I opt here for a combination of some park space along some streets (isolation), and some buildings along other streets. One nice thing about park space is that you can decide to build on it later if you want. Ideally, although being long and skinny and serving as a buffer, this will be usable and enjoyable as a park, not just a wall of shrubbery.
6) Block size is roughly 100-200 feet along the short side and 200-500 feet along the long side.
So, here we go:
The darkened areas are parks. The small darkened area on the left is a paved town square. You could add some smaller squares and parks here and there as well. The wide, double-lined streets are Arterial Streets. The single black lines are Really Narrow Streets.
Although most of the streets here are Really Narrow pedestrian streets, almost all of the blocks have at least one side adjacent to an Arterial Street. An entrance to enclosed parking can be put on the side facing the Arterial Street, so that cars can enter and exit without having to drive on the Really Narrow Streets. Vehicles will be allowed on the Really Narrow Streets, but, seeing as they would have to share the road with people walking, and also there’s no place to park there, the main reason that motorized vehicles would be on the smaller streets is for deliveries and dropoffs.
This site has about four million square feet. At 60% building footprint, and an average height of four stories, that would mean about 9.6 million square feet of space here. That is a lot, although some of it would be used for parking.