From the B.A. Watkins Blog, originally posted 5/17/2013 by Barry Watkins
Ugh, Mile after mile of suburban nastiness! Boring strip mall after strip mall along our clogged area commercial streets. Some of these strip malls are vacant, some of them are successful, many of them are in various stages of decline. There’s got to be a better way to build a city. Fortunately, there is a cure:
“Take the SmartCode and call me in the morning…”
There are a couple of things that adopting the SmartCode* would do for our thru-streets over time. It would encourage the development of interesting centers of activity rather than endless, banal strips. Those centers would become walkable pleasant places where we want to park and walk around. It would also produce a resilient, healthy economic climate along our arterials and throughout our communities.
Imagine taking a drive across town and rather than being greeted by a continuous stream of boring strip shopping centers and vast, mostly-empty parking lots the street was instead lined mostly with a variety of residential habitats punctuated with inviting higher density commercial centers built for walking. All along the way in this new environment you would notice an abundance of trees lining every street, lots of parks, plazas, and green spaces. You would notice the occasional civic building lot where the building is treated as it should be, as a centerpiece and showcase of beauty engendering community pride and respect. Sounds pretty good doesn’t it? This is exactly what the SmartCode will do for our communities.
Another transformation you would observe with the SmartCode in place is instead of large chunks of the streetscape falling into decline, neglect, and decay you would see a more consistent street-side environment where quality and vibrancy are the rule rather than the exception. The bulk of the area in our communities would be assigned to zones with various degrees of mixed-use rather than carved into large single-use pods. This allows flexibility on each property to respond to changes in the economic climate over time. Every time a tenant moves in and out of a mixed-use property the opportunity is there to easily change the use of a building occupation. This can help to even out the cycle of booms and busts we often see in single-use development. In single-use either commercial or residential properties can be overbuilt and it can take years for an area to correct. In a mixed-use environment this is no longer an issue. Additionally, the smaller blocks and compatible building types created by the SmartCode become a very flexible canvas on which property owners and occupants can paint in a way that responds to current, constantly changing economic conditions.
The changes I’m describing may actually sound “too good to be true” to some skeptics, but the truth is these changes are being made every day in communities all around the world through the adoption of improved land development codes. It’s time for Brevard to move forward with “best practice” planning and codes. We need to adopt the SmartCode…yesterday!
*The SmartCode is the smart growth model land development code by The Center for Applied Transect Studies