Here’s some sprawl…
And here’s some not-sprawl…
The first (sprawl) picture above is Dollar Tree Plaza in Merritt Island. I’m not singling this place out and saying it’s awful. It is not a terrible example of development in general, it’s just a typical example of a standard sprawl shopping center built in the normal way we’ve been building things in Brevard for the last 60 years or so. The second (not-sprawl) picture is a more walkable street in Cocoa Village, just a few miles away across the Indian River lagoon. On the Walkable Brevard Blog we’re always talking about the virtues of walkable development and the bad effects of sprawl. (To catch up, this article would be a good place to start: A Better Way to Build Things.) So what can be done to turn a sprawl-style place like Dollar Tree Plaza into something more pedestrian-friendly?
Complete, Connected, and Compact. Let’s think about our walkability goals of creating complete, connected, and compact neighborhoods and see how well this shopping center and the neighborhood around it stack up in their current state. We’ll define our neighborhood geographical center and edges structured by a 1/4 mile radius circle (5 min walk) as shown on the map below. Dollar Tree plaza is near the top left of the map. I have laid the yellow 1/4 mile circles onto this map to define some walkable neighborhoods. The centers and edges can move around till we get into more detailed planning, but I am using these walking circles as a guide to how this neighborhood relates to the development next to it.
Do we have a good, balanced mix of uses in this neighborhood? Actually, the existing mix is pretty good. We have some retail and office along the main N-S road (Courtenay Pkwy), a church, some multifamily and single family. On the southeast edge (bottom right in the picture above) of the neighborhood there is a ball field. All of this is within our 1/4 mile radius neighborhood. Not a bad mix. Something that is lacking I would say are good, attractive civic spaces along the main road (parks, greens, squares, plazas, etc.), and some small, neighborhood pocket parks would be nice.
No civic spaces along this stretch of road near the shopping center (of course, parks are few and far between in Brevard!)
As we move forward with improvement plans for this neighborhood we will look for spots to designate as civic space. Civic spaces are a great way to improve an area. They have been neglected in the sprawl era, but they are incredibly important for walkability. They provide visual interest on a walkable scale, and they can provide a destination for walking, as well as a place for outdoor activities.
Above is a good example of a civic space in Celebration at the end of the main street.
To be continued…
Read more about civic spaces: What is a Great Civic Space? by Project for Public Spaces