Transforming Dollar Tree Plaza Pt. 2


Part 2 in our series about how to transform a typical car-dominated strip mall into a walkable place.

So, in part 1 of this series we talked about the need for civic spaces in the neighborhood surrounding Dollar Tree Plaza.  Another thing we need to do here is to create a safe and inviting pedestrian realm like the Winter Park sidewalk pictured below.

park av sidewalk

Our goal ought to be to make every connection between homes, businesses, recreation, transit, etc. safe and comfortable for pedestrians every step of the way.  This is not only a nice idea, it is also pretty easy to accomplish if you follow some simple rules…

Dollar Tree Plaza was built in the normal suburban strip mall arrangement – with a massive parking lot in front of the buildings.  It’s fine if you’re driving.  Drive up, park, and walk right in.  No problem.  But how about if you want to walk from the apartments across Courtenay?

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Above are the apartments across Courtenay

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The view of the plaza from the apartments

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The big parking lot in front of the buildings in the shopping plaza is fraught with danger.  It’s an unnecessary barrier to walking.  What would be better?  Transform the big parking lot into a couple of small blocks surrounding by liner buildings with parking mid-block behind the buildings.  The new arrangement would still be easy for drivers.  It would only cost a few extra seconds to drive behind the buildings to park.  But the positive difference for walkers would be quite dramatic.

sprawl_3-4

Example above showing conversion of large parking lot into pedestrian-friendly blocks.  (From Sprawl Repair Manual by Galina Tachieva)

But, wait, aren’t the parking spaces in the big lot necessary?  And if we add more buildings aren’t we going to need even more parking?  Good questions!  The answers may surprise you.  No, and no.  We have a few things on our side.  How often is this parking lot actually full?  Never!  Why, then, did we require the builders to put in so many parking spaces if they aren’t needed?  It’s partly because our parking requirements are based on national averages that don’t really apply to Brevard County.  There are many other factors that add up to over-built parking.  Even if this parking lot was full on the busiest day of the year (which it isn’t), isn’t it kind of a waste to build something that’s going to be so underutilized the other 364 days of the year?  We need to rethink our parking policies and bring them into sync with reality.  Let’s avoid creating places where pedestrians have to take their life in their hands to visit like the people in the picture below!

dangerous parking_lot

There are a couple of other things concerning parking that we don’t often think about.  If we build things more pedestrian-friendly we will convert some auto trips to walking, transit, and biking trips.  This means we can save some parking spaces.  Oh, and another way we can reduce the number of spaces needed is by mixing different uses on the same block with different peak parking times during the course of a week (see “Mixed-Use = Free Parking”).

cocoa village couple walking

Cocoa Village

There, doesn’t the picture above look better?  Yeah, let’s do this all over Brevard!  Come join Walkable Brevard to see how you can help get us moving toward a more walkable future!  Like us on Facebook and come to our next meeting!  Builders, property owners,  developers — contact us today so we can help you create your next walkable place!

Barry Watkins, Walkable Brevard, email:walkablebrevard@gmail.com, ph:321-355-2747

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