Breaking the Three Rules of urban design

April 21, 2008 at 10:12 pm 4 comments

Above is an artist’s rendering of what a developer hopes will be The Shoppes on Broadway, near the corner of Broadway and Taylor Street.

Leaving aside the fact that it looks like every other suburban strip mall built in Fort Wayne over the past five years, is it a good building for a city street?

The real answer is in the site plan:

Look at the distance between the buildings and the sidewalk, very unlike real urban development. Pedestrians should not be forced to traverse yet another parking lot to reach a destination.

As David Sucher, author of “City Comforts,” said in regards to a different development:

The problem is not a matter of insufficient adherence to particular abstractions, the problem is a rather mundane one of, as I like to put it in the most banal way possible, putting the parking lot in the wrong spot. (emphasis his)

What’s the more interesting side of Broadway: the side with George’s International Market in a shopping plaza, or the side with Munchies and a block of buildings that meet the sidewalk? What side is more urban?

I am an enormous fan of Sucher’s Three Rules of urban design, which have little to do with architecture and everything to do with site plan. The proposed Shoppes of Broadway (and can we please return to American spelling someday?) breaks two of the rules that help create a walkable, pedestrian-oriented neighborhood:

  • Build to the sidewalk
  • Prohibit parking lots in front of the building

Why? Because neighborhoods are not only for cars. They are for people, too. As Sucher says:

If you question this, consider the places that most people like to go on vacation: New York, Paris, London, Aspen, Carmel, Nantucket, Park City, Friday Harbor, and even Disneyland. Every last one of them is built so that the building walls are right next to the sidewalk.

New businesses should be encouraged to add to the strengths of Broadway’s existing urban site plans. If the shopping center merely moved the parking lot to the side and back, and brought the building to the sidewalk, the Shoppes would be a welcome addition to an urban neighborhood that can use some good news.

— Hat tip: The Around Fort Wayne blog


Entry filed under: Architecture, Jon Swerens, Neighborhoods, Urbanism. Tags: , , .

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  • 1. john b. kalb  |  April 21, 2008 at 10:28 pm

    And all this can be done BEFORE THE BUILDING BEGINS at no additional cost! Is our Plan Commission paying attention, Jon? They do get to vote on the final plans, don’t they?

  • 2. Brian  |  April 22, 2008 at 8:42 am

    Great post.

  • 3. Paul  |  April 23, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    an absolute disgusting development for downtown. We can only hope that another Subway is franchised into this.

    With sky rocketing gas prices – I love how Fort Wayne encourages driving.

  • 4. Apocalyptic parking « the good city  |  April 30, 2008 at 11:24 pm

    […] and contraction on State Boulevard, but first, I wanted to address another angle of the proposed Shoppes on Broadway (sits plan shown […]


But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. Jeremiah 29:7

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