For every active, vibrant public space in DC, there’s another lifeless, auto-oriented public space right down the street. Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown is an urban designer’s dream, while a few miles north on Wisconsin Avenue there are parking lots and gas stations lining the streets. New York Avenue north of Chinatown is a developing hub, while New York Avenue on the eastern edge of the city is a car-oriented paradise of fast food and motels. The reason is simple: the closer-in areas developed when walking or streetcars were the primary mode of transportation (so everything is close to the street, compact, and walkable), while the outer areas developed in the car era (with plenty of room for parking and a focus on convenience). Now we know that, for the most part, strip malls don’t provide the public space and active streets that we urban planners love.
Yesterday on the Kojo Nnamdi show the topic was retrofitting strip malls, and the guest was Roger K. Lewis, who writes the Shaping the City column over at the Post. All over DC you can see the results of the demolition of strip malls and the creation of walkable, mixed-use development in their place. There are pockets of this redevelopment throughout the metropolitan area: Rockville Town Center, Bethesda Row, Columbia Heights– you name it. But making pedestrian-oriented places typically comes at the cost of providing free and easy parking. Listen in to yesterday’s show to hear both sides of the issue– it was a very interesting discussion concerning redevelopment in the area. What’s your opinion? Do you want to see more of these areas redeveloped, or do you appreciate the ease of free parking right in front of your destination?