Friday, March 29, 2013

They paved paradise and put up a parking lot

Activating parking lots with design - Seattle's U-Village Mall

Paving paradise? Joni Mitchell's classic lyric to "Big Yellow Taxi" ran through my mind yesterday during research for an upcoming webinar on downtown safety next Wednesday, April 4

It happened during a visit to the U-Village Mall - a lifestyle mall in Seattle where I uncovered an example of Penalosa's maxim: "We can have a city that is very friendly to cars or a city that is very friendly to people. We can't have both."

A few years ago I wrote about Enrique Penalosa, the urban visionary from Bogota, Columbia. He's the former Mayor who helped transform a nightmare downtown during his country's narco-war into a vibrant and safe place. He did that by building for people first and cars last.

Wayfinding through parking lots need not be a gauntlet of horror

The U-Village Mall shows how we can do that in a parking lot. This re-imagined mall sacrifices sprawling lot design that maximizes quantity for a pedestrian friendly design to maximize quality. Playground areas for kids, water features, sidewalks and gardens - the works.

The U-Village Mall ignores large lots in favor of smaller clusters of 100 cars. This reduces the number of parking spaces (to the chagrin of some), but it creates a livable urban village feel (to the joy of everyone else).

Activating public spaces is a key for safety. My prior blogs on parking lot design show design errors of size and shape. Parking lots at the U-Village show how to mix people and cars. I suspect Penalosa would approve.

The webinar is next Wednesday, 3-4pm EST (12-1 PST) sponsored by the International Downtown Association. Their website lists details - IDA Trending Topics #5

U-Village Mall encourages sitting, dogs, and flowers 

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