Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Strip Tease

Strip malls are the pornography of real estate development.

Ohhh, they're so titillating, so tantalizing, so immediate. Not much forethought is required. Just show up, pull the curtains, do the deed, and move on. No time or desire to get to know or understand complexities - that might take dinner and a movie.

With a strip mall, a developer needs not cultivate a relationship with the community. In the strip mall paradigm no commitment is necessary.

The formula is simple. Find some property on a busy road, rape the site, lay down a sea of asphalt, throw up a super-cheap building with a pretentious (preferably also cheap) front facade and you're done.

But what about the morning after?

Strip development end to end translates into sprawl, and sprawl gnaws away at the soul of our culture, divides society, and diminishes the health of the citizenry.

In strip mall world, everybody is required to travel by car, regardless of the price of gas, adding to traffic congestion. Owning a car (or 5 if you have two adults and three teenagers in the household) is the ante for getting in the game. It is impossible to walk or bike from anywhere. How could you? There are no sidewalks or crosswalks, only a multitude of zooming automobiles. In fact, you even have to get in your car and drive from one strip mall to another when the two are side by side.

Exploitation of the natural landscape with no regard for the well-being of the environment is pervasive with strip development. Natural beauty, enjoyed by the whole community, is treated with contempt.

In a village setting, where homes closely surround clustered commercial space, you have the option to walk to the store, walk to school, walk to work. A variety of opportunities abound to run into neighbors and have nuanced conversations about life and home and family. Centralized big-box strip development deprives us of the very thing that fosters strong communities - familiarity with, and thus a greater understanding of our neighbors.

Where is the warmth in sprawl? Where is the humanity? Why shouldn't we have a deep sense of affection and, yes, love for the buildings we inhabit?

Strip malls may be salacious for the developer, but everybody else is left with a very empty feeling.

4 comments:

Cotton Mouth said...

I totally agree.

Thanks for stopping by. I've added you to the Mississippi bloggers blogroll.

Vicarious Green Remodeling said...

In the ideal world, the consumer-merchant relationship is symbiotic and based in mutual reverence.

When is the last time your heard Joe Schmoe at the golf course broach the subject of reverence for natural capital, building aesthetics, or any acknowledgement of sustainability not listed on the pro forma?

I loved the Vancouver City council's response to Busby's green Wal-Mart. They politely declined to invite an incompatible insanity (urban sprawl model) into their carefully designed density.

Some people can say no to whores. Even wealthy, sexy whores that suck the life out of a community.
Even with wind turbines and CFLs.

So it is really up to us, the grassroots community, to invite Joe Schmoe into the fold and help him develop a "sustainbility consciousness" so when he is on the city council someday, he'll have the savvy to say no even too beautiful retail vipers.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to Dallas/Ft Worth. If you're wondering where Kohl's is just go another 3 miles on whatever road you're on.....

James Polk said...

Nice.