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Statesman clueless about urban development

Shilli knocks it out of the park: urban is more than a different coating to the building; and it's more than the number of floors. This Wal-Mart will still be car-friendly and pedestrian-and-transit-hostile; and should be opposed on those grounds alone. As I commented in an earlier item there, I also doubt Wal-Mart's urban bona-fides compared to Target, who seems to actually walk the walk on this stuff.

Not surprisingly, the Statesman credulously swallowed the misrepresentation of this project as both urban (see above) and central-city (Anderson Lane may be geographically central by some standards, but the area itself isn't "city"). Also not surprisingly, the typical whines about local businesses have come up - precisely the wrong reason to oppose this Wal-Mart. Let me state this succinctly:

A big box store which engages the street rather than a parking lot, and prioritizes pedestrian arrival over automobile convenience is much better for us in the long-run than a half-dozen 'local businesses' in pedestrian-hostile strip malls. Strip mall patrons come and go; but the physical buildings (and parking lots) don't. If Wal-Mart did what Shawn suggests and plunked down an urban building right on the corner of Anderson and Burnet (right next to a bunch of bus stops), I'd be supporting them whole-heartedly.

Remember: urban and suburban are styles of development, not just designations for geographic areas. You can have a suburban development right in the middle of downtown, and you can have an urban development in the middle of a ton of sprawl.

This entry was posted in the following categories: Austin , Republicans Hate Public Transportation , Subsidies to Suburban Sprawl , Texas Republicans Hate Cities , Urban Design , Walking in Austin (Pedestrian Issues)

Comments

Urban/suburban distinction aside (not that I disagree), this seems like a pretty awful placement from a traffic standpoint as well. Anderson Lane between Mopac and Burnet is ill-equipped to handle this kind of traffic; shuttling some off to the smaller streets south of Anderson (which border residential areas as well) hardly seems like a good solution.

Northcross Mall is an eyesore and a waste of space, and is in dire need of renewal. I'm no huge fan of Wal-Mart, not for ideological reasons, but just because I find it a particularly unpleasant place to shop. I find it hard to support this redevelopment plan not because it's a Wal-Mart, but because it's poorly thought out -- where they want to place the building on the lot seems like it's the worst possible location of the entire site. Not just because of traffic, but because of light and noise pollution as well.

Hopefully Wal-Mart and the developers will be as receptive to the community's feelings here as they were with their proposed Supercenter at Mopac and Slaughter in South Austin. Seems like a lot of the same issues are at play here: the need to make significant changes to the company's typical development MO to fit the neighborhood in which they want to build. This isn't to say that Wal-Mart, or any other retailer, isn't welcome in the space, but that they need to be very conscientious of the area surrounding their development.

Perhaps not coincidentally, using a more "urban" design, as you've suggested, would seem to answer many of the concerns.

Carlo,

Anderson Lane is fine most of the time - Wal-Mart traffic spikes at different times than most of the existing traffic on Anderson (rush hour dispersal from Mopac; and shopping at a bunch of lame strip malls). So I don't buy the gnashing of teeth from the neighbors who, it's safe to say, will find any reason possible to oppose the dreaded thing, no matter how far-fetched.

I do believe, as you seem to have guessed, that a more urban siting would make this better - better access for cars from Burnet Road; better access for transit patrons (if we're going to build a Wal-Mart to help low-income folks, we ought to pay some thought to where the buses actually run).

How do you know Wal-Mart will build at Anderson and Burnet? How do you know that _anyone_ will agree to build an urban project at Anderson and Burnet? The properties at the corner of Burnet and Anderson are separately platted -- are they even owned by Lincoln and, if not, how do you know their owners will sell?

I think it'd be great for Wal-Mart or someone else to do an urban project there. But someone has to agree to do it. Otherwise, Northcross will remain a patch of suburban-style blight. Given a choice between this derelict and a suburban-style mall with new stores, I'd take the latter any day of the week.

I don't know why Wal-Mart doesn't want to build near the bus stops. Surely it knows it draws a lot of low-income customers. But it also knows its business better than I do.

At least we agree on the local business angle. Even if this were an appropriate consideration, I imagine this development will be good for the area. I'd guess that 90% of the surrounding businesses are furniture stores, rug galleries, restaurants/fast food joints, and convenience stores. They'd all love the traffic a Wal-Mart would bring.

Most of AC's comments are spot on.

Another thing to add, here's a comment from the allandale discussion today:
"This is without mentioning the criminal element Walmart's bring. Go drive by ANY of the Walmarts and look whose hanging around"

I'm not a WalMart shopper, I hope they move in soon - if for no other reason just to spite people like the guy I quoted.

If the proposed WalMart has groceries and is designed to draw its customers from the immediately surrounding neighborhoods, the 3-mile radius around Northcross will become almost perfectly suitable for carfree and car-lite living. (Maybe not for everyone, but certainly for some.)

I'm hoping we'd see a rationalized bike and pedestrian plan for that area, and also a plan for improving Cap Metro's Northcross Transit Center. I'd love to see bike lanes on West Anderson/Spicewood Springs, but it would be enough if they preserved bikeability on the nearby lower traffic streets such as Rockwood, Shoal Creek, Foster Lane and Northcross/St. Joseph.

AC,

Of course siting is a huge speculation. Nobody (not even Shawn from Austinist) was implying they just chose the one site over the other - it was more of a "here's what 'urban' really looks like, because you idiots are calling their suburban 2-story design 'urban'".

And, of course, I don't disagree with your characterization of this as suburban.