Arthur C. Nelson, author of Reshaping Metropolitan America, projects that between 2010 and 2030, nearly 80 billion square feet of nonresidential space will be replaced or redone in the US. Retail structures have a short lifespan, he points out. The rapid obsolescence opens substantial opportunities to build retail in a more walkable, mixed-use, transit-supported fashion. Nelson doesn’t think retailing will make a huge shift to the Internet—at least not enough to make physical retail space a thing of the past. Web-based retail sales, even after increasing by more than 10 percent a year between 2002 and 2012, “still accounted for less than 5 percent of all sales” last year, he notes. At this pace, e-commerce will account for under 13 percent of retailing by 2030, and, he says, “I do not expect much if any reduction in retail space demand in the United States. Some retail activities defy e-commerce, especially restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and beauty salons. Moreover, the best way to comparison shop is by seeing, touching, and in some cases, trying on the goods.”
A six-story, 273-unit apartment building with ground-floor retail is proposed near a transit stop on Connecticut Avenue in Washington, DC. The Torti Gallas and Partners building, called Park Van Ness, has an appealing design with nods to Art Deco, notes the blog Greater Greater Washington. What's even better about this building is that it creates a terminating vista at the end of a cross-street, Yuma Street, with an archway leading into a plaza overlooking a park. The building acknowledges the vista with a view of nature framed by architecture and makes the pedestrian experience more interesting by breaking up the large building into two halves. It is not clear whether the plaza will be private or public, but this single building contributes to the public realm more than usual.
“Never before have we seen such crowds downtown,” says Jason Caudle, deputy city manager, of the 30,000 people who attended a Holloween and Harvest festival on the new downtown boulevard in Lancaster, California. The nine-block project, costing $11.5 million, has so far attracted $130 million in private investment and generated $273 million in economic output, according to an article in the January-February 2013 issue of Better! Cities & Towns. The street is designed with a Spanish "ramblas," which puts the public space at the center of the street, an unusual design that has worked well for this Southern California city.
The first building of Downtown Columbia, Maryland, is expected to be under construction in early 2013 — the first step toward realizing the dream of the late developer James Rouse of creating mixed-use town center for the 1960s new town. That vision was thwarted by single-use zoning. The town center currently consists of a massive mall surrounded by parking and a ring road — all scaled to accelerated automobile traffic. Transforming this to a walkable place will amount to “sprawl repair” on a very large scale, according to a story in the December issue of Better! Cities & Towns. The building takes up an entire block, but will be visually separated into two halves, one with ground-floor retail facing the mall. In between the building and the ring road will be a public promenade with a playground.