Growing Commercial Corridor -- Existing Conditions Before
Growing Commercial Corridor -- Introduction to the Site
The study area is comprised of the district bisected by Rt. 138
in Richmond, extending from I-95 to the town government buildings
at Carolina -Nooseneck Rd. (Rt. 112). Sparsely developed along
the road frontage, this corridor has been developing as an ad
hoc commercial strip, despite efforts by local planners to encourage
coordinated planning. Zoned as a planned development district,
most residential and business uses are allowed with site plan
review. This has led to better design of development on individual
parcels, but multiple ownership of the road frontage means that
there has been little coordinated development. Larger parcels
behind the road frontage, meanwhile, have been waiting for the
market to support the investment in access roads and site preparation
that would be required for their development.
||Commercial development extends down Rt. 138
from Exit 3 on I-95, in the distance. Development has been haphazard
up until now, with a mix of uncoordinated uses.
||Many parcels along the Rt. 138 frontage are
in a state of transition from older resource-based activities
like gravel mining to an uncertain future.
||Just beyond the road frontage to the North
and South of the parcel, thousands of acres of developable land,
like this gravel pit, promise big changes to this district in
the near future.
Growing Commercial Corridor -- After Conventional Development
|Growing Commercial Corridor -- Conventional
Without a masterplan for the entire district, development continues
on a parcel-by-parcel basis. Larger lots offer a chance for more
coordinated development, but as with residential subdivisions,
the commercial review process is geared more toward building
safe roads and parking lots than to building a real community.
Market forces conspire against better planning as well, since
developers are loath to place any restrictions or guidelines
on potential lot buyers, and construct speculative office buildings
to appeal to the lowest common denominator. What results is a
development without a center, with little relationship to its
context or contribution to the visual character or quality of
life in the community.
||Deteriorating roadside with what passes for
a sidewalk is symptomatic of commercial strip development, where
most of the investment goes into individual parking lots and
buildings, and the public street is left to fend for itself.
|| Most towns would be glad to have
the taxes from an office park like this one, but there are consequences.
Traffic increases dramatically, since everyone who works here
needs a car just to get lunch. Visually and functionally, this
approach to development has nothing to do with a historic rural
landscape, and is so generic in style that it could be almost
Growing Commercial Corridor -- After Creative Development
Growing Commercial Corridor -- Implementation Techniques
Despite current zoning as a planned development district, the
Rt. 138 corridor is developing haphazardly with a mix of commercial,
retail and residential uses, all spread out along the roadside.
The process of implementing a more creative development scenario
begins with preparation of a comprehensive corridor plan that
set down in detail proposed uses, location of roads, and protected
open space for all parcels along the highway and, especially,
those behind it. This will require landowners to come to grips
with an uncertain future, and town officials and neighbors to
realize the scale of development that is possible. It will also
mean making decisions about how much development, and what kind,
is appropriate for an area like this.
At some point decisions will have to be made about where the
focus of this new neighborhood should be. Is it the Richmond
Town Hall area? Should it be kept close to the Exit 3 interchange?
Or should the district be composed of a number of small neighborhood
centers linked together by 138 like a string of pearls? Even
on the most conceptual level, this overall plan would go far
in guiding growth more effectively.
Once some consensus is reached _ and that's the hard part
_ a Planned Commercial Development District is enacted
to guide planning, design, and construction. This must go further
than the current planned development district, especially in
regard to establishing a neighborhood structure to tie each parcel
together into an integrated whole. While the current district
is valuable insofar as it provides for better design on each
parcel, it says little about what the physical structure of the
area should be _ where are its centers, it's circulatory spines,
and its outer edges? If these planning and design decisions can
be made then every development, whether of a large tract of land
or small frontage parcel, serves to advance the development of
a real community.
|| This simple mixed-use building in Wakefield
is a wonderful example of the kind of structure that used to
be built on 19th century streets. Like many modern commercial
buildings, it is little more than a box, but a little extra attention
has been given to the front facade. This creates an attractive
entrance for the building, but just as importantly adds to the
visual character of the shared public street.
||As we have seen, good architecture on a bad
site plan makes for a bad result. Successful places succeed,
not just on the basis of architectural style, but because the
buildings, like this block in Wickford create a comfortable,
human scaled environment both inside and out.
||Even strip malls can be made better, not just
by putting a peaked roof on the building, but by providing comfortable
places to walk, covered porches, and lush landscaping.
||This Texaco Station on Rt. 1 in Charlestown
displays a different take on the typical pump canopy. Wood columns
and peaked roof match the lines of the adjoining building and
fit the character of South County more than most.