Mature Commercial District -- Existing Conditions Before
Mature Commercial District -- After Conventional Development
Mature Commercial District -- Conventional Development
With a complex interaction of existing landuses, economic processes, and shifting market forces, older commercial districts defy simple management strategies, and invite big, oversimplified solutions. That was the tragedy of Urban Renewal, which sponsored "slum clearance" to create development sites for large masterplanned development in the process destroying countless historic neighborhoods in the name of progress. On a smaller scale that process continues here, as supermarkets and office parks are invited in to replace less profitable uses. Meanwhile, what little remained of a real community is further degraded. As this process progresses, increased traffic creates pressure for road widening and intersection improvements, which improve conditions for cars but make the area even more dangerous and uncomfortable for pedestrians.
Mature Commercial District -- After Creative Development
Mature Commercial District -- Design Recommendations, Roadside Development
Design Concept: Office park and commercial uses are encouraged to expand, but to do it in a way that enhances the existing neighborhood, rather than tearing it to bits. Structures are smaller, truly mixed-use along streets and within buildings. Infill of underutilized parking areas, renovation of older structures, and rationalized parking and circulation systems tie the revitalized neighborhood together. There are three key areas: roadside development along Rt. 1; a mixed- use office center off Airport Road; and mixed-use commercial infill in the center. A new interior street connects all three areas together. The principal existing roads are redesigned with an eye to more pedestrian use and visual quality for motorists. This would start with removal of paving where possible and planting of street trees.
Mature Commercial District -- Implementation Techniques and Examples
Proposed rezoning of the area is put on hold until landowners, business people and residents reach a consensus about the future of their neighborhood. Through a masterplanning process, a plan for the district is created to guide future growth in a coordinated manner. This will only succeed if it is produced by the people who own the land and run the businesses, for no amount of wishful thinking will overcome the difficulties of coordinating this effort unless the participants themselves are behind the idea. Once a consensus is achieved, the best thing the town can do is get out of the way; removing regulatory barriers and providing incentives to promote the project. Zoning could be simplified by enacting a single Planned Village Development District that would establish allowable uses, density and dimensional requirements, and design standards for the entire district. These efforts would also need to be coordinated with ongoing comprehensive planning for the surrounding area of Westerly, for it would be difficult to force developers to deal with the complexities of this approach when development is still allowed in green-fields just down the road. Other urban revitalization techniques could also be explored: targeted infrastructure improvements, especially for water and sewer, street tree plantings and new connecting roads; grants for renovation of key buildings; construction of public buildings in the neighborhood to spur activity and investment.