Taking Strip malls from Wastelands to Tastelands.
We’ve long perceived “Strip mall” as a bad word, one that accurately captures the mundaneness and infrastructural disadvantages of Suburbia. Over the decades Strip malls faded in popularity, from the expansive institutions, they were once seen as, when cars were newer. In the time Strip malls have continued to decline in overall desirability, they’ve also been credited as environments of value. These days, Strip malls are often recognized as locales of commercial authenticity and “diamonds in the rough”. Given today’s sanitized version of Bohemianism called “Hipsterdom”, “The Rough” part of this equation holds greater potential than any individual “Diamonds” it houses. For better and worse, Strip malls are an inherited, entrenched staple of the American landscape. With critical analysis and subsequent upgrade-strategies, we can tip this balance from worse to decidedly better. We can repurpose “the Strip mall” from a stale remnant of the past to a future in democratic taste-making! Here are seven ideas on how to go about reincarnating the American Strip mall for the next era.
The Strip mall-Piazza!
As we evolve “the Strip mall”, we should evolve it to include great things that we don’t have. We don’t have enough incredibly pleasurable public squares, not even close to enough! We should cater to humans as much as we cater to their cars. We should integrate Strip malls with European inspired public spaces. Public spaces for enjoyment could be a whole new draw for visiting Strip malls and great for business! Public spaces would be particularly great for businesses selling products that can be pleasurably consumed in them such as food, drink and books. Public spaces in Strip malls could also be environmentally friendly public gardens. A great way to go green is to balance car-heavy strip malls with enjoyable, public green spaces!
Integrating Good Public Transit
In improving Strip malls, we should improve the commercial corridors or “strips” on which so many of them exist. One of the best ways to do this is with the integration of complimentary public transit. Obviously, this is a challenging task but that’s why we need we need a lot of involvement for it. A perfect way to counteract the car-dependent stigma of Strip malls is to make them less car dependent! The linear shape of many commercial strips is conducive to the integration of public transit. A great way for us to start better integrating public transit with Strip malls is to upgrade existing bus routes along commercial strips to Bus Rapid Transit. Implementing rapid transit lines along long commercial strips would be a total game changer for the Strip mall experience!
Making Strip malls More Walkable!
We need to walk more in America! Driving to Strip malls the past few decades certainly hasn’t helped our obesity problem! We’re fatter than ever! Let’s make Strip malls more pleasurable to walk around, with aesthetic greenery. Let’s make Strip mall-hopping on foot, a thing, with safer sidewalks along commercial strips. Better public transit and more public spaces would also be of great help in achieving this goal.
It would be great if more Strip malls had a cohesive focus. For instance, Strip malls designated to the sale of a specific kind of ethnic food could be a great time. We’d also enjoy Strip malls with good food from many different parts of the world as well. Culturally oriented Strip malls focused on emerging fashions, music, magazines and so on would be an interesting experiment. We should consider and discuss all of the potential focuses that would work well as applied to Strip malls.
Cooperative Delivery Service!
Businesses should team up with their merchant neighbors to better serve customers. We should popularize Strip mall delivery services for every business in a given lot! It’s an understatement to say it’d be clutch to have, pizza, beer, and sushi delivered your doorstep for get-togethers!
Keep A Bit Of The Grit
We should make Strip malls better while keeping as much as possible of what’s already good about them! Let us NOT beautify, polish and gentrify Strip malls to a fault! Let us NOT fancify Strip malls so as to render them less than democratic places. Let us NOT price out the potential for eclectic vitality from the institution that is the American Strip mall!
A Media Channel For This Purpose
Strip malls are so ubiquitous that we should press the conversation on improving them into everyday life! We should all have access to noteworthy failure and success stories to use as reference points for our own communities.
Listen to the corresponding podcast with even more thoughts on this topic, here:
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