Let’s assume, just for the sake of conversation, that nobody finds a corporate fast-food establishment particularly attractive. The visual impact of these places is nonetheless minimal and sporadic in mixed-use, urban settings, where they bump up against different building types, or sit at ground level within buildings. But along many American strip malls, fast-food chains—and other low-budget retail—are clustered side by side, extending into infinity with their loud signage, cookie-cutter design, drive-thru windows and parking lots.I wonder if the argument generalizes to New Zealand.
We can thank single-use zoning for this. Most cities’ comprehensive zoning maps separate residential, commercial and industrial uses. They usually allow commercial retail on just a handful of key roads that run from downtown to the suburbs. So that’s where most of the retail ends up. It’s as if the government has taken uses that are fundamentally ugly, and crammed them together, causing the ugliness to spread. People still shop on these strips because they have no other choice, but don’t celebrate the areas themselves, often finding them distasteful and congested.
Paraparaumu, North Island, 7 January 2000, as observed from the Wellington to Auckland day train.
The very rules that seek to encourage expansive use of land also encourage cost-cutting. "Because government regulations are limiting the value that developers can accrue from their land, they throw up something hasty and cheap to get a quick return." The best thing for government to do might be to go away, notes Rachel Quednau of Strong Towns. "Until we change the government regulations that induce strip mall development (or until every strip mall fails completely), we're stuck with these low-returning investments in our towns and cities." Strip mall failure? Perhaps, in Vancouver, comes the first signs.
At a recent job fair, 3,000 jobs were available but only 500 potential applicants showed up. The minimum wage jobs and poor transit connections will hinder hiring. The lack of a good separated sidewalk and protected bike lane from Tsawwassen to the mall will also thwart local residents who are active transportation users.Yes, and sometimes the mall developers deliberately keep the bus stops away, so as to make access by deplorables less easy.