Main Street Market in Charlottesville, Virginia
While in Charlottesville Virginia, I had the opportunity to take my breakfast at an establishment located within the “Main Street Market.” I have always been a nut about urban planning and this example of magnificent development has given me numerous ideas about the way we can address the many symptoms of bad development that we live with in the United States, mainly in the form of strip malls and big box retailers lining the rural highways that serve as conduits between sub-urban communities.
I want you to imagine, that you wake up one morning and think: “I want pizza for lunch today.” So, living in your sub-urban community, you hop in the car, drive to the strip mall, get out of your car, walk into the domino’s, get your pizza, get back in your car, and drive away. In this process, here is what didn’t happen: you didn’t realize that there was anything else to do at the strip mall, all you saw was the objective, right in front of you, a pathway, you spent as little time as possible there because it was hot and wretched outside. You didn’t realize that maybe going next door to wild wings made any sense, because both are food establishments for the same type of food, and your need of food has been fulfilled. Let’s talk about the issues with the situation just faced. First of all, was on site parking. On site parking is what all strip malls function off of: the minimal walking distance between your car and the destination of picking up your goods. Because of this on site parking, you didn’t have to pass any retailers on the walk to Domino’s, you were not tempted to purchase anything else. At the same time, you were minimizing your time at the establishment; there was nothing else to do anyway. Thirdly, the entire experience was a forward engagement only, you were interacting with only one side, in front of you, mainly because a strip mall is oriented for walking in and walking out, not walking between each establishment; it is easy to see this in the layout of any strip mall. Finally, the services available, wings next to pizza, are somewhat incompatible to begin with, no one will go to a strip mall to sit down for a dinner of wings and then order pizza. So the strip mall condemns itself to people arriving there for one purpose only, either wings or pizza, but not both.
These problems are the hypothetical issues concomitant with strip malls and sprawl development across the United States. “Main Street Market” is the solution.
A brief description of the market: The market has a covered terrace where marked II, with several chairs and tables. There is a similar lay out in front of establishments 1 and 2. Although 7,8,9, and 10, can be accessed from the exterior, people inside those areas can walk into the main area, noted by a grayish colorspace without a number.
Terrace area to the right ^
Inside main space, that can be accessed from other spaces^
Firstly, if you look in the center of the diagram for the Market, a grayish space without a number, you will notice that all of the other areas with numbers are connected for the most part, with entrances.
By having these entrances, we are drawn from any area of the establishment towards this center area, that has tables and chairs to eat, chat with friends, perhaps read on a kindle or maybe even a real book. Being in this central space also focuses much commerce into one area. All of a sudden, you are surrounded on four sides by different shops: Feast, The organic butcher, Seafood @ west main, Hedge, and Orzo. This makes for a very stimulating experience, that might draw you into several areas to buy things. Now going to the Market is no longer a single task, but an activity to fill an afternoon, a way of life, all through a 4 sided immersion into a vibrant, well designed space, adapted from warehouse spacing. The things available at the Market are also compatible: a butcher, baker, sandwich shop and high end charcuterie with cheese counter, fish monger, flower shop, equipment shop, coffee house that sells pizzas, and an informal sit down restaurant. Now one can accomplish all shopping necessary for an entire week, in the enjoyment of an activity that brings a community together in an engaging environment, that removes the single task oriented nature of strip mall transactions. People get out of their cars, go into the market with a minor intention of what to get and depart with maybe some extra provisions, maybe a new silicone mixing bowl: the point is that people wandering around create traffic that traditional store displays can actually utilize. See below comments about the difference between the market and whole foods for example