There’s a new development called I-Square being built right now in Irondequoit. It’s one of those “new urban” designs with mixed-use buildings placed along the sidewalk and a little public space in the center of it all. Where’s the parking? Right where it should be, behind the buildings, hidden from the street. The end result will be an attractive street front and a destination for people to come and walk around – maybe spend a little time and money. Very exciting.
But right around the corner, on Hudson Avenue, is a proposal for a new Aldi grocery store. It’s the exact opposite of I-Square – a more typical, drive in & drive out, sub-urban design. This got me thinking…
The Aldi plan (shown above) includes a 17,000 sq. ft. grocery store and a 5,000 sq. ft. retail space (I guess this technically counts as “mixed-use”). But as usual, the building is being placed in the center of a giant 94 space parking lot. This doesn’t exactly invite people to walk to it.
If you live in any of Rochester’s suburbs (or even if you don’t) you’re probably used to bouncing from place to place in your car. We all do it. When we go grocery shopping for example, it’s not uncommon for folks to get a few items at a discount place like Aldi, and then run over to Wegmans for some other stuff. Each time hopping back in our vehicle – even if it’s to drive across the street!
In the “old days” people did their shopping on a street where shops were strategically placed very close together – and the front door was always located at the sidewalk where it was easy to get to. Like us, our great grandparents didn’t do all their shopping at one store either. But they could easily bounce from one shop to another on foot.
This begs the question: Can we retrofit our suburbs (which are not at all designed to be walkable) and begin to make them into places that are at least somewhat walkable? Or must we continue to accept more of the same?
I decided to get my crayons out and do some sketches to see if it would even be possible for Aldi to move their building up to the sidewalk and place the parking behind it…
Here’s another alternative with the Aldi and the retail flip flopped. This seems to work too. Same square footage… Same ridiculous amount of parking… But now the front door is placed at the sidewalk where it should be.
Why wouldn’t Aldi prefer this anyway? Their business would actually be more visible from the street. And the parking would be easier to secure. Seems like a no-brainer.
We can even look at some recent examples here in Rochester. This is the Chipotle on Mount Hope Ave. Granted, the burrito chain probably wouldn’t have built this way if it weren’t required by the City’s zoning code.
Perhaps there’s something in Irondequoit’s zoning code that requires commercial buildings to be set back behind a giant parking lot?
There certainly are parking minimums . But 94 spaces is actually twice the town requirement! (It’ll be interesting to see if these spaces ever fill to capacity).
And here’s something interesting… the code says there’s a minimum frontage build-out of 70% . That means 70% of the width of the lot needs to be occupied by the building’s front façade. I would think “front” means the street side of the lot. But what do I know. Admittedly, I’m lost in all this.
So today I will take my amateur drawings, a written letter, and my naiveté to the Irondequoit Planning Board. I will ask them to flip the Aldi plan around and put the parking where it belongs – in the rear!
We’ll see what they say. Stay tuned.
Tags: Aldi, Aldi's, development plans, grocery store, Hudson Avenue, Irondequoit, Irondequoit Plaza, planning, suburbs, Town of Irondequoit, urban design, urban development, urban planning, walkable communities
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