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Aldi Store Hailed as Model of 21st-Century Urban Planning

March 5th, 2015

The new Aldi store in Irondequoit offers a glimpse into the future for the corner of North Winton and Blossom.
By Mike Governale

You may remember an article I posted more than a year about new plans for an Aldi store in Irondequoit on Hudson Ave. At that time I suggested the building should front the street/sidewalk, instead of being set back behind the parking lot. I thought the result would have been a development that would be more accessible to people who might choose to walk in off the street.

My suggestion was met with all kinds of wisdom from the project architect who has since set me straight. I now understand why it is better community planning to put your buildings in the middle of parking lots…

Aldi's plan for new store in North Winton Village.
For the people of Rochester who are currently facing a similar Aldi proposal in North Winton Village external link I want to share some of these lessons I learned from the Aldi project in Irondequoit.

Aldi's plan for new store in North Winton Village.
First, as Steve Cleason of APD Architects explains here external link putting the building at the sidewalk does not improve pedestrian access. In “reality” making the parking lot as convenient as possible does. Cleason points out that “downtown areas” always clear out space to improve access to parking lots so this must be true. 1965 called and it says you need “numerous amounts of parking or retail cannot thrive.”

The new Aldi store in Irondequoit offers a glimpse into the future for the corner of North Winton and Blossom.
Second, big parking lots create views of open space external link and help improve line-of-sight for drivers so they can see the creek and wooded area behind the store. Because while we’re waiting at the light on our way from Aldi to the Wegmans across the street, that bit of green space will be a nice stress reliever.

The new Aldi store in Irondequoit offers a glimpse into the future for the corner of North Winton and Blossom.
And another nice side effect external link of moving all the buildings out of the way of the parking lot, is that now, all of the people who park there will shop at Aldi and then want to walk to all of the other establishments in the area. Looking at the aerial view in his presentation, this seems completely likely.

The new Aldi store in Irondequoit offers a glimpse into the future for the corner of North Winton and Blossom.
Any questions so far?

It’s important to keep in mind, that any new development need only be walkable if there are already pedestrians external link there currently. I mean why waste you’re time worrying about “foot traffic” if you’re building on an underdeveloped lot or a green field? That would be ridiculous, especially in a town of only 50,000.

The new Aldi store in Irondequoit offers a glimpse into the future for the corner of North Winton and Blossom.
And finally, as you can see external link pedestrian access can be achieved simply by placing crosswalks and a bike rack in the middle of the parking lot. Throw in a few benches and you’ve created a nice “public gathering space” for the community.

The new Aldi store in Irondequoit offers a glimpse into the future for the corner of North Winton and Blossom.
Thank goodness the Irondequoit planning and zoning boards did not agree with my naive proposition, because clearly this Aldi is much more accessible with a parking lot in front of it.*

*Pedestrian access excludes December – March.

• • •

Public Input Opportunity:

Steve Cleason and APD Architects are working on a similar Aldi store at North Winton and Blossom external link. You can submit your thoughts on this project to the Zoning Board by emailing [email protected]

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This entry was posted on Thursday, March 5th, 2015 at 12:03 am and is filed under Architecture, Rochester News, Transit + Infrastructure, Urban Development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

37 Responses to “Aldi Store Hailed as Model of 21st-Century Urban Planning”

  1. Charles says:

    I think there is so much being left out of this article and the pros and cons of different approaches.

    This clearly benefits the car, which is fine but just say so. Don’t act like this is good urban design, maybe suburban design and even then it lacks.

    As a landscape architect I do not recommend this philosophy just because the architect being paid is promoting it.

    Development (good or bad) always wins.

  2. Renee says:

    Mike, this perfectly captures my frustration with the thinking behind most of the new development in our area (and across the country). When you build something new, if you have an opportunity to move the needle toward walkability and greater non-car accessibility just a little bit, why wouldn’t you? Even if most people would initially drive there, why not build it so they could park their cars and walk to other stores/restaurants from there?

    Someone has to start the trend, lest all our neighborhood retail turns into giant Henriettas. And we know how lovely it is to get off a bus and walk around there. Or ride your bike or get out of your car and walk around there.

    And that whole crap about making parking lots as convenient as possible improving pedestrian access?! You know what improves pedestrian access? Making it safe and enjoyable to walk around areas concentrated with lots of stores/restaurants.

    I know you gave this one in Irondequoit the good fight. Perhaps the developers of the Winton Aldis will listen and lead by example to help that area become more walkable.

  3. Christopher Brandt says:

    Just a quick note for clarity…Its “APD Architects and Engineers.” We could only be too lucky to have ADP Architects from England involved.

    I will certainly be voicing my opinion on this to the ZBA.

  4. Rich Tyson says:

    I COMPLETELY agree with you Mike. Our shop, Fahsye, is directy across the street from this proposed Aldi’s and almost ALL stores in this area are at the sidewalk and ready for walk in traffic. It would only make sense for other development to do the same. With that said, I am even more at a loss for why this neighborhood needs an Aldi’s considering we have Wegmans, Tops, and that other discount store at Culver and University around the corner. What a shame.

  5. Whoops! Yes, thank Cristopher. APD not ADP.

    Charles, yes there is a lot being left out of this article. But this was intended to be tongue-in-cheek. I do not really think this Aldi design is a model of 21st century urban planning. Please click on the links in this article and watch the video of the Irondequoit Zoning Board hearing. You will be amazed. When I listen to the architect present his case, I am transported to an alternate universe where up is down, and down is up.

    These arguments and excuses from Steve Cleason WILL BE the same ones brought to the North Winton neighbors very soon. It’ll be up to residents to do their homework and get ready to challenge if they disagree with his philosophy.

    Incidentally, that pedestrian walkway from the street through the parking lot has not been shoveled by Aldi or anyone all winter. Those photos were taken several weeks ago and after phone calls to Aldi myself, it still looks like that right now (with a little melting). To walk from the street to the front door you need to walk a long way out of your way, to the nearest road intersection, and walk in the street with the cars through the parking lot entrance. The message from Aldi might as well be, “if you arrive on foot you don’t matter to us.”

  6. Tony Karakashian says:

    Rich, I’ll tell you why: Wegmans is egregiously expensive, and I’ve found Tops to be a dirty hole most of the time (the new one, not so much, but give it time). My wife just started shopping at the new Aldi’s a couple of weeks back, and refuses to go back to Wegmans for most of our staples moving forward. Prices are a quarter what they are at Wegmans for infinitely better produce.

    I guess the question for me is: if you made this store more walk-accessible, where exactly would you be walking FROM to get there? Granted, everywhere is within walking distance if you got lots of time to spare, but the vast majority of residents of Irondequoit do not live within a reasonable walking distance to the store. And, it’s not like there’s anything else to walk TO nearby that meets the qualifications laid out in the article.

    One could make the “it would start a trend” argument, but how? Do we expect Wegmans to say “Hey, the Aldi’s across the street is walkable, lets move our store to the front of the parking lot so we can be to!!”? There’s iSquare…but I still have to drive to get to that, so walking to Aldi’s doesn’t really buy anyone anything.

  7. Charlie says:

    Rich, perhaps there’s still time to head off the Aldi plans for North Winton Village, across the street from Fahsye. IMO, it’s worth the fight to preserve the character of your neighborhood! This post by Mike Governale makes good reference material.

  8. Aaron Thompson says:


    Great way to present this. I know from my vantage point the frustration comes in the form of not being heard or trusted. The North Winton Village Assoc (NWVA) has asked for input from neighbors, and the majority of neighbors want a street of shops similar to what is found in South Wedge.

    My understanding of NWVA’s stance, gathered from sitting on the planning meetings, is that the neighborhood association doesn’t want to push Aldi’s away because “no one” is currently asking to build there. Its unfortunate because the neighborhood COULD indeed have a South Wedge like shopping environment, but there isn’t any strategy for economic growth – so unfortunately as a neighborhood – you just take what you can.

    To all reading this – please understand I have no issue with Aldi’s – I think it is ok, but I agree with Rich that we already have enough grocery stores. I’m not just claiming that, I’ve looked at the Rochester Economic Zoning data and it shows that our area is oversaturated with grocery retail.

    I stand by my earlier recommendation that I gave to the NWVA that Aldi’s should be stopped, we need to take a breath and look again at a true growth strategy. (I provided the beginning of one last year, but it was pushed aside). I think we as a neighborhood need to build relationships with developers and retailers who want to build for today AND the future. Not just earn a quick buck.

    The neighborhood could support higher end shops IF the planning was done properly. Putting in places like Aldi’s will only increase traffic and will not add to the historic charm that the neighboring district has. We are unique today but if we don’t plan for the future we will end up looking like Henrietta, with 4 lanes of traffic and no walkability.

  9. Rich Tyson says:

    Tony, I would like to invite you to actually visit the site that the Aldi’s is being proposed to sit on and look around. There is a handful of individual businesses located at this corner that are located at the street and welcome the many folks that are out walking from the NWV and Browncroft neighborhoods. The walkability of neighborhood is one of the major reasons that my wife and I chose to open our shop here.

  10. Chris says:

    Excellent article!! I first thought my urban planning/landscape architecture education did me wrong, but realized it was a wonderfully written sarcastic piece!
    One just has to visit the new Collegetown development on Mt Hope to see what it looks like to have the building adjacent to the sidewalk. EVEN McDonalds did it.

  11. Tony Karakashian says:

    Rich, I was referring to the Aldi’s in the article, not the one being proposed in your neighborhood. If your neighborhood is walkable, which is probably very likely given your comments point to your being in the city, then it does make sense to put in a store you can easily walk to. Unfortunately, the suburbs are not the city, and making the Aldi’s in Irondequoit would do nothing to make the area more walkable.

  12. satrams says:

    If this article was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, then you did a terrible job of making that evident. Also, I actually found some of the points very valid, such as being able to see the wooded areas behind the store. (Of course this also could be because the store is so small)

  13. Ken says:

    Well as a architecture student I know a company I’ll never apply to…

  14. Bradley Huber says:

    Tony plenty of folks try to get to the new Aldi’s in Irondequoit from the bus stop located across the street in the Wegman’s Plaza. I have got to imagine that’s pretty tough to do, especially with a few bags of groceries.

    Regardless, any new development no matter where it is should be hospitable to all forms of transportation. Development that favors automobiles at the expense of others is inequitable and in this case a dangerous condition.

  15. kmannkoopa says:

    The answer is quite simple. The neighborhood needs to fight against the zoning variances and simply demand that they conform to the City Zoning Code.

    Aldi’s has done this before. A very quick web search found the Aldi’s at 2628 E. Carson Street in Pittsburgh.

    It has exactly the “Collegetown” look mentioned by Chris above.


    That’s the Google street view of the store (if it works)

    Someone should print that picture out on a 22×34 sheet and bring it to the board and show the City that Aldi’s has done similar. They aren’t even a franchise company.

  16. Renee says:

    Tony, I say yes it is worth it to build something more accessible to pedestrians and transportation alternatives other than the car — even if everything else around is not yet built like that. We have to move forward somehow and it will only happen with baby steps. And it needs to happen in our suburbs, as well as cities.

  17. Tony Karakashian says:

    Bradley, how does having Aldi’s closer to the sidewalk change how people get across the street? How does it make it less “dangerous”?

  18. Tony Karakashian says:

    Renee, I disagree. While I personally hate living in the suburbs because everything’s so spread out, I think most people move there for that specific reason.

  19. Bradley Huber says:

    Tony, it’s dangerous because the only pedestrian access to the store in the winter is via the vehicle entrances and exits. This forces pedestrians in areas meant for traffic. If the store was closer to the street this would have eliminated this issue. At the very least they could clear the walkway.

  20. Tony K… you’re viewing this solely from the perspective of someone who has ability to drive. If 99 people out of 100 drove to this Aldi store, would that make it ok to ignore the 1 pedestrian who has to climb over the snow drifts to get to the front door? Look at the photos in this story.

    This story isn’t about fighting Aldi’s, it’s about poor community design. My family shops at Aldi’s, Wegman’s, and Tops. I couldn’t care less about which brand it is.

    Kmankoopa has it exactly right. The City of Rochester may stand a better chance because of their form-based code. Irondequoit’s building codes are designed to ensure that all commercial development looks like this Aldi store.

    HOWEVER, it should also be pointed out that this section of Irondequoit is designated a Mixed Use Disctrict and according to that code this Aldi’s should never have had a parking lot in front of it.

    This area is surrounded by residential development and apartment buildings. There are lots of people who could walk to the stores in this area. When I lived in the neighborhood we used to walk from Seneca Ave to the Wegmans and the library on Cooper… and we weren’t the only ones. MORE people would walk here if it were designed for walking. But to say no one walks is a simply false. Many people have no choice but to walk.

  21. Chris says:

    Go to Washington DC, grocery stores entrances are at the sidewalk. Car traffic is regulated to the back. If you want to create a pedestrian friendly environment the access needs to be where the pedestrians are. Winton is a busy 4 lane street in this area. But with thoughtful planning and design it can become a pedestrian friendly neighborhood. Erasing 50 years of habits and poor planning will take time.

  22. Satrams,
    Tongue-in-cheek? No no!… I really do love the parking lot and how you can see all the trees now. You must have misunderstood me. I would’ve actually gone a step further and made the Aldi’s a drive-thru only.

  23. kmannkoopa says:

    Bigger than any one site design to making the area more pedestrian friendly is the street design. This will make or break the feeling of the street.

    Despite its heavy traffic, I find that the rebuilding of Mt. Hope through Collegetown did a great job of building it for cars, bicycles and pedestrians (having used all modes of transportation through there).

    N. Winton Road between Blossom and Corwin is getting a long overdue rebuilding this summer (http://www.cityofrochester.gov/article.aspx?id=8589952131), but there is very little information about the design.

    Ideally it will be a design that includes bump-outs and other improvements other streets like South, Monroe, Lake, and Dewey have had.

    Was the neighborhood involved with the street design? If they weren’t it is too late now.

    Down in my part of the city, next week the Highland Park and Swillburg neighborhoods will be meeting with the City as it looks to rebuild Clinton Ave between Goodman and the Brighton Town Line. This project isn’t until 2016, but we want to be involved in the design phase, so we approached the City when they posted this job on their website.

  24. I agree that the Aldi design needs to change. I was actually going to lay out a new one/review the current one for Filling In, although I suspect we might be approaching peak Aldi overload. I think at some point I will sketch up my vision and post it as a comment here. Thank you Mike, for bring attention to this.

  25. Tony Karakashian says:

    Mike, I never said no one walks. I said most choose to live in Irondequoit, or the suburbs in general, because it’s spread out and not walkable, and it’s not fair to try and change that if that’s what people want.

    I also never said it was about Aldi’s as a brand, I’ve been concentrating my comments on the Irondequoit store, and the complaints in the article. My first comment was in response to the question of “why do we need more supermarkets?”, and my answer was because those we already had sucked in comparison. Beyond that one, we could simply just call it “the building”.

    Your example of snow drifts and inaccessibilty in the winter are good points, but they speak more to the management of the store than the placement of the building. There IS a way in for pedestrians, it’s just not been cleared. I’m betting there haven’t been more than the single commenter above complaining about it, or they would’ve cleared it.

    Now, if they did this against the zoning code, that’s an issue, but one we can’t do anything about now. But, that also speaks more to the mismanagement of the town than the building or its placement.

    And, yeah, I would never walk from Seneca to that store. Far too far. 🙂

  26. Tony, you’re hopeless ;-P

  27. Tony Karakashian says:

    Did my wife tell you to say that? 🙂

  28. Renee says:

    C’mon, people! We can do it! We can make places better for those using all modes of transportation. And, Tony. I’m not as pessimistic as you are. I think if you build better places that incorporate better street design, people’s habits will follow suit.

  29. Cassy says:

    I will identify myself as being anti big box development in our small city commercial districts. But I do like to shop at Aldis and I believe, as they do from their market studies, that another grocery store in the area is ok. Like many people we skip around from grocery store to store for specific brands and bargains. A cluster of such uses creates a grocery district by default and would draw people who would take advantage of that.
    However, as to other arguments, the city vs suburb differences are stark and Irondequoit’s zoning decisions should not affect Rochester’s. There are no open spaces behind Winton Road; and the city parcel in the NWV neighorhood has many nearby residential properties and pedestrians from the Wintondale subdivision that opens on to Winton Road at Heather Street (see map), from Harris Park, and from the Ellison Park apartments on Blossom.
    The Aldis point that set back of the building allows for shared parking with neighboring businesses is true, at least for the Winton Road stores across the street is true. But I would not count on that unless it was in a written agreement from Aldis that is recorded in the Monroe Cnty Clerks Office. The Blossom Road parking area is too far from any small businesses to serve. CVS, the big box across the street, has its own big parking area in front. Any parking behind the store if the store did come up to the sidewalk line would only be serving Aldis, not potentially the small businesses across the street.
    Big box stores are now universally considered to be a passe urban development venue, especially in the newly appreciated older neighborhood, small scale commercial districts that are cheek-to-jowl with residential uses. Many such as myself are opposed to them, but the City of Rochester’s Economic and Neighborhood Development Department, which rules the Zoning Dept division, clearly is not. I say clearly because although the city purports to be committed to these current urban planning tennants, they continue to bow down to any large corporation that wants to build (“invest”) in the city. Witness their allowing Wegmans to tear down a string of archtecturally significant older buildings to errect walls that have no store access on the important streets of East Ave. and University; and to put trucking bays and high brick walls on our Winton Rd. The store entrance is, yes, off the mega parking lot. Witness the new CVS at Blossom and Winton that the NWV Association fought to have it positioned along the sidewalk like Rite Aid on Monroe Ave, to no avail. So the Winton Aldis would be on a block already dominated with big boxes on the west side of the street.
    Aldis appears to want to midigate the Winton Rd setback with an attractive brick wall along the sidewalk. Yet the setback issue relates to pedestrian friendly access — not just asthetics. The wall cuts off pedestrians coming from the north where Winton Rd turns residential and the aforementioned residential pockets are located. The car spaces along the wall have the quick access to the store doors, while the peds must walk all along the wall and turn in. If the develpment goes through and the wall stays, it should have an opening and sidewalk on the north.
    This parcel on Winton Rd is not only marred by its big box neighbors. It is marred by the existing buildings — dilapidated and/or ugly Roly Door, Earls Garage, Jims Diner. The exception is the stucco and brick house that would be demolished, sadly.
    So what is an economically and esthetically viable alternative to Aldis, if they cannot/would not alter the footprint of their cookie cutter store by reconfiguring the square box into a rectangle that reaches to Winton Road and retains the 17,000 sq. ft. that way? The long side of the rectangle could face the Blossom Rd parking lot behind the gas station. Perhaps we could hold out for a mini plaza of small shops that could touch the Winton Rd property line. But to expect separate small 1920s style new buildings is unrealistic. The existing buildings, like Roly Door, Earls and Jims are fungible. This corner is valuable realestate. Is there a developer out there to do the right thing for it?

  30. Tom K says:

    I know what would make the design work, a clock tower! Then everyone will be able to tell what time it is. And if they put benches at the base of the clock tower it would give that nice ‘Town Square’ feel. And better yet, make the clock face with Roman numerals to show our vision for the future!

    How’s that for tongue in cheek? Seriously, what’s with all of the clock towers everywhere? I live within a couple blocks of the site and would LOVE to have a more walkable neighborhood. I’ve probably only ever been into a Aldis once, but have nothing against them. I can’t understand a developers argument to set it the store back. Wouldn’t it give your business greater presence if it were right at the street? I’m guessing it has to do with loading docks, or something. We shop mostly at Wegmans, even though Tops is closer. I’ve tried walking to Tops, but it is always such a long wait in line at the checkout that going to Wegmans wins that choice. I will likely give Aldis a shot regardless of where it’s placed, but I don’t know how any forward-thinking planner can justify allowing another parking lot at such a prime corner sighs so much potential. Kudos to Mayers for running a great business within the historical store front and being such an asset to our neighborhood!

  31. Tom K says:

    Darn autocorrect.
    ‘…WITH so much potential’, not ‘…sighs so much potential.’

  32. charles says:

    (clearly went over my head)…carry on with the good work.

  33. Wings-of-Progress says:


    I now get your take on this being a ‘Stephen Colbert’ satire, and all I can say is whew!!! (I though you were really being converted)… The logic for this building orientation does not add up and I know that there are some fabulous planners on staff at Irondequoit who understand this…hopefully it’s not too late to right the ship.

  34. Chris Stone says:

    “Most choose to live in Irondequoit, or the suburbs in general, because it’s spread out and not walkable, and it’s not fair to try and change that if that’s what people want.”

    Don’t confuse “what people want” or “choice” with “constrained options.” If you locked me in a 7-11 for a week and then studied my diet, you might say I “chose” to eat a high salt, high sugar, high fat diet of processed foods. Are there healthy choices at 7-11? Sure, maybe a few, but they’re not easy or apparent. When we make walking difficult or impossible, few people will view it as a real “choice.”

    It also goes against my moral and ethical grounding to completely dismiss the needs of people who cannot, for whatever reason, own and operate a motor vehicle to conduct the normal tasks of daily life.

    “City of Rochester’s Economic and Neighborhood Development Department, which rules the Zoning Dept division.”

    It’s the Department of Neighborhood and Business Development which rules the Bureau of Planning and Zoning. Details matter. Know thy enemy.

    “Witness the new CVS at Blossom and Winton that the NWV Association fought to have it positioned along the sidewalk like Rite Aid on Monroe Ave, to no avail…”

    Blame the developer, not the city. Tops has a deed restriction on that corner preventing any building from being built there, which might block the view of their architecturally stunning store.

    By the way, shame on the NWV Association for not vociferously advocating for design changes for Aldis. They took CVS to task for the same issues (setback, lack of windows) that they now seem to be overlooking with Aldis. The ladies that run NWV can be bought off with faux victorian lighting, fabric awnings, and some flower boxes.

    “But to expect separate small 1920s style new buildings is unrealistic.”

    Why? The Rite Aid at Monroe and Goodman is designed to look like two separate smaller buildings, and fit in with the traditional architecture of an urban mixed use avenue. It can be done.

    “Seriously, what’s with all of the clock towers everywhere?”

    Well, with regard to Wegmans’ love of clock towers, I suspect Danny Wegman has some sort of phallic complex. Not to mention that a giant, ahem, “rooster” pops out of the wall inside the building. Paging Doctor Freud…

  35. bpg says:

    Tony is correct re: the Irondequoit store. The suburbs are different than the city and there’s nothing wrong with building to the clientele. Irondequoit simply isn’t a pedestrian community. And the VAST majority of residents don’t live within walking distance of Aldi’s.

    If what you like is the aesthetic of the plan that puts the store closer to the road then just say that. But suggesting that such an approach would be better in Irondequoit because of or for pedestrian access simply ignores the realities of Irondequoit.

  36. Bpg, we’re not talking about transforming Irondequoit into a city. We’re talking about making our town center more accessible to all town residents, and, as a side effect, making our town more attractive and competitive with other towns that have walkable main streets or central business districts.

    What you (and Tony) fail to realize is that Irondequoit town code prohibits parking lots in front of the building on this very site. We are talking about Irondequoit’s “Mixed Use Commercial District” where, in fact, it was the town residents who got together (without my help) and said “let’s make this section of Irondequoit more walkable” and changed the building code so that this area could be made into something different than East Ridge Road. THIS is the reason the Aldi developer needed to ask for variances to put the parking lot where it is.

    So I think the real issue is that people DO walk in this area, and more people might walk if only it were made a little safer/easier. Driving and walking are not mutually exclusive. For you to say the VAST majority drive and screw the rest of ’em, that itself is ignoring the realities of Irondequoit – or the realities of any suburb for that matter. Anyone with a car and legs might choose to say, “hey it’s a nice day out, I think I’ll walk to the store today.” But oh wait, I can’t because my town was designed by people who drive 100% of the time.

    But to answer your question, bpg… Yes, this type of development is ugly. In this particular case however, the site design fails on the basis of function, and I believe function comes first. There’s really no sense in arguing about looks when a percentage of our residents can’t even get to the front door.

  37. Renee says:

    bpg, Yes, lots of people live in their cars. But I think more people WOULD walk to and within many of these ridiculously designed car-centric shopping areas if it was possible. Just because people live in the suburbs does not mean they wouldn’t like to bike or walk sometimes (or all of the time). But it’s not an option until someone takes a step forward to make things better and shake up the way we do things. Look at the close-in suburbs of Washington DC and other cities, where developments have been built with multiple transportation options in mind. I don’t buy “people drive, so get over it” as an excuse to keep doing business as usual.

    Oh, and, yes. These types of developments are ugly.

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