VITAL AND ENRICHING COMMUNITIES
Have we witnessed the end of the suburban strip shopping center? Probably not, but we have seen the development community continue to perfect a business model that makes mixed-use and urban in-fill developments plausible — and an even better solution. If we focus on population growth, energy costs and the continued diminishment in quality of life, we not only should embrace change, we have to.
Regardless of recent news espousing the benefits of “green living,” these concepts are not entirely new. Written nearly 50 years ago, The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs defined what is right and wrong with American cities. The book wasn't written for designers — she was neither an academic nor a planner. She wrote it for you, the citizen, the real estate profession.
Building in an urban context requires sensitivity to elements that contribute to a vibrant community — and while a mix of uses is key, the combination of live-work-play alone doesn't result in “community.” Mixtures of all sorts are important — income, age, race, goods and services. We may hearken back to a pre-suburban city or town and conclude: it “doesn't work for today.” But if you go back to that place, many are still thriving even though they're not national prototype parades — you'll find a mixture of national retailers, local merchants and an array of professional services.
When people are immersed in real places familiarity takes over and everyone's experience is enriched. Little deals simultaneously with the economic realities and the social benefits that cause enduring cities and towns to work. Achieving this balance is imperative for developers, especially in today's market. Developers must think of their projects as an integral part of towns, not as self-contained towns. Since continuity improves experience, it must connect naturally to adjacent development. Connections cause social interplay and therefore enrich experience.
Little's design teams are practitioners in this balancing act, knowing full well that vital communities that enrich experience result in better business for everyone.
5815 Westpark Drive
Charlotte, NC 28217
Size of Firm: 300
Year Established: 1964
Bruce A. Barteldt, Jr., AIA, LEED AP, National Retail Studio Principal
Raleigh J. Cline, AIA, LEED AP, Mixed-Use/Marketplaces Studio Principal