The Imagining Livability Design Collection

Solutions for Transforming Suburban Streets and Commercial Strips

These placemaking "photovisions" of six real locations show how lifeless roadways can become lively places

Celebrating an Arts Heritage in EXMORE, VIRGINIA

This artisans' town features an historic Main Street and is home to one of the largest employers in the county — a manufacturer of mosaic tiles. The town has chosen to invest in revitalizing its downtown and celebrating its arts heritage. However, this uninviting intersection is located just one block off Exmore's Main Street, making the connection into the downtown neighborhood both placeless and unsupportive of pedestrians and bicyclists.

The Present — Photo by the WALC Institute

The Challenges

  • No sidewalks or marked crossings are provided.

  • The buildings turn their stark and windowless backs onto the street.

  • Street corners have wide turning radii that allow vehicles to take the turns at fast speeds.

  • Trees are missing and overhead utility wires are unsightly.

The Possibilities — Photovision by the WALC Institute and TDC Design Studio

Envisioning a More Livable Future

  • A neighborhood pocket park featuring a mural wall and mosaic blossoms better celebrates the community's connection to art.

  • The intersection is calmer, with better support for pedestrians and cyclists.

  • Vacant buildings are transformed into studios.

  • A raised mini-circle is decorative and slows traffic.

  • Freight trucks have room enough to maneuver and load and off-load materials.

Repairing a Deady Street in ATLANTIC CITY, NEW JERSEY

This Atlantic City thoroughfare is a major transportation route used by pedestrians, bicyclists, drivers and public-transit users, yet it's sorely deficient in basic infrastructure and amenities. A shopping mall generates trips to and on the street, but the corridor prioritizes vehicle mobility over multimodal accessibility. The area is characterized by vast expanses of asphalt with high maintenance costs. Sadly, the corridor takes lives. The roadway is the county's most deadly street for pedestrians. There are no quick fixes here, but the area has the potential to become a prosperous village.

The Present — Photo by the WALC Institute

The Challenges

  • Wide roads and large intersections encourage vehicle speeds even faster than the posted 50 mph speed limit.

  • The overly wide road increases the distance pedestrians must cross.

  • Buildings set back and separated from the street by underutilized parking lots force people to walk even greater distances once they're off the street.

  • Sidewalks are absent in many locations.

  • Crosswalks are not marked and pedestrian signals do not exist.

  • The lack of pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, accessible transit stops and traffic-calming measures deter walking and bicycling, which increases automobile dependency for even short trips and, therefore, congestion.

The Possibilities — Photovision by the WALC Institute and TDC Design Studio

Envisioning a More Livable Future

  • The thoroughfare remains a multilane arterial roadway, but it now includes a frontage road with street parking, a safe and highly visible crosswalk and crossing island, a wide bike lane and covered transit stop.

  • Mixed-use infill development is built to pedestrian scale.

  • Adjacent land values are increased and the mall becomes a destination.

This article, "Solutions for Transforming Suburban Streets and Commercial Strips," was adapted from The Imagining Livability Design Collection, which was published in Spring 2015 by AARP Livable Communities and the Walkable and Livable Communities Instiitute (WALC), written by Kelly Morphy and Robert Ping (WALC) and project managed and edited by Jeanne Anthony and Melissa Stanton (AARP).

Read another excerpt from the collection. »


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