The Impact of Strip Malls to an Urban Community

June 29th, 2017

By Julio Mora

What are the impacts of strip malls to an urban community? According to Edgewood Properties, a real estate development and property management company, the development located at the corner of Jersey Avenue and Handy Street, New Jersey can be classified as “leading the way of the newest wave of commercial development” and “ a thriving downtown area that is located in the City’s Urban EnterprisZone” (http://www.edgewoodproperties.com/properties/brunswick_tc.asp 

As we can see from the picture below half of the property feels as a strip mall with a big parking lot in front. Not to mention that two businesses have already vacated the area: Subway and a furniture store. The next area of the property include a Walgreens with the same building characteristics as other Walgreens within New Jersey, and a building to the side that has yet to be occupied. 

This is not the first strip development designed by Edgewood Properties. The company has an entire portfolio of projects that closely resemble “Brunswick Town Center”. Along the same street, Jersey Ave, the company constructed what is known as “Jersey Ave Commercial Center”. The property is described as a “mixed-use project that represents the newest wave of commercial development” (http://www.edgewoodproperties.com/properties/brunswick_tc.asp). However, with the parking lot surrounding the a row of commercial businesses, however in my opinion it is no more than yet another strip mall.

Not too far off from the Brunswick Town Center, on the other side of Route 1 that confines New Brunswick, the company has also constructed what is known as “Raritan Heights” and can be described with “Current plans that feature the existing Loews Cineplex, a mega-plex theater as a community focal point and proposes an additional 55,000 square feet of lifestyle retail and restaurants in a main-street setting”. (http://www.edgewoodproperties.com/properties/brunswick_tc.asp).  It is to be debated where a main street setting fits into this project, however I feel the current development looks simply as a strip development surrounded by parking with a confined set of apartments to the side where the only way to reach nearby schools and other businesses is by a car.

Although these type of developments may favor individuals who prefer using privately owned vehicles, these projects are increasingly becoming a burden to the land use, the environment, and the community. The behavior of individuals who choose to rely on the privately owned vehicle is not without justification. Privately owned vehicles have in fact caused such levels of efficiency for many for they have allowed a faster travel time from homes to schools and jobs. In fact, it was from the hopes and dreams of a self- prospering life with a high paying job, a car with a garage, and a big house with a backyard, that suburban sprawl began to evolve. Many individuals today have begun to feel those repercussions in the form of traffic congestion, health hazards, limited resources and quite possibly the most crucial is global warming.

With the ideals of walkable town centers and developments previous designed strip malls and isolated neighborhoods are becoming less appealing. Massive parking areas now seen as a burden to the land not just because they promote privately owned vehicles, but also of stormwater runoff and environmental concerns created by impervious asphalt. Due note that pervious asphalt has become more common, however it many instances it is not required to use.. Large highways are now seen as a burden because not only do they also promote the privately owned vehicle, they also promote massive traffic congestion leading to stress but also an increase in carbon dioxide emissions along with other toxins that can harm the environment. Strip malls can be viewed as a burden to the land and community because many of them were built for a single purpose…capitalism., Whether that purpose is ice cream, a laundromat, a gas station, or a chinese restaurant, and when the consumer has finished the transaction the area is empty with no function.

There is a solution and many communities have already begun to make strides in changing the landscape of strip developments and isolated areas. In my opinion, the most important solutions to improving a strip mall  is by giving these forms of developments more than just one purpose. Just as a park can be occupied by children using a playground, individuals exercising, or a school’s soccer practice, strip developments can be made just the same. It all starts with developers and planners no longer building for the consumers, but instead for the community. However, developers and planners are not the only ones who can re-organize a strip development, in fact in my opinion they play a minor role in the process, the biggest contributor to revitalizing a place is the community. In conclusion, just as a transaction begins as quickly as it ends, the same is the future of strip malls, which is why such projects need to be updated and given more than just one purpose.

Sources:

“Brunswick Town Center Commercial Property.” Edgewood Properties. Edgewood Properties, n.d. Web. 18 June 2017. <http://www.edgewoodproperties.com/properties/brunswick_tc.asp>.

Reimers, Vaughan. “Convenience for the Car-Borne Shopper: Are Malls and Shopping Strips Driving Customers Away?.” Transportation Research Part a, vol. 49, 01 Mar. 2013, pp. 35-47. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.tra.2013.01.002.