The Erskine Village shopping area (formerly Scottsdale Mall) is the epitome of a sprawl influenced shopping experience. With street facing parking areas, the entire development is geared toward the perspective from your car (buildings far from the road, large signs at the road competing for attention and cluttering the corridor). Over a decade ago, this place was re-imagined as a pedestrian-centric, outdoor shopping mall; similar to Jefferson Pointe in Fort Wayne. For two reasons that plan never created the vibrancy that it sought: 1. Its still reliant on the a car-centric model 2. It doesn’t respond to the surrounding context beyond that.
But as the design firm DPZ points out, our options aren’t limited to perpetuating urban design models that don’t work. We can choose to abandon the sprawl model:
As we look at some of the density driven models that have been proposed this week, it’s certain that new buildings (even nice looking ones) will not drive renewal. Cities grow organically, responding to needs and flow. In James Corner’s essay Terra Fluxus, he notes a shift from prioritizing the object qualities of space to a systems understanding of urban form – which, just means that spatial planning must be socially just, ecologically responsive, as well as politically emancipatory (to address political-economic power and representation). With the ever-diversifying, ever-complex make-up of our communities, it is this approach that will build resiliency and sustainability moving forward.
In terms of the Erskine Village shopping experience, that means not simply including mixed use development (residential and commercial spaces), but also addressing ecologic needs of the region and the social needs of the surrounding neighborhoods. A district focus, rather than simply city scale installations, allows for the type of development that embodies that perspective.