Thursday, February 13, 2014

City of Orlando: Don't Cave-in to Wawa

Mediocrity in Winter Park.  
Wawa is the latest chain assaulting Florida's built environment.  It doesn't have to be that way.  Several local governments asked Wawa to alter its standard suburban layout to an urban, "gas backwards" layout respecting the street.  Architecture, instead of gas pumps, would dominate the streetscape.  7-11 is using this urban friendly format in the City of Orlando--and they're getting tons of business.

Urban-friendly 7-11 at Fern Creek and Colonial in the City of Orlando.
However, Wawa  has obstinately refused to adopt the urban format, emboldened by the fact that, each time, the local government caves.

Orange County staff caved even though Wawa was proposing to put their suburban gasoline station in the Sand Lake Road SunRail TOD.  If Orange County staff won't take a stand to protect the urban integrity of an area slated for transit oriented development, where will they?

In exchange for some "architectural adjustments," the City of Bradenton, Florida caved, allowing Wawa to build a suburban layout in an area slated for intense urban development classified as Transect 5 (Urban Center) of the City's form-based code.  

Altamonte Spring requested an urban layout and then caved when Wawa refused.   

City of Winter Park staff requested an urban layout.  Wawa refused.  At least staff did the right thing and recommended denial.  You can read the Winter Park staff report HERE.  The City ultimately approved the suburban Wawa, pictured above, the layout punching a hole in an otherwise improving corridor.  

In the instances of Orange County, Altamonte Springs, and Winter Park, the local governments did not have codes requiring the urban gas station layout.  It's well-past time for all local governments to update their codes.  

The City of Orlando, which has done a good job over the years protecting and improving its "traditional city," is the latest dealing with Wawa's obstinate behavior.   Orlando--Please don't cave.  When they refuse flexibility, remind them they don't offer the most desirable form of economic development.  As one planner told me, when Wawa threatens to walk (as they did in each instance above), tell them not to let the door hit them on the way out.  

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Biking after the snow

Dearborn cycle track, in the heart of Chicago's Loop, on a cold Sunday morning, February 2, 2014.
I spent an early Sunday morning cycling through Chicago's loop on a DivyBike, the city's bikeshare system. As you can imagine, I dressed for warmth with temperatures in the teens.  I found the DivyBike system easy to use and the bike comfortable, its reasonably thick tires cutting through several slushy areas easily.  

A day after a snowstorm canceled 350 flights in and out of Chicago, the city kept the Dearborn cycle track (touted as "best in the country") sufficiently free of snow and ice, aside from a couple treacherous spots on the bridge over the Chicago River.  The city has a camera traffic detection system, which gave me priority over motorists to lessen conflicts.  Green bicycle signals allowed me to proceed straight before a red arrow changed to green for turning motorists.  

Within blocks, few driveways create conflict points, which the City painted green to alert both motorists and bicyclists.  At no point was I concerned about my visibility to motorists. Overall, it's a comfortable facility--despite the frigid air and snow.