Saturday, January 14, 2012

Normal: Walking Neighborhoods Are the Future

This article about the value of having residential neighborhoods with schools, restaurants, convenience stores, and other desired businesses within walking distance is very timely. It's not just rising gas prices that will motivate people to want to be able to walk places, it's also the increase in people working from home, the preference many people now seem to have for making quick trips to purchase nessecities instead of one, extended trip to the store for a week's supply, and the (grudgingly acknowledged) need for exercise.

It would be interesting to take a map of Normal and circle businesses within walking distance (however that's measured) of residential neighborhoods.  I think many residents would like to be able to walk to "neighborhood stores" but they also do not want those stores in their "backyards" (too much traffic, too much light at night, too much loitering). What is the solution to establishing these businesses without upsetting residents? There are vacant buildings that could be transformed into businesses based on what nearby residents want/need. That would be one solution. There is also "undeveloped" land (interpretation: farmland) on the outskirts of some neighborhoods that could be acquired for this purpose.

Maybe in the not too distant future, new subdivision plans will have to include "gray space" (for small businesses) as well as green space.


  1. I imagine one potential issue would be that smaller neighborhood stores typically mean higher prices because they wouldn't be buying goods at a high volume level. Would people be willing to pay higher prices for the sake of convenience? If not, would we then end up with vacant stores in these neighborhoods, thereby causing property values to decline? An interesting question that can't be answered at this time, but one that is worth considering, in my opinion.

  2. Oops. As I wrote my previous post I forgot the author mentioned the possibility of transforming vacant buildings in neighborhoods into new businesses. That is a good suggestion, but my point remains the same...will people trade convenience for higher prices that inevitably come with smaller businesses? I also wonder how many small businesses would be willing to open stores in residential neighborhoods. Would it be considered too much of a risk? I guess we won't know until someone tries. I think it would be nice to go a bit retro.