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Redesigning Commercial Strips

Working paper #445
Jonathan Barnett

The local highway lined with franchise restaurants, strip shopping centers, car dealerships, and all sorts of other commercial development may look like the work of the real-estate market, but the real shaping force is an outmoded zoning concept adopted long ago by most communities. Today many real-estate investors and planners, especially transporta-tion planners, are coming to believe that the strip-zoning pattern has been a mistake, because of the conflicts between through-traffic and local shopping trips. Much of the worst suburban gridlock takes place along commercially zoned arterials. An alternative zoning and urban design strategy is to concentrate commercial development at the most important intersections and remap the intervening areas. Communities with the political will to make this change will promote higher quality development and reduce traffic con-gestion as well.

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