Urban Land, the magazine of the Urban Land Institute, has taken a close look at Elmwood Avenue, in order to shine a light on the commercial district’s walkable, mixed use nature. Over the years we have seen a number of ups and downs when it come to Elmwood, but in general that district continues to get incrementally better with age. Of course there are more dynamic blocks than others, partially due to the infrastructure, density of businesses/buildings and shop owners that occupy the blocks. Over the next couple of years we are going to see further density, which will bring more business and more people to the street. Hopefully the City will play catch-up and add some traffic calming measures including crosswalks. The street could also benefit greatly by having the cobra head light standards replaced with non-highway neighborhood versions.
So why is Elmwood a textbook study of good urban design? Check out this article and see what others have to say about the buildings (age and size) and the eating/shopping (diversity of amenities). When we look at zoning issues (Green Code), we must remember to look at other successful commercial districts, just as others point to Elmwood for telltale signs of what makes a neighborhood healthy and strong.
When I think of Elmwood, I think of that disproportionately sized apartment building at the corner of Utica (fail), the Rite Aid at Bryant (fail), and the gas station at Delavan (fail). But I also look at these failures as opportunities to create a more vibrant street. A new building is slated to be built at the Delavan corner. Consistent storefront awnings could help to minimize the overtly hulking nature of the Utica apartment building (at street level). Unfortunately we’re probably stuck with an ugly Rite Aid (Blight Aid) at the corner of Bryant for many years to come.
Overall the street is looking great. The Benchmark development across from Panera Bread is ultra exciting and will create an even tighter knit neighborhood. It would be nice to see better connectivity from the gallery section to the Forest – infill at the psych center parking lot (along Elmwood) would be a key development. Plus some more residential to commercial transitions would be helpful.
Apparently the former First Niagara Bank at Potomac is going to be reopened as a market (cross your fingers for a nice one, not a beer and cig bodega) – word on the street is that it’s going to be called ‘Fresh Market’ and will serve coffee and donuts in the morning and salad bar and sandwiches later in the day. It will not be a convenient store, and will not sell beer and wine or cigarettes.
Hero Burger from Toronto should be a nice addition to the Zetti’s Pizza corner. There’s a nice influx of new businesses moving on to the street, which helps to create a healthy and vibrant buzz in all directions. Stay tuned for updates.