Great cities are built mostly of big boxes… it’s not the size of the box that matters, but rather how it behaves on the street. One of the obstacles New Urbanists face is the accusation that “You’re really good at creating cute little boutique places with ice cream parlors and coffee shops, but you can’t design buildings for real American uses like WalMart, Home Depot, car dealers and drive-through restaurants and banks.” It is true that some New Urbanists are vigorously opposed to these uses, and it’s also true that nearly every New Urbanist is against pervasive implementation of these uses in their current forms because those current forms are only useful in auto-dominated districts, not in places people walk. So the accusation has a ring of truth… but let’s dig deeper, where we’ll find that it’s actually not true at all.
What you’re about to see is how to do exactly what the sprawl-promoting nay-sayers say cannot be done: fit those common uses into a traditional block structure in appropriate Transect zones. This might seem at first glance like we’re just decorating the big box, but we’re actually doing is civilizing the big box… a crucial difference.