The centralized marketplace has functioned as the essential space for commerce and civic transactions since humans first began to structure urban communities. In describing the ancient cities of Mesopotamia and Egypt, urban historian Lewis Mumford stresses the nature of the market as an urban institution whose function was the “procurement, storage and distribution” of goods. Its permanence in the life of the city was dependent on reliable mass transport, originally via waterway, and a population large enough to provide merchants with a good living and sufficient urban workshops to produce goods for general sale.
In the United States, the modern version of the marketplace is still dependent on mass transport. But that transport system is global and involves a network of trucks, air freight, and huge container ships. In addition, the marketplace itself now includes a virtual component. The physical marketplace has become much less urbanized, and is spread out along major commercial corridors.
The shift away from downtown as the central marketplace to suburban strips and shopping centers scattered throughout an entire region began with the rise of the automobile as the vehicle for personal transportation. As discussed more extensively in the Suburban chapter, cars enabled Americans to live farther from an urbanized core. Individualized transportation brought numerous amenities to locations within closer driving distances to suburban homes, but these amenities were laid out for access by private automobile.
Basic Center Characteristics:
- Multiple uses and functions—including commercial, office and retail—accommodated on a more intense scale than other transect zones.
- Intensely developed as complete communities with an integrated mixture of land uses, including residential.
- Buildings oriented towards transportation corridors and other prominent streets.
- Active, pedestrian-friendly streets.
- Multimodal transportation access.
- Big-box groceries and restaurants well oriented to pedestrian customers, with smaller markets and locally owned restaurants integrated into the mix.
- Open spaces in the form of pocket parks, plazas, and roof gardens.
Focus Factors: Walkability, Transportation, Neighborhood Design
Green Hills has it all - shopping, restaurants, schools and neighborhoods close by — what it doesn’t have is a cohesive sense of place due to the emphasis on the automobile. Through way finding and branding and an overall masterplan of connectivity, Green Hills could be a thriving Center. The selected team will work with the Alliance for Green Hills to develop a strategy to improve walkability, transportation and neighborhood design.
More on the centers transect: