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Walk-up windows are good urbanism

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A walk-up window in Seattle.

A macaron shop looking to open in a small space in Georgetown is proposing to sell their sweets from an open window facing the sidewalk, rather than from an interior register. Customers wouldn’t actually go inside the shop, they’d merely stop outside it, and order through a large window.

Hopefully the store will be approved, because walk-up windows are great urbanism. How so? Let me count the ways:

  1. They provide additional “eyes on the street,” which deters crime.
  2. They provide passing-by pedestrians with something interesting to look at, which makes the street more pedestrian friendly. Visual diversity is an important consideration in walkability. If pedestrians feel bored, walks seem longer. If walks seem longer, people opt not to walk.
  3. They decrease the distance between destinations. Pedestrians want to walk the shortest possible distance between their destinations. Giving shoppers the option of buying a product without going into a store decreases how far they have to walk.

More activity on the sidewalk is a good thing. We want it. Sidewalk activity is what makes for good cities.

To be fair, there are occasional places where adding a walk-up window would be troublesome. Especially narrow sidewalks that already have especially heavy pedestrian traffic, for example. A hypothetical walk-up window at the corner of Wisconsin and M Street might get in the way, and ultimately harm walkability by inconveniencing too many other people. That’s a legitimate concern.

But 99.9% of the time, walk-up windows are great. The proposed walk-up macaron shop in Georgetown is way up Wisconsin Avenue, well north of the busiest area, on a stretch of sidewalk with plenty of room for existing shops to put out clothes racks and wicker furniture. It should be approved.

And hopefully there will be even more proposals in the future for these great features of urbanism.

January 5th, 2012 | Permalink
Tags: development, urbandesign



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