Suburban box-stores, malls, and strip malls, are usually anathema to any pedestrian-culture – with imposing (often windowless) structures and vast parking lots where pedestrians are forced to dodge cars.  These commercial structures are both generic and a product of car-centric architecture and urban planning.

In some cities, these mall and strip mall districts are being re-developed into walkable downtown-like neighbourhoods, with parking lots replaced by walkable and bikeable streetscapes with more aesthetically pleasing environments.  These are worthy projects.  However, they involve a lot of investment of time and attention and, while providing much needed downtowns and community centres, still leave out the majority of sprawling cityscapes.

Erin Mills Mall in Mississauga – a suburban satellite city of Toronto – offers an example of simple property improvements which, while not fundamentally changing the suburban nature of the mall, offer easily attainable steps to promote walkability and a greater sense of community.

One example is a tree-lined walkway so pedestrians are not forced onto the parking lot itself.

Image

Another example is improvements to the façade of the building, including a clock-tower, to give the mall a less generic feel and the appearance of a true town/community centre.

Erin Mills - Clocktower

Near Erin Mills are condos/apartments and a school, proximity that promotes walkability and less car-dependence (even with a car-filled parking lot pictured in the foreground).

Erin Mills Mall - Parking Lot