Speculative suburban intervention recognized in The University of Alberta's City-Region Studies Center and CURB Magazine's "Strip Appeal" ideas competition. The work is being displayed in a traveling exhibition which will visit sites throughout the US and Canada in 2012 and 2013. The project is also included in a book titled "Strip Appeal: Reinventing the Strip Mall" Edited by Merle Patchett and Rob Shields, with a forward by Ellen Dunham Jones, published by the University of Alberta Press.

Strip Appeal Website

Encore Magazine Interview

Existing Site Description:

The site chosen for this study is in a mature neighborhood in Wilmington, NC, with a mix of residential, retail, and professional uses. On one side of the thoroughfare is a small retail center; on the other is a strip mall which has been converted into a small professional building. Both centers are partially vacant. The impervious parking areas are grossly over-sized for their current use and are rarely more than twenty five percent full. Between is a busy four lane street with few crosswalks. The South East has been one of the fastest growing areas in the US in the past two decades, and its fluctuation in growth has resulted in many underutilized strip centers.

Proposal Description:
Strip malls have developed alongside major thoroughfares that have evolved as communities adopted the automobile as their primary means of transportation. As North American cities evolve into walkable environments, these corridors represent social and ecological divides between neighborhoods. Because strip malls are so commonplace, they often exist on either side of a roadway. Thus, as is suggested in this proposal, strip centers can be converted into zones of connection between previously divided neighborhoods.
An analysis of Wilmington, NC, shows that there are many sites which can be used as connective nodes to promote greater walkability and reduce the ecological impact of vehicular corridors. This proposal calls for the adaptive reuse of these strip centers and the creation of connective elements between them. The first center, featuring the most comprehensive intervention, contains a neighborhood general store, produce center, & a mobile café. The general store consists of a gallery of kiosks where retailers could offer convenience goods and services (banking, DVD rentals, etc) on a small scale. The produce center acts as the neighborhood’s direct connection to local food sources. Customers can communicate directly with growers via an online ordering system, reducing waste and vehicle dependency. Also, customers can rent rooftop garden “plots.” An automated boom delivers water & nutrition, as well as allows customers to monitor the plants via webcam. Goods can be picked up at the center, which also acts as a farmers market & event center. Also planned is a mobile café consisting of a motor-court for mobile food trucks. Across the vehicular corridor is a government & professional center envisioned as a community-government interface as well as a business incubator with offices and meeting rooms available. The reuse of these facilities is focused throughout to provide useful amenities within walking distance of surrounding neighborhoods.
Connecting the two centers is a “BioBridge” which spans over the obstructive corridor. This two-tiered bridge is designed to provide both an ecological and pedestrian connection between the formerly separate neighborhoods. Using this bridge human, plant, and animal life can cross unimpeded. Also, reducing parking areas through the installation of meadow & wetland environments reduces impervious surfaces and provides green space for residents. The connection zone created by “spanning the strip” creates a new suburban space for social interaction and ecological rejuvenation.