Part 2 of my analysis of the special Plan Commission meeting of last week was supposed to deal with the Plan Staff's recommendations and the group referred to euphemistically as "our neighbors to the North." A seemingly inconsequential motion that was passed at this Tuesday's Common Council Meeting has prompted me to change the order somewhat.
Most (if not all) of my personal criticism of Shoppes at Wyndham Village has had nothing to do with the content of the development, contrary to the meanderings of local bloggers who are almost comically fulfilling marching orders handed out in smoke-filled rooms via desperate, adolescent-level taunts and strange innuendo.
No, the problem is SITE PLAN - - - in other words: the relationship of the individual structures in a development with one another and the surrounding natural features; accessibility and usability by elderly and physically challenged people; integration into present and planned surrounding amenities and systems, etc.
In its most reductive state, SITE PLAN is simply the arrangement of buildings, sidewalks, streets and parking.
So, you can have the best architecture available, but if you arrange the site plan like a strip mall, it's dismal and it fails. On the other hand, perfectly average looking architecture can be arranged in a well thought-out site plan and you have something that's fantastic.
But, evidently, criticize a poor site plan and you are "against development." Because, after all, "look at how nice the individual buildings look!" This is painfully true at the Fountains of Franklin Sendik's; a wonderful store with a nice looking building that all but bares it's naked butt in defiance and disdain to the neighborhood behind it - - the neighborhood it should serve! TERRIBLE site design.
A reader emailed me to ask, "So, WHY such a poor, vehicle-centric site plan at Shoppes? I mean, who really stands to gain from not breaking up the uninterrupted parking lot in front of Target and Sendik's as long as they keep the same amount of parking stalls?"
Why not position some buildings and landscaped walkways in that huge, forbidding space to make for a safer and more pleasant public space, you ask?
The answer reared up in an unassuming little resolution passed at this past Tuesday's Common Council meeting. It read as follows (and passed without debate):
Resolution conditionally approving a 3-lot Certified Survey Map, being a division of a part of the southeast 1/4 of Section 8, Township 5 North, Range 21 East, in the City of Franklin, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin (MEC Holdings I, LLC, applicant) (approximately 7700 S. Lovers Lane Road).
The resolution describes the plot of land that will be Shoppes at Wyndham Village: 4 parcels become one, and then one gets carved into a strangely-shaped 3 parcels. Note the especially odd geometry of LOT 2:
Wait a minute - that's awfully familiar. Let's pop that shape on a site plan:
Ah-HA! Suddenly that shape is not so arbitrary and strange. The lots have been re-drawn so that the Target strip mall and parking block are perfectly delineated - Target's own little world in a tidy package.
Still wonder why there are no buildings in that yellow zone?
PREDICTION: Though Target starts life at Shoppes on a lease (and thereby controlled to some extent by a local owner, Mark E. Carstensen [MEC] Holdings), MEC will eventually sell the building and lot "package" to Target Corporate and make a great deal of money. The "outbuilding area," Lot 1, will be an ongoing source of lease and rental income for MCE while Target is no longer subject to any oversight by MEC Holdings. Have a complaint about round-the-clock trucking and loading? Get in line at Target corporate in Minneapolis; it won't be MEC Holdings' problem anymore.
What if that self-owned Target suddenly wants to sell more groceries (as is the trend in Targets nationwide, in stores called "Target Greatlands")? Sendik's - with another Sendik's a mere three miles away - won't be able to appeal to the Shoppes owner.
If I'm right, there is no value judgment being made here; it's just good business and a development company has every right to maximize their return on an investment. But, if I'm right, now you know one of the reasons why good, sound site plan principals - - the kind that promote community, interconnect city amenities, make life easier for the elderly and those with mobility difficulties, incorporate natural features, lessen our dependence on vehicles, and create vibrant, welcoming public spaces - - - are often trumped by the bottom line.
And, as you can see below, the Sendik's facade as created for Shoppes at Wyndham Village (top) is eerily ready-made for eventual assimilation into a monster Target Greatland (bottom). Kind of gives you shivers.
ABOVE: Shoppes at Wyndham Village Sendik's
BELOW: Target Greatland
(Target Greatland photographed by John Reed a few weeks prior to store opening on Oct. 10th, 2004. Taken with a series of photographs using a Canon S410 and later stitched together using Canon PhotoStitch.)