A commenter on an earlier post intimated that the proposed siting of the new Carolina Bank building in downtown Greensboro had problems, but I hadn't anticipated anything quite like this:
- It fronts ALL -- not just some, but ALL four streets surrounding the site -- with parking. The standard in urban design is to build to the the sidewalk.
- It has a huge number of parking spaces, although the central business district has NO minimum parking requirements. Even Carolina Bank's suburban parking lot on Lawndale is almost always mostly empty. Why?
- Because its parking lot is entirely configured to accommodate drive-through banking, even though good downtown design should not promote cars to the detriment of pedestrians.
- The site thus has has NO good pedestrian access.
- The plan proposes a 5 foot chain link fence along Cedar Street, in full view of drivers coming downtown on West Market. (Nothing says "welcome!" like a 5 foot chain link fence!).
This site plan is unabashedly suburban, which may be fine for a suburban location. But none of this is appropriate for a downtown site.
And compared to the architectural efforts of bankers past (noted in my previous post), this proposal is simply pathetic. One would hope that the capitalists of today would try to emulate the cultural achievements of their forebears. Apparently not.
Update: An emailer reminds me that Carolina Bank is a good corporate citizen, and I know that's true. I'm a customer of Carolina Bank because of their good service. But none of that means that we should give them a pass when they are proposing a very inappropriate project that will be harmful to downtown.
Here is an exerpt from a draft of Greensboro's downtown design guidelines, which have been worked up by downtown boosters, developers, ordinary Joes and Janes, and city staff for "main street" downtown locations like this one:
Orientation to the street - [buildings should have] street presence (corner locations especially) to maintain or establish an urban street wall.
Entrance location [should be] easily identifiable, human scaled and oriented to the street.
Rhythm -- maintain or create a building rhythm- articulation every 25-30’.
Vehicular & pedestrian access - [use] pedestrian friendly parking ideas.
I think the Carolina Bank site plan fails on every one of these guidelines.
Apologies to friends of mine at Carolina Bank if you think this post is intemperate; please remember that the objection is to the plan, not the people.