33. small shops + people = street vitality

Small, specialized shops are essential to maintaining a district's vitality

Streetscape along G Street in Anchorage Alaska

Item number 33 in the book of Urban Code states that 'small, specialized shops are essential to maintaining a district's vitality.' Why? The down and dirty: where there are a variety of small shops densely populated there are many opportunities to attract a variety of people to this area. Think about the street front of a department store that has few windows versus the street front with ten local small businesses. The chance that the street front with the ten small businesses is busier than the department store is high because there are more opportunities to bring a variety of people to that street front. Why do I care? Because to me, people are the blood that run through city streets and without them a city no longer lives. Streets that are empty with blank fronts are like clogged arteries, constricting the flow of life. A healthy street full of people is full of vitality.

G street between 3rd Avenue and 5th Avenue is a perfect example of a healthy & vital street. Even in the winter you will see locals running from store to restaurant, from work place to sandwich shop. In contrast, if you look at the street front of JC Penny on 6th Avenue it is a cold blank wall. People hurry past towards their destination without a side glance. Other locations that fulfill this concept are scattered throughout Anchorage, one being the retail center that houses South Restaurant, Shuzy Q, Mountain View Sports.

Streets full of small shops are no longer just a path of travel, but a place of interaction and destination. They are full of laughter, smiles, conversations; imprinting memories in the landscape of the city. We have great examples of these, but we need more. Less blank facades and empty parking-scapes.

Blankscape of nothingness = path of travel, not location/destination: