Like many somewhat orthodox New Urbanists I have deeply conflicted feelings about big box retail, such as Targets, Lowes's and Krogers. On the one hand I have a great deal of fond memories of the old downtown department stores, particularly Rich's, which provided a shopping experience of dignity and
social interaction in a beautiful building which was in a street setting of other beautiful buildings. On the other hand I know that modern retail is carried on in a different manner, and that if I want a package of socks or underwear of reasonable quality at a decent price, I'm likelier to find it in a Targets than in any of the corner stores around here, and there is no downtown Rich's anymore.
A couple of days ago the Target in The Edgewood Retail District quietly opened and word spread quickly by mouth and internet. The excitement in the neighborhoods of southeast Atlanta has reached an almost ideological pitch, and for very good reason. We've been a severely underserved community, and the prospect of buying a package of socks without travelling across town is a genuinely exciting situation.
So I'm consequently very excited about the opening of the Target, and view the ERD as a very significant practical amenity for the people living in southeast Atlanta or along the MARTA East/West train line.
But there are other aspects of this development which are interesting too, which go beyond just the practical retail needs of the community. The Edgewood Retail District is one of the newest hybrids between conventional big box shopping and New Urbanist principals. For this reason I think it's very important that both people in the neighborhoods surrounding the district, and the architects, planners, developers, retailers, and city officials who are involved in the technical details of the project need to draw lessons from this development about how to fit mixed use (including big box retail) into urban neighborhoods.
I've taken a fairly random group of photos of the Edgewood Retail District as it looks now: Click
here to view the photo albums.
I'm also posting a link to forum in which Caleb Racicot posted a presentation he had put together on the ERD for the Congress for a New Urbanism. It includes a set of renderings of the built out development. Click here for a link to the presentation.
Also, here is a link to a PDF document on the development from Sembler's own site. Click here to view Sembler's document.
And finally, no set of links on this development would be complete without an article from a local weekly on the ERD