Sprawl Repair: Voorhees Town Center

9 thoughts on “Sprawl Repair: Voorhees Town Center”

  1. In reference to Jeff Speck, this would be much more authentic looking if the land was parceled off to a couple different architects – or something else to just mix it up a bit. Nonetheless, a step in the right direction.

  2. Meh indeed. That’s a vast moat-system of parking lots, and those supposedly more human-scale roads around it look pretty scarily wide to me. But I guess it just goes to show how far we have to go. Great post as usual. Thank you.

  3. Love to see a good outcome even if it’s not perfect. I wonder if this approved project in my city (South San Francisco) is sprawl repair like Voorhees or density out of context?


    Given the auto-oriented context seems more the latter. The faux old-timey elements are also tacky. But what’s there now is so bad (Street View below) I have to reluctantly chalk up as a win.


    1. Yes, Centennial Village is a tepid “win” for transitional urbanism in South City. Realistically this is the best that can be achieved given the current culture, developer’s parameters, financing mechanisms, and zoning/code strictures. It’s important to keep in mind that in twenty years these buildings will have deteriorated so much due to flimsy materials and “craftsmanship” that they will need complete skin jobs. There may be a different set of circumstances in place in the future and the second and third iterations of the site may be better – or worse…

      – Johnny

      1. Luckily (or unlucky depending on your perspective) for South City, we’re right smack between S.F. and Silicon Valley and all that implies. We have a good bones downtown that’s on the rise and most of the city is relatively dense 40s/50s neighborhoods that have aged pretty well. We also have a big commercial appendage east of 101 that helps with the municipal math. So it’s not like our whole town is dependent on this development.

        The biggest drawback in my mind is El Camino Real itself. Mixed-users are popping up (and cities are patting themselves on the back) but the street itself is totally hostile to humans. I see very little attention paid to that aspect.

        Also there’s Westborough, a large late 60s development on the steep foothills west of 280 with much wider streets and lots of crappy shingle townhomes. Must be expensive to maintain that infrastructure.

        Would love to see a Strong Towns-esque analysis of a “mixed bag” city like my own…

        1. Ridiculously wide roads like El Camino can be broken up into smaller segments. Octavia in San Francisco is a good model. An old freeway was transformed into a boulevard. One lane side streets with parallel parking are next to the sidewalks and buildings. Then there’s a strip with trees that serves as a pedestrian island. Then there are a few lanes of traffic and a center strip with more trees. If the DOT was so inclined it could have dedicated bus lanes so the buses could zip past rush hour congestion. Bike lanes could also be installed.

          It all depends on what a town’s priorities are. Do you want to accommodate high speed high volume traffic by devaluing all the real estate on either side of the road? Or do you want to increase the value of the real estate by shifting to a multi-modal transportation network?

  4. Great post. I generally agree: meh. I’ ve seen many old mall reinventions, and several models seem to work. North of Richmond, VA, a greenfield development called Short Pump Towne Center was built, and it has been FAR move successful than even the developers ever imagined. interestingly enough, just about everyone seems to like the concept of living there excepting two groups — the wealthy, and the urban purists that cannot stand even the whiff of inauthenticity—- the later hate the place with a vehemence that they reserve for just such places. Me, I think they are pretty okay, and the main appeal to me would be the chance to live in both one of the best school zones in the Richmond MSA — AND live above a “Wine Bar” or live in a townhouse walking distance from a park, a Whole Foods and an Apple Store —- which MAY be a clue as to why some of the haters are hating.

    1. The Apple Hate is deserved. Apple junkies are a religious cult. LOL.

      My town (Vacaville) has tried to do its lifestyle village thing, and it seems quite commercially successful. Lot’s of parking lots, and no housing, and main arterials utterly hostile to pedestrians and cyclists (and anyone who expects to drive through the area quickly). It’s a little hokey, but then the “heritage” they are trying to tie it to is a glorified freeway restaurant/truck stop/ theme minipark, so wattayagonna do?

  5. This is very encouraging, for all the aesthetic faults you notice. To some extent the aesthetic faults are from modern cheapo development, although to some extent they’ll probably improve with future developments as people figure out how to make these kinds of places look good. In any case, I find walkability worth it even when it’s tacky and kind of ugly.

    As I walk and drive around and notice the vast empty parking lots even in a relatively wealthy and successful part of a major metropolitan area (Orange County, CA) I see lots of places suitable for this kind of faux-but-functional Main Street development.

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