Saturday, February 14, 2009

Town Center Building and Lot Continued

The relationship of a structure to the sidewalk and street also have a noteworthy impact on a district's pedestrian friendliness. In general, sites with structures which are closer to the street create a more comfortable environment for walking. Sites which occupy more of the frontage also enhance the feeling of an "urban room" for pedestrians.

The following image was included in the visual preference survey of potential Town Center development patterns. In this site, the structure creates this urban room feel through its height and proximity to the street. As illustrated, the structure is located within 30' for the street. Though not labeled on this image, the sidewalk in this example is approximately 10' wide.

The proposed Town Center code encourages these design considerations though several modifications of typical zoning code. The first change is the elimination of front and side setbacks. The proposed code does not require any setback from the ROW line beyond the required sidewalk width.

The proposed code takes this a step further and introduces the concept of a build-to range. Rather than require a separation between the building and street, a build-to notion encourages the opposite. In the proposed code, a certain percentage of a building's front façade must be located within a certain distance from the street. This requirement is the first area where TC-1 and TC-2 differ.

The TC-1 District (Town Center Main Street) is intended for sites primarily located along FM 346. Because many sites in this location are small and suitable for walking, the range is closer. Buildings must extend to within 20' of the front ROW. Additionally, at least 50% of the façade must be within this range.

The TC-2 District (Town Center Troup Highway) is intended for sites with a more automobile focus. Because these sites are typically larger is size and depth, the build-to range is extended to 60' in the proposed code. The façade length is also reduced to 40%.

The advantage of creating two districts is the flexibility of expanding the Town Center zoning where appropriate along Highway 110. This can happen over time as developers become more comfortable with the Town Center zoning framework. The TC-2 district can retain many of the elements which set the Town Center apart, but also have some differences which better accommodate automobile traffic.

Another element of the code intended to encourage more pedestrian activity relates to sidewalks. Under the proposed code, sites would be required to extend the soon to be constructed sidewalk to 12'. In cases where ROW is not sufficient, the sidewalk would be extended onto private property. The purpose of wider sidewalks is to provide for room to use public space within the district. While 12' is not ideal, it does provide an excellent starting point.

While the proposal is for a 12' minimum width, ultimate design authority will remain with TXDOT. All sidewalk site plans must be reviewed by staff in the agency to ensure safe design of the sidewalk.

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