How To Make a Pile of Dough With
the Traditional City 7: Let's Bulldoze a Big Box Shopping Center
April 1, 2012
Touch your nose with the index finger of your left hand.
Now, touch your nose with the index finger of your right hand.
That is all it takes to "transition to the Traditional City" from
the Suburban Hell we suffer from today.
What I am saying is: building things in the Traditional City fashion
is no more difficult than building things in the Suburban Hell
fashion. Actually, it is easier, because we don't waste a lot of
time, effort, money, and land making a lot of parking lots, green
space, oversized roadways, and other Hypertrophic nonsense. We can
put 100% of our time, energy and resources to making beautiful
Places for people, not cars.
Place and Non-Place
Every year, we build a lot of stuff. About a trillion dollars worth
of stuff, actually, in the United States. So, just take that same
trillion dollars, and use it to make things in a Traditional City
fashion rather than a Suburban Hell, 20th Century Hypertrophic, or
19th Century Hypertrophic fashion.
We look at all the crapola infesting our American landscape today,
and we say: "oooooh, how can we fix this? It would take fifty years
and fifty trillion dollars!!!!"
6, 2010: Transitioning to the Traditional City 2: Pooh-poohing the
23, 2010: Transitioning to the Traditional City
But, if you spend a trillion dollars a year -- as we are already, to
gradually replace the Suburban Hell crap we have with new Suburban
Hell crap -- and use that instead to build Traditional City stuff,
then in fifty years we will be there.
22, 2010: How to Make a Pile of Dough with the Traditional City
For most people, the transition would seem a lot faster. Because, if
you wanted to live in a Traditional City environment, you would move
there, if it was available in every city. So, even if only 10% of
the city was in a Traditional City format, it would seem to you that the transition was
complete. At 2% a year, getting to 10% only takes five years, not
Just think of your iPhone. Does everyone in the U.S. have an iPhone?
No. But, maybe you bought one the first day they came out. For you, the transition was
complete, the day you bought it. And you could play with all the
apps and stuff.
Do you worry about the deprivation being suffered by those who don't
have an iPhone? No. They don't care either, actually. The important
thing is that you have
one. If you like that sort of thing.
Think of Manhattan. Actually, just the part of Manhattan south of
110th Street, where the Beautiful People live. Which is really only
about half of Manhattan Island. If you know about New York City, you
realize that most of the rest of the five boroughs are not worth
wasting your time on. Some parts of Brooklyn are OK. But -- tell me
I'm wrong Brooklynites -- most of Brooklyn kinda sucks, just like
the rest of New York City. The rest of New York City is where
everyone who fled to the suburbs in the 1950s came from.
New York City -- the five boroughs -- has 320 square miles of land
area. Manhattan Island has 34 square miles. The southern half of
Manhattan has about 17 square miles. So, we are talking about only
5.3% of the land area of New York City (not even counting the
If you want to live in Manhattan with the Beautiful People -- why
not? I recommend it! -- then you spend a lot of money on rent, and
then you are there. Doing it. You don't have to ever leave
Manhattan, if you don't want to. You don't have to go north of 110th
street. Many people don't, except for the occasional vacation and
weekend trip. As far as they are concerned, their lifestyle is 100%
Manhattan Beautiful People Fabulousness.
Do you care that the other 94.7% of New York City (by land area) is
a dump? Do you care that Queens is not as nice? Do you care that
Teaneck, NJ is a Suburban Hell shitehole? Do you care that the rest
of the United States hasn't transitioned to
No. For you, the transition, from wherever you came from to
lower-half-of-Manhattan-fabulousness, is done. So you see, we don't
need to remake the entirety of the United States in the Traditional
City mold. Just one square mile, along the beach in Los Angeles or
San Diego, would be wonderful. Just thirty-two acres -- which is
1/20th of a square mile -- would be fantastic (you can fit a lot
into thirty-two acres using the dense Traditional City style.)
If you can just make thirty two
acres -- a twentieth of a square mile! -- of Los Angeles,
along the beach (Santa Monica), in a Traditional City style, you
would be there. Using the 100,000 people per square mile of some of
Paris' residential districts (in the Traditional City style of
buildings generally no higher than six stories), 5,000 people could
live in that thirty-two acres.
Thirty-two acres? That's nothing. Smaller than a single big-box
shopping complex. So, just bulldoze one of those empty big-box
shopping complexes, and make something new in the Traditional City
Let's make that our goal. Just thirty-two contiguous acres of
Traditional City fabulousness, in every major city in the United
This is an aerial photo of Venice. It is about 350 meters across.
The square has about 12.25 hectares, or thirty acres.
This is thirty acres! Look how much is in there! Remember, these
buildings are three to six stories high. It looks like this:
It's horrible, I know. Imagine if we had thirty-two acres like this,
on the beach in San Diego, with girls in bikinis. Just thirty-two
acres. A twentieth of a square mile. A minuscule portion of the
entirety of San Diego. But, you could live there.
Here's a parking lot. It is one small part of the parking lot at the
Mall of America, in Minnesota.
This photo is also about 350 meters across, or thirty acres. So, I'm
talking about taking just one parking lot like this, and building a
Traditional City neighborhood on it.
Do you think that, maybe, we can spare just one parking lot out of the entirety of our
Suburban Hell wasteland?
Here's a big box shopping complex in Binghamton, NY. The big white
building on the left is WalMart. This image is about 800 meters wide
by 700 meters tall, or 56 hectares. The shopping center occupies
about 70% of the frame, so call it 56*70% or 39 hectares. That's 97
97 acres! Just for one big box shopping center.
That's three times my 32 acre goal. So, let's just bulldoze one
shopping complex like this -- many are empty these days anyway, and
it is mostly just asphalt -- and make 97 acres of Traditional City
fabulousness. Using the Parisian example, over 15,000 people could
The population of Binghamton is 47,000. So, we're talking about a
third of the entire population of the entire city could live in a
Paris-style Traditional City neighborhood.
If we bulldoze just one big box shopping center.
Can you imagine how much fun that neighborhood would be? We would
have shops, restaurants etc. on the ground floor, and offices and
apartments above, in the Parisian traditional city style.
This is the actual view of that actual parking lot. The building
on the left, in the distance, is WalMart.
Google is amazing, really.
This is what I keep telling you. If you can imagine it, it's easy.
Then you just do it.
Property Developers -- think
about the profit of taking a worthless parking lot and making it
into high-value mixed retail/commercial/residential for 15,000
people. Preferably on the beach in San Diego. With girls in bikinis.
Just think about that a little bit.
21, 2011: How To Make A Pile of Dough With the Traditional City 6:
Better Than a Thousand Words
Make a Pile of Dough With the Traditional City 5: The New New
the Traditional City 4: More SFDR/SFAR Solutions
City 3: Single Family Detached in the Traditional City Style
15, 2011: How To Make A Pile of Dough With the Traditional City 2:
A Ski Resort Village
22, 2010: How to Make a Pile of Dough with the Traditional City
If it's successful -- it will be, if you do it right -- then it will
be imitated. The next year, we get 96 more acres. We bulldoze just
one more big-box shopping complex. Out of the entire city of San
Diego. Just one more. Preferably near the beach.
After a while, maybe 50% of new construction is being done in a
Traditional City style. Which would mean about 1% of the city per
After five years, you would have 5%. Which is about the relationship
of the lower-half-of-Manhattan to New York City as a whole.
Do you see how easy this is? It's no harder than touching your nose.
But, with your right hand, instead of your left hand.
You just take a defunct big-box complex, bulldoze it, and ...
instead of building another big box complex ... you build a little
bit of Paris.