OT: Old Blacksburg Middle School Site Plan Approved

Last night, the Blacksburg Town Council approved the design for "Midtown" - the former Blacksburg Middle School property just south of the Tech Bookstore.

Enjoy this video flythrough voiced by none other than Bill Roth to see all of the design concepts.

This will be a cool addition to the town.

Full Details can be found here at midtownblacksburg.com

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Comments

Paging fernley...

Warning: this post occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)..

Did somebody page?

Traveling at moment. Will post a review later tonight when I get back to hotel. Spoiler, it's not favorable.

It looks nice, cool idea; but I'm having trouble visualizing the location, and can't find a damn address anywhere on their site. Is this the property over around Clay St.?

edit - yes it is. Finally found the concept map.

Now finish up them taters; I'm gonna go fondle my sweaters.

Grass lot, between Clay and Eheart.

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
@BuryHokie #ThanksFrank

I think this would be a great use of that land. When I was in school '13-'17 there was talk about a retirement community going in there and I was never a fan of that move (thought it would dampen the excitement of downtown.) This is a cool way to expand the "urbanized" area of the downtown strip.

IIRC, one of the biggest sticking points with the town and the development of the land was student housing, and the town wanting none of it. Even in the video, they mention "none of the units will be designed for 'student-types'" Given equal housing opportunity laws, I'm not sure how they'll be able to limit students from any of the units if there are rentals available, but I'm sure the town will do it's best.

I'm sure none of it will be designated as student housing. That doesn't mean a student cannot rent there; meaning they won't limit students from any of the housing... Just means that the unit won't be held exclusively for students.

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
@BuryHokie #ThanksFrank

Sometimes I really hate the town of Blacksburg

Recruit Prosim

Well it's right by the Brownstone condos, which while I'm not sure if they're designated any certain way, they're super expensive (for Blacksburg) and not within your typical student's budget.

VT Class of '12 (MSE), MVBone, Go Hokies!

As someone who rented in Blacksburg for 12 years. I can tell you there are TONS of places that state they will refuse to rent to undergraduates. I never understood how it was legal either. But I can tell you I really appreciated it. Its was really nice to be able to get away from them sometimes.

Then don't live in a college town

Recruit Prosim

you can use city planning zones or HOA rules to limit "student-like" activities and have them enforced. Students would be allowed to live in there, but not allowed to allowed to "live" like an undergraduate.

🦃 🦃 🦃

I missed where all the parking will be.

Wet stuff on the red stuff.

Join us in the Key Players Club

I'm sure there will be interior parking garages.

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
@BuryHokie #ThanksFrank

Yep, #5 under "Inviting Features":
Parking garage, parking under buildings and 150 surface spaces. Parking policy in residential area to be resident/guest-only.

What about for all those businesses and shopping?

Wet stuff on the red stuff.

Join us in the Key Players Club

then you park in the Not Residential Area

"Why gobble gobble chumps asks such good questions, I will never know." - TheFifthFuller

The new business area will be one block away from the Kent Square parking garage, plus the surface parking and street parking they showed.

The way I'm reading it is that there are resident only spots where the residential buildings are and additional parking spaces available for business, etc.

Let's put it this way, if they don't meet code, they won't be approved.

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
@BuryHokie #ThanksFrank

Within the linked article, it literally states in multiple place:

"Certain parcels of the property have been identified for civic use such as a new public safety building and a public parking garage."

"Parking garage, parking under buildings and 150 surface spaces. Parking policy in residential area to be resident/guest-only."

Beyond that, looking at the birds-eye view, there are more surface spots than I'd even expect to see in a 2019+ urban-ish development project.

I'll make sure to read and watch next time.

Wet stuff on the red stuff.

Join us in the Key Players Club

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
@BuryHokie #ThanksFrank

Is it just me or is there one architect (not literally one architect) who designs/stylizes every new apartment and office building in Virginia? This looks exactly like Clarendon, Ballston, new developments in Chantilly and Herndon, etc... Everywhere I look in Va., I see this style of building. I'm not hating on the style, just curious about my perception of uniformity.

You aren't wrong. People don't want unique or site specific/responsive design. Hell most people don't even want quality. The sad fact is that the cheap shit you see in this video is much better than what they'll actually build. I don't hate the overall idea for the development, just tired of the cookie cutter crap design. And yes, I'm also an architect. Can't wait for Fernleys take on it.

That's a pretty big development to make out of builder grade crap that will fall apart in 15 years.

I agree. Which makes its inevitability even more frustrating. Have you seen the residential development over on Prices Fork? Exact same development was built in Harrisonburg. Crap designs and crap quality. Houses popped up like mushrooms over night. While not exactly the same story, it shows the quality that is permitted in the area and I fear similar for this development.

Which development in H'burg?

I assume that they're referring to The Retreat. It's a chain of communities echoed at PSU, USCe, JMU, VT and more.

And you would be correct.

Oh, that student housing complex. They threw that trash up. I hope they at least have sprinklers unlike the vinyl sided garbage that keeps burning up everytime some moron throws something in the mulch next to the building.

This seems like an issue with large-ish development projects. If they aren't properly funded and well thought out, you get something that's maybe ok for a few years but quickly fades into dilapidation and blight. If you're lucky the traffic will be terrible in ten years, at least that means people are still using the area.

Would it have been better to parcel the land out into smaller chunks to different developers/entities?

Ha, interesting point... see this a lot as the same architects read the same journals, seeing the same projects get awards in said journals and it just perpetuates itself.... the same design elements and detailing seem to show up in every project in one fashion or another. See it with site planning and urban design and it gets really tiring.

'Its easy to grin, when your ship comes in, and you've got the stock market beat,
but the man worthwhile, is the man who can smile, when his shorts are too tight in the seat'

The developers drive this way more than the architects.

I wonder who is going to pay to upgrade the sewer, the developer or the did the Town give up the fight on that and will repair it themselves. The lack of sewer capacity to that site has been a sticking point for a lot of developers.

I thought of this problem when VT recently "accidentally" admitted about 1000 more students than they intended too. The sewer system in this area is old.

This is probably going to be the biggest problem for the town for years to come. The incoming class is going to overwhelm campus and area facilities. I know some things and have some thoughts but am not in a position to publicize some of it. Follow local news around here to see what gets out and what gets discussed publicly.

We need to have a beverage sometime

To be clear you want to have a beverage so you two can discuss poop.

Poop has paid for my mortgage on my house, rental condo (I allow pets and students), boat, and truck to pull said boat. Wastewater Engineer

Without you guys, life would stink.

I've done a good bit of Architectural work for poop engineers. Kept me paid for a good while.

Well I'm a pretty heavy contributor, according to my wife.

It's all those damn cucumbers.

"Sooner or later, if man is ever to be worthy of his destiny, we must fill our heart with tolerance."
-Stan Lee

"Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing."
-Ron Swanson

"11-0, bro"
-Hunter Carpenter (probably)

Fiber is your friend!

This is one of the reasons im glad i live in christiansburg.

Pain is Temporary, Chicks Dig Scars
Glory is Forever, Let's Go Hokies!!

Just a got a lovely email from admissions explaining the over acceptance and giving a FAQ web page to keep us informed. Not too trilled to have my son start out his VT experience in a overcrowded school. I had that my Freshman year in '79 and was not happy with it.

Hurry up and make tenure, man.

No, I *don't* want to go to the SEC. Why do you ask?

We don't love dem Hoos.

This is what I see

Recruit Prosim

i know this was for the legs, but developing an unused space isn't exactly gentrification

"Why gobble gobble chumps asks such good questions, I will never know." - TheFifthFuller

How dare you turn my urban decay into a function space! I demand more clutter to drive rental prices down!

Outspoken team cake advocate. Hates terrapins. Resident Macho Man Gif Poster. Distant cousin to Dork Magic. Frequently misspells words.

I didn't meant to be a commentary on gentrification, more the cookie cutter nature of it

Recruit Prosim

fair enough

"Why gobble gobble chumps asks such good questions, I will never know." - TheFifthFuller

Exactly, SODOSOPA Blacksburg.

I guess that would be SODOBLXBRG

You will see this game, this upset and this sign next on ESPN Sportscenter. Virginia Tech 31 Miami 7

SODOBLABU

Recruit Prosim

That's the frenchiest sounding way to put it

it's weird to me that "midtown" would be south of "downtown" in Blacksburg. This makes it sound like Ellett Rd area would ostensibly be considered "uptown", which really doesn't make sense.

"Why gobble gobble chumps asks such good questions, I will never know." - TheFifthFuller

I've never heard anybody actually use uptown or downtown as north/south directionally. It may not be right (in fact I'm sure it not) but I have always used downtown as bars/restaurants and uptown as more ritzy stuff, apartments + government buildings, banks, and offices.

Recruit Prosim

I don't believe that downtown/uptown are inherently directional. Regardless of their orientation, though, I'd expect midtown to be located between them and not on either extreme.

"Why gobble gobble chumps asks such good questions, I will never know." - TheFifthFuller

After googling they are in fact directional in NYC

Recruit Prosim

They definitely are in NYC, but I imagine other cities or towns have them designated topographically or in relation to some other natural reference point, like a river or a waterfront

"Why gobble gobble chumps asks such good questions, I will never know." - TheFifthFuller

Pretty glad I didn't buy that house on the corner there across the street.

You will see this game, this upset and this sign next on ESPN Sportscenter. Virginia Tech 31 Miami 7

The one on the corner of Eheart and Main? Oddly enough, if memory serves, a while back my firm was contacted by a Tech professor who was considering tearing that down and building a high end duplex there. We did some preliminary renderings and due diligence, but it went nowhere that I recall.

Correct. I wanted it but by the time I was ready to make an offer, the sign said sold. There's still a sign / billboard up there for the duplex when I was there in the fall. I'll be in Blacksburg tomorrow through the weekend for graduation and will take another gander.

You will see this game, this upset and this sign next on ESPN Sportscenter. Virginia Tech 31 Miami 7

Checked this weekend, the sign for the duplex in that front yard is gone.

You will see this game, this upset and this sign next on ESPN Sportscenter. Virginia Tech 31 Miami 7

I hope they are planning a light at Eheart as part of this or traffic is going to go from bad to worse.

In reality, traffic patterns through all of downtown and now "midtown" will need analysis and redevelopment as the university and surrounding community grows. I think a light at Eheart will help with traffic exiting "midtown" onto Main via Eheart, but won't have significant impacts on through traffic along Main headed north.

I'm not fernley nor do I have close to the experience he has, but I am just about to get a degree in architecture so I have opinions lol. The overall plan seems alright, I probably would advocate for it fitting to the existing grid and not have a park hidden away from the existing streets. The architecture itself looks painfully developer bleh, hopefully the actual stuff will be better but I wouldn't hold your breath.

wow, where to start.

I honestly try not to be overly critical about other designer's work. There are A LOT of factors that ruin great design. Clients are #1 on that list, followed closely by local "experts".

The architecture in this project is what any professor would call "uninspired". It lacks any language, sense of place and relationship to other aspects of the master plan let alone the surrounding town. It also, as noted by several others, reeks of a developer who cares nothing about design and only wants to carbon copy low quality shit he has seen, or experienced, sell somewhere else. This is not unique to VA but is the same all over the world. Here is a big clue that nobody really cares about the design: Several of the reference images on the "About" page are blurry. I don't know who did that webpage but somebody familiar with the design provided those images and hasn't demanded they be fixed yet. That may sound trivial but it just doesn't happen when designers are actually passionate about the project. Again, that may very well be because a shit Client.

Let's get past the aesthetics or lack there of and focus on the master plan itself.

1) Main Street Commercial / Plaza / Commons

The corner plaza is fine in a lackluster way. Pretty bland landscape design but the positioning on the corner is fine. There should be a more defined access from Main Street next to the building that is being retained or at very least between the two new commercial buildings to better move people into the site.

What really gets me is the "commons" area that is completely surrounded by an access road and parking. Why? This completely ruins the experience of this being a "center" of any kind. How about instead of blandly aligning these new commercial buildings along the road you design this entire spaces a functional urban plaza with buildings sitting within the space. Draw visitors in, set the buildings back to allow drivers to see into the site and create a cohesive public realm that is going to be not only enjoyable but potentially iconic.

This space doesn't a access road nor does it need an entrance to the parking structure. It needs to be one singular space.

2) Church Street Extension

But why?

This road is wholly unnecessary. Was there a traffic study that determined that Bburg absolutely needed Church St to be connected? I doubt it and if so I want to see it to rip it apart. Keep this area pedestrianized and allow it to connect pedestrians both to the rest of the site and across it. The Parking Structure could easily be designed to be accessed along Clay St which is not a big street at all and there does not need to be a through street to access the residential for any reason.

3) Grass Field or "Park"

It says this Park is going to be the unifying feature for the site. If this park is meant to unify the neighborhood I want to see something more than grass. Don't get me wrong, I love open fields of grass to play on but how about a neighborhood playground for kids using integrated landscape design? How about a gray water capture system that uses run-off water as a design feature? Unifying a site means to bring it all together. This is just a field separating things.

4) Parking, parking, parking

I am not a fan of the large at grade parking behind the building at the corner of Church and Eheart. It completely ruins the frontage from Eheart and the "Transition of Scale" that is touted. There is an abundance of at grade parking needed but I'm willing to bet I could redesign this and locate parking in areas that would be less intrusive, or along a designed neighborhood streetscape or out of sight altogether.

Overall, this lacks any semblance of identity. As soon as it's finished it will be dated and just another frontage along Main St. But like others noted this is the lowest common denominator that developers know will sell. Blacksburg is just too stupid or proud to know any better.

And really, sincere apologies if anyone did work on this project. Someone poured hours into this and from a business standpoint they got paid for it when I did not. I respect that but I fundamentally disagree with it.

regarding #2.. this site is currently a superblock which is not good for facilitating a cohesive community and an interconnected transportation grid. (cars, buses, bicycles, pedestrians)

A couple of NW-SE streets splitting the superblock into 3 primary chunks would be very beneficial. If anything can be sacrificed, its the "midtown way" SW-NE road. Drop that and relocate the park to the middle of the development, surrounded by multipurpose buildings to the SW and apartments/townhouses to the NE. Three main 'blocks' would also help define the transition from mid-rise along Main street to 2-3 story residential at the NE end of the site.

is not good for facilitating a cohesive community

Since when? It's all in how you design things. Cities/towns that are overly adhered to a grid are generally some of the least cohesive communities. That's true the world over. Also this is meant to be a destination development which generally are larger scale.

Does Church Street have a bus on it now? Will it in the future? How long does it take to actually drive around this block now? What are the traffic numbers at the north and south end of Church Street that prove traffic is needed to go through here? What I see adjacent to it is primarily residential which generally benefits by not having excessive through road connections. The distance measured on google earth is 3 - 5 mins drive at 25 mph with mild traffic. Is it really THAT necessary? The answer is, no.

smaller blocks are more pedestrian friendly than big blocks

pedestrian paths across super blocks are not useful for other modes of transit and tend to be underused as people will travel by car to different segments of the superblock

Several points

Smaller blocks are more pedestrian friendly than big blocks

what are you basing this off of? In fact anything that is 100% pedestrianized is logically and factually more pedestrian friendly than anything with a road on it.

pedestrian paths across super blocks are not useful for other modes of transit

How big do you think this site is? It would take less than 2 mins to walk across it. Pedestrian friendly distances are maxed at 250 meters without a destination and 500 meters with a destination. (sorry I work in metrics)

and tend to be underused as people will travel by car to different segments of the superblock

So you are trying to assert that someone that is on Eheart St would rather get in their car, start the car, access into traffic, commute the barely 5 mins drive time around 2 right turns (Eheart to Main, Main to Clay) and then park (into the parking garage for example), exit car and then go to the destination they want to go to OVER simply walking 2 mins (at MOST while walking slowly) across a well designed pedestrianized development? uh... No. No chance. This makes absolutely no sense from a planning sense, a traffic planning/engineering sense, a design sense or the well studied natural habits of pedestrians.

Smaller blocks are more pedestrian friendly because the streets alongside those blocks tend to be lower speed and the buildings built on them tend to be more of an approachable scale, that's what I mean by pedestrian friendly.

What I was really trying to get at though, is that smaller blocks (aligned with the surrounding road network) encourage better connectivity and a better pedestrian & resident experience for the entire area. Smaller blocks = slower cars = safer for pedestrians, bikes, scooters, etc, but also more route options for those cars.

Within a superblock with no roads, sure a pedestrian could have a pristine experience, with no vehicles around, but the superblock doesn't exist in a vacuum. There's the larger community that the site needs to integrate into and there are more transportation needs that the site needs to support beyond moving from one end of the site to the other. So why not break the site into 3 blocks that integrate into the surrounding network instead of 3 blocks that serve to interrupt the transportation network?

As it sits, the site is 200 meters by 400-500 meters. A normal block in downtown Blacksburg (and downtown Richmond, and downtown Alexandria) is about 100m square. The current proposal already has 3 blocks: 200 x 120m block (SW along Main), a 100m x 375m block (E along Eheart), and a 100m x 280m block (N along Clay) but only allows for one grid-connecting road through the site - a Church St that doesn't even directly align with the existing Church St. The rest of the site is an enclave separated from the town road network, (and yet still riddled with car infrastructure, so it's certainly not a pedestrian utopia)

All I'm saying is that the site and the town around it would be better served by two lateral connections rather than one, and better served by having those connections align with the existing grid. The site wouldn't suffer for it either, as it's already proposed with multiple medium/small buildings and places a priority on vehicular access to the interior areas.

There is a lot wrong with what you are saying here. This is just fundamentally false in regards to planning, urban design, pedestrian behavior and traffic planning.

Lower speeds on smaller blocks:

again from a pedestrian standpoint walking in a 100% pedestrianized development will always be more safe than ANYTHING with a road.

If you are refering to small blocks on a grid this is also a misconception. Any block pattern that is continuous grid road system are actually less safe because there are no barriers to traffic. Vehicular traffic will freely seep into all grided roads instead of using the planned heirarchy of road system. If you look at the roads you want to connect they are traveled less than main. However, if you add the church st connection (and your proposed other connection) traffic from Main will have multiple throughway outlets to travel on. This will increase traffic volume on these secondary streets causing them to in fact be less safe, not more. Additionally, there are 100s of traffic studies that show that a grid that is just 5 blocks of continuous road with only stop signs encourages bad drivers to drive faster, no matter they are small blocks or large blocks. It is a huge misconception that small blocks will keep traffic volume and speeds down to be safe.

Finally, any traffic modeling will show that Grids do not promote better traffic. In fact, pure grids are terrible for traffic. They cause congestion which in turn make roads less safe. Again, literally 100s of studies on this. A classic example here is Manhattan's grid. Before Broadway was built Manhattan's grid was was plagued with congestion but when a outlet road cutting across the grid at an angle was introduced the grid began to function appropriately. This was the beginning of understanding how grids truly work and that barriers and outlet roads must be used over the grid. This is true at NYC scale and Bburg scale. Again studied and proven many, many, many times.

Buildings in an approachable scale:

There is a lot of misunderstanding to how people react to the built environment. For some reason people believe that means buildings must be smaller but this couldn't be further from the truth. Rather it's how the built environment frames space no matter the buildings are small single family homes, shopping malls or tall skyscrapers.

I would encourage you to look up William Whyte and his study of pedestrian behavior. It is the seminal study of how people interact with modern built environment.

Finally, in urban design we look to design areas of the city that are larger scale than others for a reason. Superblocks are necessary as points for relief and to gather population to specific areas. This in turn makes things like traffic planning easier to control things like congestion, speed of cars, safety of pedestrians, scale of the built environment, etc because there are designed nodes that population will naturally go to.

I realize that you think smaller and more connectivity means safer and better scale but this is simply false.


Thanks, I'm glad to learn that I've been misunderstanding my own reactions, interactions, and observations of the variety of urban / suburban / rural environments I've lived in, visited, driven, walked, or biked through.

Basically what I've experienced as positive urban environments are ones that align with the principles of New Urbanism. (hint: grids and hierarchies aren't mutually exclusive)

http://www.newurbanism.org/newurbanism/principles.html

I've worked with Andres Duany and Peter Calthorpe on several new urbanism projects. They agree with what I am saying.

Fun story : while working on one project with Duany the local city planner kept harping on the fact that we weren't using a traditional grid and instead creating scalable neighborhoods centered around several town squares (superblocks). It finally boiled over when the city planner says:

"this is just not how we plan."
To which Duany says: "well your planning is shit so why the fuck are you here?!"

The fun part was that it was at the ceremonial dinner with 200 people attending. I was at the next table. Haha, good times. The developer cooled things down and the city planner didn't open his mouth much after that.

Look I'm not saying your personal experience is wrong. What i am saying is your understanding of planning and urban design is based on misconceptions. Whether you believe me or not that's how urban planning and design should be and what studies prove.

Fun story : while working on one project with Duany the local city planner kept harping on the fact that we weren't using a traditional grid and instead creating scalable neighborhoods centered around several town squares (superblocks). It finally boiled over when the city planner says:

"this is just not how we plan."
To which Duany says: "well your planning is shit so why the fuck are you here?!"

Duany sounds like an asshole. Fun times indeed...

Duany is an asshole. But he's a good designer and one of the founders of New Urbanism that you claim to like so much.

smaller blocks are more pedestrian friendly than big blocks

When you have to stop at every intersection for cars turning, exiting, lights, bikers, etc...this is not the case.
The drill field is efficient because you are walking a "big block" without interruption. Crossing the mall or near the war memorial, less efficient because of vehicular traffic.

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
@BuryHokie #ThanksFrank

truth

This is the reason I never understood why there is a road between stores and parking lots. Why would you want car traffic at the point where there is the largest foot traffic? The grocery store is always the worst too.

"We" don't use that they way it was intended to be used. Loading of a vehicle with groceries and drop off then park was respected. It wasn't abused, there were lanes on the far end so you could leave via the furthest access area, and people paid a lot more attention and drove slower "back in the day."

It's there, now, for Fire Code and access to the building. Not sure how all state look at it, but in Delaware, 50% of the building must be accessible (within 10') to pull-up directly adjacent to the facility.

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
@BuryHokie #ThanksFrank

you could accomplish the fire code rules with out letter all the cars and foot traffic mingle.

If you remove vehicles from the front of the store, you sometimes only have 25% coverage...at the rear. With strips and units side-by-side no way they would allow you to remove vehicles from the front of the store.

And then you have ADA issues (not fully direct, but I'm not getting in the middle of someone NOT being able to be dropped off at the front of the store. That's a losing battle with ACLU and ADA.)

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
@BuryHokie #ThanksFrank

I didnt say parking couldn't go directly to the store, just not thru roads. You will always have people and cars together in the parking lot but there is a major point where cars and pedestrian traffic opposes each other and that is at the road between the parking and the store.

If you take vehicles away from the front of the store...you are taking fire access away....

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
@BuryHokie #ThanksFrank

There's a difference between having "emergency access only" fire lane with pedestrian foot traffic across it, and having the same strip be designed for vehicle thoroughfare though. You could maintain emergency access but restrict common traffic.

You'd have to redesign most parking lots to be horizontal strips of cars parallel to the storefronts rather than vertical strips perpendicular, to still allow drivers to circle/loop around for parking rather than dead end.

"Why gobble gobble chumps asks such good questions, I will never know." - TheFifthFuller

If you have a paved surface for emergency access you will be hard pressed to keep other vehicles out of there. And if you do, that's inefficient. Developers won't spend money they don't have to.

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
@BuryHokie #ThanksFrank

This used to be the arrangement. There was an approximately 4 meter area of only pedestrian space between parking and store front. This area was also accessible by emergency vehicles. Cars would not access this area.

Things changed for two main reasons.

One, people are on average not great drivers so anyone that had trouble backing out of the first horizontal land would cause ripple effects on access to the store itself. Whereas with a perpendicular alignment one lane in chaos didn't block the store front. This happened A LOT.

The second reason is Math. Here is a good diagram:

Notice the number of spaces provided by these 3 alignments. So 90 degree alignments bear more spaces. Now think about a mall or shopping center and keep in mind the first reason that people are bad drivers. Look at the first image again and we can presume that the building is on the side where the arrows are because they don't want parking next to the stores. So the alignment is perpendicular to the storefront. If you were to then change it to horizontal how many spaces could you get in this same space? The answer is 36 or two lanes of 18 spaces (9 either side). Perpendicular alignment wins because it maxes the numbers.

In most cases, local code is requiring more spaces than ever truly needed. If the code would require a thru aisle at about 2/3 depth, and funnel the primary access to it, pedestrian safety could be dramatically improved. Spaces are lost but they arent needed anyway and you will also likely end up with more aesthetically pleasing parking lot landscaping.

"with all due respect, and remember I’m sayin’ it with all due respect, that idea ain’t worth a velvet painting of a whale and a dolphin gettin’ it on" - Ricky Bobby

yeah, agree with this. BTW, have you seen Walmart's proposal to "reclaim" their over sized parking lots to turn them into town centers? absolute waste of space having that much parking in some locations.

"Black Friday Parking"

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
@BuryHokie #ThanksFrank

I'd also add that if lanes were parallel to the front of the store, you get the first row of cars to the front. And you could get the pedestrian way in front of them, between parking and the store...but you'd then have pedestrians walking between cars to get to their car (or even their trunk) with bags in their hands. And still have a travel lane behind the first row of cars. Instinctively everyone will want to be as close as possible to the front of the store, so everyone* (90%) will drive down the first aisle looking for an open spot. During busy times, when the spots are full, you will be actively introducing even more traffic to the pedestrian area, producing an even more dangerous mix of walkers and vehicles.

While the perpendicular way isn't perfect, it allows vehicles to disperse and enter from the back of the aisle and from each side. Distributing the traffic across the site lowers the mix at the front.

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
@BuryHokie #ThanksFrank

The Sketchup Flyover looks like 10 year old technology.....which could lead to the oversimplification of the buildings. They look like anywhere USA. But, that's Mixed Use today. I am surprised, however, when I return to Blacksburg and see their Mixed Use projects and how bland the architecture is. I mean there are....what....3 or 4 of them Downtown now and each is awful in it's own bland way.

or the 10 year old Sketchup Flyover is reflective of the sophistication of the designers and the budget of the clients. If this was in a bigger market, it's amateur hour shit.

Overall, I would expect this will be built over a very long time frame because the velocity of development in BBG is much slower than we see in the bigger markets. I would expect the construction to be just slightly better than half ass, maybe 60% ass. Part of that problem is that there aren't a lot of good GC's in that market and the ones that are there are there to work on state projects for VT. The sub market in SWVA is really awful too.

So my criticisms are macro:

- the TOB hasn't figured out how to push developers into good looking Mixed Use projects yet,
- the Developers in this market are scared of the light velocities and build cheap and slow,
- pretty bad market for GC's and subs,
- the Developers probably skimped on good architecture because the market is so tight and they so unsophisticated to see the value in better design,
- dated mixed use land plan (hello 2007!) but whatever, that's probably about where BBG is these days.

I would expect the construction to be just slightly better than half ass, maybe 60% ass

Begs the question, wouldn't slightly better be like 40%...you know...less...ass....

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In this context, "% of ass" is a unit of effort. They're not really leaning in and putting their whole ass into the job, just half-assing it. Like a player who just pushes a linebacker with his arms, rather than getting low and driving with his legs. The kind of thing for which some WRs and RBs (and sometimes even OL) have been called out.

Okay, maybe just a little more effort than that. So, roughly 60% ass.

Yes on the low end of modeling efforts. For those current students, Are they teaching engine based modeling software like Lumion in school these days?

Using something like that with a post production software could have made it feel almost cinematic with likely the same amount of time effort.

Hahahaha. Um, no. A lot of recent Tech grads we interview don't even know Revit. They're left to their own devices when it comes to software competency, and many of them are choosing Rhino and other non-mainstream architectural production software packages. I was honestly very impressed by about 25-30% of the portfolios I saw, and extremely unimpressed by the other 70-75%. This is both from a presentation quality and an architectural thoughtfulness perspective, but that's a completely different subject I don't wish to broach right now.

Still no revit? When I graduated 5 years ago all of us were frustrated with the way the school looked down on learning revit. But it felt like it was improving. They were even starting to offer revit classes. Guess it's not improving as much as I thought

It's nearly the industry standard like come on

Virginia Tech School of Architecture Class of 2014
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Tech isn't trying to educate kids to be prepared to get a good job in the architecture industry. Tech is trying to train the next Starchitect. I completely disagree with this approach, but what are you going to do? If I go any further, it will border on political discussion, so I'll refrain.

It definitely did feel that way. there's some merit to that approach as you won't be exposed to that kind of thinking in the working world. Plus there are people from my class who have gone on to work for starchitects like Steven Holl or Herzog and de meuron while the remainder of the students haven't had too much trouble finding jobs. So the results could be a lot worse.

Just would be nice if they didnt try to ignore the practical side of being an architect

Virginia Tech School of Architecture Class of 2014
Fan of Hokies, Ravens, NY Giants, Orioles

It's funny you mention Sketchup. I have a dumb and probably wrong theory that it's actually Sketchup that makes all these places look the same. If you look at them they're all easily designed in Sketchup with a minimum amount of effort. Straight lines, simple extruded flat surfaces, easily repeatable shapes. I only mess around in Sketchup occasionally for woodworking but even I could knock out one of these designs in a weekend. It's like Photoshop, when that's all you know and you don't know it very well, everything gets a drop shadow and lens flare.

Yeah, I totally believe this looks so bland because of Sketchup. The detail of the architecture isn't needed at this point.

But my other point is that the TOB hasn't figured out how to get good multi-use architecture yet. And the developers aren't doing great design on their own because they are (generally) less sophisticated developers working in a market that doesn't' value great design.

I could be wrong, but it looks like the final presentation is done using Lumion. Our firm recently started using Lumion as a presentation/modeling software, and a lot of the elements look to be from the exterior library. This looks like an older version was used, and therefore wasn't as "crisp." It looks like they modeled the project in SketchUp very quickly, and lazily, and then did some basic modifications in Lumion. Small things like the curbing and sidewalks extending what looks like 1' above the grass, when in reality you would want to make the ground flush, and some simple grading of transitions of elements are easy things to fix in SketchUp. I know how long it takes to put together a model like this for a site this size, and in general it's not a horrible presentation. To the layperson it gets the point across and is visually appealing. However, you can definitely tell where shortcuts were taken, and I can't help but be critical of certain elements.

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things I like: business/height centered on Main Street end of the parcel, public parking garage 1/2 block off Main St, dense housing (condos, townhomes, duplexes), incorporating space for a park, plan to make the central plaza pedestrian only on weekends to facilitate festivals and events (looks like that nukes a solid 70 parking spaces though)

things I don't like: ignoring current street grid (creates more intersections/offset intersections), lack of northern interconnections, "midtown way" as a name for central road, super generic suburban architecture (how about we start working on a Mountain East style that's a twist on Mountain West rather than just throwing up Suburban MidAtlantic facades.), amount of surface parking in general

I'd like to see the road network connect Wharton St (N) to to Palmer St (S) and Penn Street (N) to Church Street (S). Having the road curve or offset within the development can ensure slow vehicle speeds while minimizing intersections on the surrounding roads.

super generic suburban architecture (how about we start working on a Mountain East style that's a twist on Mountain West rather than just throwing up Suburban MidAtlantic facades.), amount of surface parking in general

I know absolute dick about design or architecture, but my two biggest takeaways (beyond the bland design) were 1) there seems to be too much surface parking, and 2) why not use this as an opportunity to embrace the mountain town vibe, and give it the same look and feel as a ski town?

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There probably isn't enough surface parking. Structured parking just isn't going to make the pro forma work in BBG. You can lift the buildings and park under but you aren't going to be building donut apartment buildings like you see in bigger markets where there is a deck under and in the middle.

Does anyone know the land deal? That site has been open since I lived there 15 years ago. Is there low basis in the land which might make the development make some sense? I still expect that development at this scale in this market is tight as hell.

the mountain town vibe, and give it the same look and feel as a ski town?

Yes please!

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I don't really care about the architecture or design. Not that those things aren't important, its just not my thing. I hope that when it is all said and done, the space is occupied. There are already several places in DT Blacksburg that are empty. There are empty spaces at First and Main and in the new development across from University mall. New restaurants have struggled to stay open. The condos and town houses will fill up without a problem. I fear that the retail/office space will struggle for traction.

This is similar to my thoughts on the matter. I don't really like the bland brick architecture but that ball is already rolling with the recent developments. Subtle accents could go a long way. My biggest concern is the general location. This part of town never had much energy in my day.

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Moving more people to the downtown area should help sustain more businesses

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So i don't thing the important question has been asked, how does this help recruiting?