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Smart Growth

Restructuring the Commercial Strip

A Practical Guide for Planning the Revitalization of Deteriorating Strip Corridors

Commercial strip corridors are a common sight in American towns and cities, but many are experiencing disinvestment, which results in vacant and underused properties such as abandoned gas stations and obsolete shopping strips. Despite this disinvestment, these corridors remain key to regional transportation networks. Many sites are ideal for reuse and redevelopment because of the high traffic volume they continue to experience. 

EPA commissioned Restructuring the Commercial Strip: A Practical Guide for Planning the Revitalization of Deteriorating Strip Corridors (2010) to give communities guidance on how they can revitalize these commercial corridors to accommodate economic growth, reuse land already served by infrastructure, and reflect local character. Revitalization also has environmental benefits, including:

  • Cleaning up and reusing contaminated properties.
  • Protecting regional water quality by reducing the amount of paved surface in a watershed.
  • Decreasing air pollution by reducing driving distances to everyday destinations.

The report outlines comprehensive corridor revitalization strategies that pay careful attention to both sides of the right-of-way line, including:

  • Planning diverse land uses together so that they reinforce one other.
  • Right-of-way redesign to shift from automobile-oriented roadways to multimodal community streets.
  • Strategies to help local governments orchestrate revitalization efforts.

EPA has conducted several Smart Growth Implementation Assistance projects involving corridor redesign or revitalization. Reports from these projects can be helpful to other communities dealing with similar issues.

  • McCall, Idaho, requested EPA assistance to ensure that development along a new road would be consistent with the city’s character and goals. 
  • Taos, New Mexico, wanted to explore options to make the development of a commercial strip more attractive, economically stronger, and in keeping with the town's historic character. 
  • College Park, Maryland, was not seeing the type of development it envisioned along U.S. Route 1 and wanted help in realizing its vision for its main street. 
  • Denver, Colorado, received assistance from EPA to help implement living streets concepts along commercial corridors in the region. 
  • Las Cruces, New Mexico, requested assistance in developing a robust public participation model for making development decisions that affect middle- to lower-income residents, including redeveloping a commercial corridor. 

Find more resources on smart growth and transportation and on smart growth, brownfields, and infill development.

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