New Urbanism: I will continue to beat this drum
This picture reminds one of Roseland, Cassopolis Street (Elkhart), McKinley and parts of Grape Road and countless other bland, souless commercial strips in countless other bland, souless American cities. Isn't it lovely? The sad thing is that people get so used to it that they don't even realize how ugly it is until you draw their attention to it. These sorts of developments promote isolation from neighbors. There is NO compelling reason for designing cities this way. They are designed this way through laziness or ignorance.
Fortunately, more and more municipalities are realizing that it is possible to organize development in orderly, people friendly ways.
Left: New commercial developments that respect both cars and pedestrians. Some parking can be found on the street. Extra parking is available in the rear.
Here's a drawing of a declining mall which is being transformed into a vibrant pedestrian friendly neighborhood.
This building is in Chicago at the corner of Lincoln and Altgeld I believe. Its a new building. But it couldn't be built in many American cities because towns like Elkhart have adopted suburban style setback and height allowances for new construction. If old buildings are torn down, they are replaced with little chunks of suburbia. Think of the intersection of Main Street and Jackson Blvd in Elkhart. The surban styled bank (not the old post office) and the one story white brick jewelry store are the results of suburban buildings being plopped down arbitrarily in urban contexts. If this is done often enough, it kills downtown areas and they become nothing more than additional sprawl, but probably not as convenient as the strip malls.
Now that you have read this, you might be looking for a reason for hope. If so, click on the headline and "take the tour" of New Urbanism. It will show you possibilities for how cities may be designed. This movement is gaining momentum all over the place. I hope more of it comes to South Bend soon.