The Worst Shopping Center Ever Built

I’ve had this post in my head for years, and heck, it’s time to get it outta my head and into here. (Why haven’t I written it? No real reason.)

Anyway, a few miles from Casa Jaquandor is a big shopping plaza called Quaker Crossing. Here it is, via Google Earth:

Looks like any other big suburban plaza, right? And sure, because let’s be honest, suburban shopping plazas are always terrible. But this one is somehow especially terrible. Usually these plazas are terrible because they are relentlessly optimized for cars and are almost anti-pedestrian to the point they feel almost punitive if you’re trying to walk, but this one is somehow terrible for both cars and pedestrians.

OK, let’s get the pedestrian shittiness out of the way first, because it’s easy. Note the gargantuan parking lots, each of them in the middle of their clusters of stores and businesses, with large driveways bounding them. This means that if you plan to shop at multiple businesses at Quaker Crossing, you are extremely discouraged from parking in one place and walking to each business. Those large buildings across the top (north) contain a Target, a Dick’s Sporting Goods, a Kohl’s, a Premiere liquor and wine store, and a Regal Cinemas. Over in the east cluster, you have a large furniture store, a large pet store, and a bunch of smaller stores. The two clusters are separated by a four-lane driveway right up the middle, and this whole plaza sprawls out over a huge parcel, so if you need to go to both Kohl’s and the pet store, there’s no way you’re walking from one to the other. This plaza has virtually no walking infrastructure.

So there you are at Quaker Crossing and you have no choice: you’re driving to the place and then from one side of the plaza to the other. This experience is awful, too.

Here I need a marked-up diagram to illustrate the awfulness:

We start with the red circle, before we even enter the Quaker Crossing plaza. That’s the exit ramp from southbound US219, heading onto westbound Milestrip Road. This used to be a single-lane ramp that yields onto Milestrip, which is four lanes from here to its terminus at NY 5, a few miles west; that’s fine. They added a second lane at the foot of the ramp to merge into the new third lane on Milestrip when the plaza was built, to accommodate people who are coming off 219 for the purpose of entering Quaker Crossing. Again, fine!

But they put a traffic light at the end of the ramp!

So now, instead of a simple yield-and-merge situation, there’s a damned stop light to content with. Why they did this, I have no idea; I have literally seen zero other stop lights at the feet of exit ramps that are designed for merging. Now, if the ramp’s terminus was angled perpendicular to Milestrip, I would get it. But this light makes the entire exchange counterintuitive, and on busy days actually makes things a mess, because there are times when you have to start aggressively braking as soon as you exit 219S. This is nonsense. That light is stupid.

Then there’s the yellow circle, which is the main entrance to Quaker Crossing. This actually isn’t super-bad. It’s a standard 4-way intersection with lights and turn-arrows. Also, if you look closer, just west of the main entrance to Quaker Crossing is a second entrance, just one lane, basically an exit ramp from Milestrip into the western end of the plaza. We use this a lot if we’re going to the theater or to Red Robin, both of which are the westernmost businesses here. Back to the main entrance, though: it’s four lanes itself, since most people entering the plaza have to be able to turn into the left (western) portion of the plaza, or the right (eastern) portion. That makes sense…but one problem here is that for accessing Quaker Crossing via Milestrip, this is the only exit point. That means that just about everybody leaving Quaker Crossing will have to come to this one intersection. Is that horrible? Not entirely…and there is a back way out, which goes to Lake Avenue, but if you’re not going that way, that’s not a big help. Still, the exit isn’t the worst thing in the world…until you factor in the blue circle.

That’s the main intersection from which people leave the short entrance road to either turn left or right to go to wherever they mean to go in Quaker Crossing, or where people have to come if they’re leaving. The problem here is twofold: First, it’s quite close to Milestrip, so there is no time for traffic to funnel out from the main entrance on busy days; second, there are no signals there to manage the traffic. So you have four lanes each way, with turn lanes, and you have busy side driveways with people coming and going, and all of this is dependent on motorists doing right-of-way correctly. This is one of the most nerve-wracking intersections I know of, and I’m honestly surprised I don’t hear of more fender-benders there than I do.

What should they have done? My contention is that they shouldn’t have built that intersection at all. All traffic should go all the way to the northernmost point on that road, and then have people turn, maybe even using a roundabout to guide and filter the traffic through the plaza. That initial intersection is almost always a mess, and it didn’t have to be.

Now, that aqua-colored line? That’s the main driveway through the western side of Quaker Crossing. It, too, is terribly designed; curves a-plenty, entrances to side lots seemingly every hundred feet, and stop signs galore that stop traffic one way but not the other. Why didn’t they design the entire plaza with all the businesses centralized and a single driveway running around the perimeter, like a ring road? Or cluster all the businesses into one large walkable plaza? I have no idea. But this entire place is really a negative miracle of modern architectural design and planning: a giant retail plaza that is terrible to drive and impossible to walk. I honestly do not know how they pulled that off, but pull it off, they did.

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2 Responses to The Worst Shopping Center Ever Built

  1. Roger says:

    My condolences. Your mall sucks WAY more than ours, and Crossgates doth suck.

  2. fillyjonk says:

    This is a new trend. Either you have the gargantuan strip malls like we do, where they are largely big-box stores with small stores interspersed, you are discouraged from parking and then walking (and especially in our climate, where a typical summer day is 100 F, and it can be 110 around all that concrete) or, what I’ve seen in my mom’s town, is a set up like what you described – lots of blind corners, a confusing layout of driveways (if you’re unfamiliar with the place), and a general sense that they don’t WANT you browsing multiple stores – it’s a “get in, buy the thing you came to buy, and get out” deal.. I also think a number of the stores now encourage “order online, pick up at the curb” which I guess a lot of people like, but I don’t; I like browsing and I like being able to get out of the house for more than just a drive.

    I get why they closed down enclosed malls – awfully costly to cool and heat all that “empty” space, and I know some locations came to fear roving bands of teenagers – but I admit as someone who came of age in the 80s, I miss malls.

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