Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Embargo Period

4-29-2014

Degree Program

Architecture

Degree Type

Master of Architecture (M.Arch.)

Year Degree Awarded

2014

Month Degree Awarded

May

Advisor Name

Caryn

Advisor Middle Initial

J.

Advisor Last Name

Brause

Co-advisor Name

Kathleen

Co-advisor Last Name

Lugosch

Abstract

The ever-evolving retail landscape in the United States represents a narrative of change for local communities. While change may signify instability, it also presents opportunities for innovation. This dichotomy is particularly pertinent in small downtowns, where the faltering of both national chain and locally owned retail establishments is felt, not only by business owners, but by all members of the community. The loss of anchor stores (large stores that serve to draw patrons to a commercial center) has proven especially challenging for downtowns that formerly relied on the consumer traffic generated by a big-name retailer. The loss of anchor stores also scars the built environment, which is often not designed to respond fluidly to programmatic flux.

While the default response to a failed anchor store is often to simply replace it with a slightly more robust retail anchor, this approach to renewal is shortsighted, for the replaced anchor store will inevitably fail as well. Instead, it is essential that the reuse of vacant anchor spaces be designed to not only sustainably support local economies, but also to address and enhance community and the built environment. Reprogramming, as opposed to replacing, former anchor stores presents an opportunity to embrace change in order to build a truly sustainable and vibrant neighborhood that considers retail to be one of many assets.

This thesis presents a study of and an intervention at the site of a, still vacant, former Borders bookstore and café in the downtown of a New York City metro north community. The design proposal seeks to identify, develop, and celebrate the coalescence of the site’s economic, social, and architectural potentials. Paradoxically, while the proposal focuses on promoting the local capacity of a particular place, the greater implications of this study can be translated to other small downtowns nationwide, and perhaps even globally.

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