Window shopping is a popular pastime – but have you ever noticed that some storefronts are simply better for on-foot shopping than others? While conventional retail has given higher priority to faster-moving automobile visibility, the traditional fundamentals of human-based storefront design are often overlooked. The success of local businesses, and the walkability well-designed storefronts promote, are what make Main Street a sustainable element in any town or city.
Encroachments. Especially in South Florida, all stores should at least have awnings to provide the passerby protection from both the sun and summer rain showers. Continuing the store into the sidewalk with arcades and colonnades provides shelter for pedestrians, extra living space for residents above, and sidewalk displays for stores. Galleries offer similar benefits while giving the residents prime outdoor space on the floor above.
Tall Glazing. Storefronts are best with generous height and glass – much taller and less solid wall than the upper floors. Tall ceilings allow for both cooler interiors (as heat rises) and sufficient space for a variety of store merchandise. On the exterior, clear glazing provides window displays, natural light, and differentiates the store from private residences. Transom windows can add more light deeper into the building.
Refined Details. A finely detailed, skinny storefront is crucial to attract passersby and foster walkability. Where contemporary aluminum or hollow metal often fail to provide human-scaled details, wood, metal, or stone are materials that can be carefully detailed and easily adapted to the neighborhood’s context. Band signage is a given for street traffic, but blade, window, and other small signs are ideal to encourage sidewalk traffic.
These storefront guidelines are not new, but often forgotten principles that have already stood the test of time. By following these design recommendations, mixed-use buildings can help make any Main Street into a great public space. Enhancing the public realm down to the finest detail is what makes great cities.
What unifying theme does your Main Street have?
Credits: Photographs by Jennifer Garcia. Data linked to sources.