My hometown of East Brunswick in New Jersey can be described by myself and by most people you would ask from there, as an absolute dump. I could easily relate this to the aesthetically displeasing Route 18 which runs through it and is the location of most of the town’s shopping, restaurants and attractions. The many unkempt buildings and vacant shopping centers – due to the recent recession – which line this busy road make for an unfortunate first impression on whoever drives through.
Despite the blunt unattractiveness of the buildings, there are various urban design flaws that we can address that are definitely are at fault for East Brunswick’s battered look. Urban design is often overlooked when observing the aesthetics and the flow of a municipality; however, below I will show various buildings that line Route 18 with unfortunate design failures, as well as compare them to the few more developed areas.
The East Brunswick Square mall is one of the few places in East Brunswick that people will go to socialize and spend their free time. Surrounding towns will come to this mall as well, being that it is the only one within a fifteen minute drive. Unfortunately, without the JCPenney logo in the picture on the top picture, this building could have been mistaken for an outdated and ugly office building. The mall is also quite a distance away from Route 18 solely due to the huge parking lot (with no lamp posts, I might add) and does not seem appealing to anybody driving past. Perhaps Andres Duany was on to something when he said parking lots should be placed behind buildings. The installment shown in the lower picture was renovated just last year, and shows a stark contrast in freshness and charm compared to the rest of the perimeter of the mall. Hopefully the appeal of this small portion will make its way to the rest of the strip.
The pictures above also show some of the common sights of Route 18. In the first one we see a completely empty parking lot in front of some building space that has been vacant for a few years now. Though the failure of the businesses that had been there before can be accredited to tough economic times in 2008 — including the Gap, a bakery, and an Office Max — I still remember this particular parking lot being quite empty before then (nj.com). We can blame this on poor planning concerning the amount of parking space needed for this particular shopping plaza. In contrast, the second picture above shows a common occurrence on Route 18, where there is far too little area between the building and the busy street. This could also cause a reduction of traffic flow or even a jam at the entrance. The next picture of some new development on Route 18 displays a more successful design for this instance.
Unfortunately, very little construction or renovation happens around East Brunswick. And whenever there is something new being built it becomes a topic in everyone’s conversation. The brand new building above is a new installation completed last year which also came with a larger strip mall and parking lot behind it equally as bright and appealing. The density of people and automobiles in this area is fair and safe, especially for the many senior citizens and new drivers in the area. I still wish that this area allowed for more walking around and a prettier and more modern atmosphere such as the picture of The Shoppes of New Brunswick shown below it, but it’s a start.