The Saga of the Neighborhood Shop Part 1

Several posts ago, I wrote about the building pictured below, which clearly was built as a commercial structure, but has since become run down and seemingly abandon.

My assumption was that while the reasons for the building’s dilapidation were complex, the issue was essentially one of demand. Or, I figured that the community simply couldn’t support a corner store like this one.

But in the time since I wrote that post I’ve learned a little bit more β€” via the comments on the original post and in various other conversations β€” and it seems that the issue is even more complex than I originally suspected. Sadly, some have suggested zoning and neighborhood advocacy is actually what drove this building to its sad state.

Why members of the community would prefer a little sliver of blight to a vibrant corner shop I will never know. But as ineffably disappointing as that may be, the flip side is that the neighborhood may actually already be dense enough to support a store at this location β€” if it did once when the neighborhood was even less dense, why not now? In other words, the mistakes of the past could theoretically be corrected without a generation of neighborhood infill and population growth.

I’m extremely interested in this particular location for two reasons. First, it’s in my neighborhood so I have a personal stake in what happens. But much more importantly, this location seems to represent the struggle of neighborhood stores generally. Issues of demand, zoning, and planning have all combined to make this location what it is. The same could be said for similar sites in many places, so it consequently stands to reason that a better understanding of this location will lead to a better understanding of neighborhood stores generally.

To that end, I hope to write several posts exploring different factors that have influenced this building’s fate. It may take a while to unpack the issue, but for now I’ll start with basic zoning. According to this zoning map, the store lies within an area zoned as part of a “Residential Conservation Zone.” The map describes that type of zone as

A zone to encourage conservation of existing housing by limiting the use of a given lot or parcel to the legal use existing. Project redevelopment is encouraged through the use of the PRO zone.”

Of course the situation is more complex than that, and the description doesn’t really tell us much. But for now at least, it provides a launching point for an exploration into why this neighborhood shop, as well as others, have failed.

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4 Comments

Filed under community, Development, economics, neighborhood

4 responses to “The Saga of the Neighborhood Shop Part 1

  1. The house next door to this place was for sale a few years back and my husband and I had dreams of buying it and selling local produce from our backyard (and anyone else who wanted to join in!) in that little shop.
    Alas, it was way out of our price range. I still think it could work.
    ps-just found your blog. love it!

  2. The house next door was for sale a few years back and we had dreams of buying it and selling produce from our backyard (and anyone else who wanted to join in!) in that little shop.
    I still think it could work, just not with our budget.
    ps-just found your blog. love it!

    • Thanks so much for taking a look at the blog! Because I live very close to this building, I can only imagine how great it would have been to buy produce from you. Hopefully someone, someday will make it happen.

  3. Aaron Cook

    I think it means that if someone were to redevelop it, they would first need to get the city to approve a zoning change to the PRO zone. Man, Provo has a lot of zones. Fort Collins, CO is similar- they find all these nuances to change and zone accordingly. I’ve gotta head to class, but I’ll take a look at Provo’s Zoning Code afterwards and see what all needs to happen before a change or variance. Since you live in the neighborhood (and therefore you’re really close) you might have a bit more weight if the issue ever came up at a city council meeting. Probably just getting it re-zoned would be a huge benefit, because it’s probable that no-one looks at the place as a potential corner store (with a legal perspective) because of zoning, and for someone to come in from the outside and want to change the zone can cost a lot more money than locals just heading down to the City council meeting (granted, it may cost us locals some too, but to have a store that close? Seems like it’d be worth the city council meetings!) From http://map.provo.org/ it looks like the house on the side is even on the same lot (Mixed use anyone? Albeit, horizontal, but still cool and better than nothing). From what I can see of the inside (not much), there is some good work that would need to go on before it could be a grocery market too, but getting the zoning fight done would help. (It would reduce the cost of opening a store there).

    There’s even several spots where they have the PRO zone in a pocket inside the RC zone nearby, but it looks like they’re all individualized (they say PRO-A17 or PRO – A12). I’ll take a further look after school – but the two places to look are code.provo.org and zoning.provo.org for more information if someone else wants to beat me to the punch.

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