KFnet in T-Town

Jul. 30, 2009 at 9:29am

Lakewood parking lot

Riddle me this: what is nearly empty, impermeable to water, absorbs and radiates the sun's rays, and has no store entrances facing any side of it? That last one may have given it away because it's a parking lot. More specifically a massive section of parking lot at the southeast corner of the Lakewood Mall. On a recent errand run out there I noticed the area while peering out the back windows of the Barnes and Noble. Check it out:

Now, I do hear malls are popular these days but this lot is easily the largest continuous plot of land set aside for stagnant vehicles in the entire place. And it was completely empty. Maybe 4 cars were parked there in total when I stopped by and when Google flew over to snap this satellite shot it was apparently the same story:

see interactive map

Seems a shame that an adjacent play yard and city park are dwarfed by comparison. But even if it's used for overflow, with no store frontage of any kind, it's poorly designed to be a no-man's land no matter how busy it is. Surely a shining example of poor urban design. Could you imagine if this space was used as a community garden? A city park? Or both?

comments [32]  |  posted under lakewood, mall, parking lot, shopping, tacoma, urban desert


by thriceallamerican on 7/30/2009 @ 8:29am
why do we need trains to go there?

Yeah!!! Those suburban bastards are going to get first choice of seats, while I have to wait out in the cold and rain (or sweltering heat, as it were).

(edit...what the? how'd I get to the top of the list? how'd I get a timestamp from 5 hours ago? weird...)

by fredo on 7/30/2009 @ 9:34am
A new empowerment zone: International Parking Services District

by thriceallamerican on 7/30/2009 @ 11:54am
This brings to mind a couple of interesting facts about that area.

On the bad side, Ponce de Leon Creek, which feeds into Lake Steilacoom, actually originates from springs beneath Lakewoode Towne Centre. (See Wikipedia.)

On the better side, the portion of parking lot that you highlight is indeed impermiable...but Lakewood is at least trying, as evidenced by the nearby permeable concrete parking lot adjacent to their city hall building. Neat stuff! (But face it, Lakewood, you still lose for locating your city hall at the mall. Cue Robin Sparkes...)

by Erik on 7/30/2009 @ 12:54pm
Great picture showing 70 percent of the lot nothing more than a surface level parking lot with the other 30 percent being a one story building.

Car use her is required even to try to travel to the adjacent building.

A wasteland that no one is going to want to hang out or take a memorable picture of.

BTW, the Barnes and Noble book stores can be integrated into the urban grid if required:

by NineInchNachos on 7/30/2009 @ 1:22pm
nothing good ever happens in lakewood. why do we need trains to go there?

by AP on 7/30/2009 @ 1:43pm
I grew up in Lakewood. I know that place like the back of my hand. You are exactly right about the parking lot, and the urban planning prowess over there. The fact that the reputation of the new "ownership" of Lakewood (proper?) is widely shat upon by residents and businesses alike is no secret.

You have brought forth a perfect, concrete example of their issues. Someone from Lakewood City Hall should jump on here and explain that parking lot.

by Dave_L on 7/30/2009 @ 3:15pm
AP, you must have been CP, not Lakes, right?
I shouldn't direct-link to individual photos, but if you type in "Villa Plaza" in this image search page, search.tacomapubliclibrary.org/images/de... there are interesting aerial views of the shopping center and parking lot from the late 50's. It was weird, how it was Villa Plaza, then a covered mall, then they uncovered it and spread it out all over. Villa Plaza, with the Ram with the funky concave roof that flooded and collapsed; Tijuana Taco (still there); Curiously, Stadium Toy and Craft where I spent many hours, and whose family still owns a toy store in South Tacoma... I hate places with pretentious spelling, though, like Towne and Centre (Lakewoode - haha, Jamie).

by TDI-Reporters-Notebook on 7/30/2009 @ 3:25pm
I just want to say R.R.'s raw hatred for Lakewood always makes me laugh. That's all.

by Erik on 7/30/2009 @ 3:30pm
You have brought forth a perfect, concrete example of their issues. Someone from Lakewood City Hall should jump on here and explain that parking lot.

Lakewood has such few examples of good urban design, the leaders probably cannot vision something different than a ox in the middle of a 5 acre parking lot.

For all of the strip mall garbage the City of Tacoma has forced to be constructed since WWII, at least the city has some old examples of good urban design.

If they were willing to learn, Lakewood City Council could just adopt Tacoma's mixed use center revisions and be set.

Unlikely though. A more probably outcome is that they are ruled by traffic engineers advocating wider roads who are recommending that the area become even more car centric.

It looks as if Tacoma City Council at least finally is making the connection as to the changes necessary to create a Portland rather than a Lynnwood.

by Erik on 7/30/2009 @ 3:35pm
I just want to say R.R.'s raw hatred for Lakewood always makes me laugh. That's all.

I think his point is that few urban areas in Lakewood are places worth caring about or taking photographs of.


Here is a typical picture:


by NineInchNachos on 7/30/2009 @ 3:45pm
only thing worse than having to go to lakewood is having to go to federal way. Only thing worse than federal way is tukwila. the only thing worse than tukwila is renton. The only thing worse than renton is... etc. etc.

nothing makes me feel more nihilistic than looking at these two photographs...

by Dave_L on 7/30/2009 @ 4:12pm
Never thought I'd feel the urge to defend Lakewood, but like high school, enough time has passed that I feel okay about it. I'll take you to a few places, R.R. Not any urban planning models, but maybe start at a little hill overlooking Lake Waughop...

by thriceallamerican on 7/30/2009 @ 4:16pm
I'm gonna stand up for Renton a bit here, since I grew up in KentRenton...at least it has a historic downtown, which none of Lakewood, Federal Way, or Tukwila can boast...not that I want to be still living there or everything, but there's actually some charm, if you look hard enough. But that's beside the point...

by thriceallamerican on 7/30/2009 @ 4:17pm
Haha, look at Dave and I, defending our suburban upbringings...

by L.S.Erhardt on 7/30/2009 @ 4:29pm
Sometimes I feel kinda bad about how we treat Lakewood, UP, Puyallup, etc We bitch and moan about getting the leftovers that Seattle shat out, and yet we give the very kind of disservice we hate to our own neighbors.

Granted, I personally don't go very often to said cities. I usually don't have a need. Also, I'm not excusing the suburban-sprawl development... I'd love to see L-Town and U-Town build themselves a downtown. Really guys, is more than 4 stories too much to ask? Even Puyallup with it's 6-story city hall across from the library and that condo complex is starting to make a viable downtown.
So why can't our neighbors to the south do the same?

by thriceallamerican on 7/30/2009 @ 4:35pm
T'OT, I think the advantage that suburbs like Puyallup (and Kent, Renton, Auburn, etc.) have over, say, Lakewood or UP, is that they actually have a historic downtown area based around a grid system, small blocks, etc., so it's easier for them to take that existing infrastructure and move forward with urban-ish planning measures (even as they let the surrounding areas sprawl). For Lakewood or UP to do that requires taking big areas made up of car-oriented major roads, subdivisions, and strip malls and somehow creating an urban core where there never was some. Not saying they shouldn't try, and maybe UP Town Center will be sorta urban-core-ish, but it's a hard change to make once you've gone as far as they have with their auto-centricity.

by thriceallamerican on 7/30/2009 @ 4:37pm
I, apparently, like to talk about the suburbs.

by NineInchNachos on 7/30/2009 @ 4:41pm
true. the little historic downtowns are pretty cool. I surrender on those points.

by thriceallamerican on 7/30/2009 @ 4:47pm
true. the little historic downtowns are pretty cool. I surrender on those points.

Shit, even Bellevue has a pretty awesome historic area, and I fucking hate that city...

by NineInchNachos on 7/30/2009 @ 4:57pm
this is what I imagine heaven on earth looks like...


you know the intro of war of the worlds book where the martians look to earth with envy... kinda feel the martian pain.

by L.S.Erhardt on 7/30/2009 @ 5:03pm
Follow by example? Tacoma is the Big Sister 'round here... maybe if we get our act together and make good from better urban planning, the smaller cities will follow suit.
Or maybe James Kunstler should make a trip to Lakewood....

by L.S.Erhardt on 7/30/2009 @ 5:17pm
Maybe Lakewood should consider this for that awful asphalt sea:

by KevinFreitas on 7/30/2009 @ 5:35pm
My question: How has Kunstler actually helped Tacoma? I know he's revered as an edgy, urban planning god but who has he reached that can actually effect change around here? Developers? Bloggers? Investors? Present and/or future city council members? How many passionate, informed citizens does it take to match the supposed influence of one Kunstler?


by NineInchNachos on 7/30/2009 @ 5:50pm
I think Jim Merritt is down with the Kunstler Moonies

by morgan on 7/30/2009 @ 7:14pm
NineInchNachos: I miss Fremont. [Sigh].

Also: WTF!? 24 comments for a Lakewood parking lot!? Must be a slow news day!

by NineInchNachos on 7/30/2009 @ 7:38pm
where is tacoma's naked hippie chick bicycle parade?

by L.S.Erhardt on 7/31/2009 @ 8:02am
@ Kevin... It's not that Kunstler himself is somehow a planning god or even has good ideas necessarily. It's that fact that his fame draws attention to the problem.
I'd say that he himself has done little, if anything for T-Town. BUT him coming here and getting media coverage helps get out the concept that we could be doing things better... it likely caused many people who wouldn't have noticed or cared about urban issues to discover that it does matter to them after all.

We have to be the change, but having outside help to get the problem noticed makes a big difference.

by Crenshaw Sepulveda on 7/31/2009 @ 11:13am
NIN, the best downtown Tacoma has to offer in this respect is that crazy woman that hangs around Tully's. Every now and then she will take off her top. Pretty scary, though.

by Erik on 7/31/2009 @ 12:20pm
How has Kunstler actually helped Tacoma?

I think he shook things up and brought some much needed light to some issues. Once one has lived in Tacoma for so many years, it is easy to acclimate to the deadness, blight an poor urban design.

The inertia of Tacoma's building codes and failures is difficult to break.

I think Kunster's greatest contribution is to contrast different urban designs, one being attractive and liveable and the other being car centric wastelands and to emphasize that we can do better than the junk that has been built over the last 60 years.

Tacoma has needed badly someone to bring another perspective to the city. The city consultants have the ability to perform this task but they are not going to do so as they are on the dime of the city.

Also, Donald Shoup has some strong medicine when he was here to meet with Tacoma city staff and city planners:

If ample free parking were the key to economic success, Tacoma would be the richest city in the U.S.


Yet, Tacoma's parking policies have not made it wealthy, instead they have eviscerated the city.

Of course, NIN's Tacomic helped too:


Good urban design advocacy through cartooning!

by Joel 413 on 8/11/2009 @ 8:39pm
Once upon a time, that parking lot was useful... back in my PLU days *nudge-nudge* That's where we used to park to go to movies. You could actually get into the theater from over there, and I think there was once upon a time an entrance to the covered mall there too. Back when it was the Lakewood Mall.

Then I moved to Philly for 5 years and when I came back it was a strip mall, WTF?

by TFab on 1/4/2010 @ 6:38pm
I graduated from CP in 1984. I appreciate you mentioning Stadium Toy and Craft. The old couple/owners were always kind to my family and I. When I joined the air force in 1987 after graduating from Fort Steilacoom, I thought "good, I am outta here." Not so. I ended up being staioned here from 1990 @ McChord AFB. Just cant get away. Finally I retired from the army ( yes I changed branches ) @ Ft. Lewis in March of 2009. ( Still can't get outta here ! ) Thank you for your post 'cos it brings back such wonderful memories!

by TFab on 1/4/2010 @ 6:39pm
BTW, I Love Tacoma, WA. Reminds me of my home in West Midlands.


Although I have another home on the web I thought it might be nice to lead by example a bit and put this blog system up to the test myself.

So far, so good... Funny how I build web tools for other people that are far better than the one's I have setup over on KFnet.


Hey Clear Channel, Clean Up Your Crap!

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