Don’t face your butt to the street


One frustrating nuance of land use planning is when a business wishes to situate their new structure in a manner that detracts from the adjacent street’s aesthetics by facing the primary entrance away from the street.  This most often tends to occur on outlots or on commercial parcels that get split years after the original occupant was constructed, but I have also seen it take place on single use parcels too.

Rather than facing the new structure so that it fronts toward the street, the builder/owner/developer may propose to front it at a 90 degree angle to the street or face it inward on a loop road. This leaves those passing by along the street with a grand view of the butt side (rear facade) of the building.  As a result, the streetscape could end up with a largely blank, uninteresting wall, or worse yet, the service entrance and loading docks. This does nothing to enhance visual aesthetics or placemaking.


So, what does an urban planner do to limit and/or prevent the blank canyonization of the streetscape. Here are a few suggestions – please feel free to forward/suggest more.
  • Adopt a building facade ordinance or a form-based code.
  • Require “accessible public entrances” on all street sides of a building. Emergency, security, service, and employees entrances do now count as “accessible public entrances.”
  • Provide a “reasonable” sign incentive for each additional “accessible public entrance” either in sign area or number of wall signs.  Be careful not to give away the farm.
  • If an entrance cannot be incorporated on the streetside, require architectural, streetscape, and landscape details such as windows, columns, street trees, and similar features in your code in order to soften the building’s scale and appearance from the street.
  • Place restrictions on entrance siting in the conditions of approval for special use permits.


This entry was posted in Active transportation, adaptive reuse, architecture, art, cities, civics, consumerism, culture, density, economic development, environment, geography, historic preservation, infrastructure, land use, new urbanism, placemaking, planning, revitalization, spatial design, sustainability, urban planning, walking, zoning and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Don’t face your butt to the street

  1. tandemist says:


    You have entirely too much time on your hands. I no longer work for a living and am amazed at the range of subjects and your views on them.




  2. I’m sure there’s good background for this problem in Alexander’s book “A Pattern Language,” though I haven’t time to include specific references.


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