A developer is looking to build along Plano Rd and Belt Line Rd on land previously used for parking lots for the old Sears in Richardson Square. Obviously, Sears has no need for the parking. Demand for parking at Sears was never great to begin with, so development of some kind is not a bad idea. But here's why this developer's idea is a bad idea.
He's proposing four new standalone buildings — one for Chipotle, one for Jason's Deli, one for Starbucks, and one for some unspecified business. No. No. No. No.
Pad site restaurants are the worst solution, no matter how much you like Chipotle or Jason's Deli or even yet another Starbucks. Don't let them lure you in with those promises. Brands come and go but we're stuck with the form they build forever.
As proposed, the vast majority of this new development will still be parking lot. That and drive-through lanes that will snake all around the postage stamp-sized buildings on big lots. Such land use returns the lowest tax revenue per acre compared to other development patterns. If you think Richardson struggles to fix potholes now, this kind of development is why. It's right out of the suburban sprawl playbook that caused us to be unable to afford our infrastructure maintenance costs.
We should be looking to find a development form that generates more return, and that means one that doesn't cater to cars. Land use devoted to pad site restaurants is not the highest and best use of land, and it deteriorates with each cycle of development. When the brand that you loved moves on (and they always do), lesser and lesser brands move in (or worse — see the car title loan business across the street in an old Whataburger pad site restaurant). It tends in that direction because the land use is cheap to take over. It's mostly asphalt after all.
Whatever we allow to get built there now we'll have to live with for fifty years or more. So let's demand a form for the development that will serve us throughout the rest of the 21st century and not jump at something out of the 1980s just because we like this or that brand.
Hat tip to Andrew Laska. I wrote this after reading a letter from Andrew to the City Plan Commission (which approved the proposal 5-2 on Tuesday evening).