Letter to the Editor: Pedestrian Unfriendly

Letter to the Editor: Pedestrian Unfriendly

— Costco seems to have designed its new store at Richmond

Highway and Sherwood Hall Lane for somewhere reachable only by auto, with high blank walls facing the street and the building's front facing its parking lot. The entrance is as far as possible from the nearest road. But there's a group of townhouses a hundred feet away, and a dense community with over 100 homes along the back edge of the Costco property. Across Richmond Highway is an apartment community surrounded by the houses of Gum Springs. I would guess that there are several thousand people living within easy walking distance of the store.

But Costco's designers seem to have neglected pedestrians: someone walking from the community behind the store will want to enter the property on the corner and cut across the parking lot to the entrance, saving one or two hundred feet of walking, but Costco didn't install a sidewalk or stairs to accommodate. Instead there's landscaping — which I predict will very soon sprout the bare dirt path that people create as they defy such barriers. Costco has installed good bike parking — about 200 feet from the main entrance. Why not use a single auto space in front of the entrance, with the same capacity? And finally, how come the sidewalk leading in from Richmond Highway ends a few feet in, and dumps the walker into the traffic stream off the highway at least 300 feet from the entrance?

Luckily, I believe that the majority of Costco's investment in the site is in underground improvements and the slab; the above grade building is so inexpensive as to be easily modified or replaced in redeveloping the site for greater pedestrian friendliness. Even without such redevelopment, the edges of the site on Richmond Highway and Ladson Lane have enough room for small businesses — if Fairfax County allows it.

Have you ever been to Galaries Layfayette in Paris? I've read that the store itself owns all those sidewalk vending operations outside. Costco could take a leaf from their playbook.

Larry D. Huffman


Author’s note: I'm both a member of and an investor in Costco, so my hands aren't entirely clean in this project.