Saturday, July 11, 2009

Beerman Towns: Northtown

Arthur Beerman owned the Arcade. In fact, his real estate interests had offices on the upper floors of Commercial Building at the intersection of Ludlow and 4th. And on one of those floors was the offices of the Main-Nottingham Shopping Center, apparently the leasing and development offices of the first "Beerman Town", because Main-Nottingham would later be re-named Northtown.

And the Arcade might have been the inspiration for certain features of this shopping center.

Suburban Growth in Northwest Dayton.

This enlargment of a dot map from the Harlan Bartholomew planning studies of the late 1940s and early 1950s shows population growth from 1930 to 1952. In reality most of this growth was probably from 1939-1950, the pre-WWII "Pearl Harbor Suburbia" boom coming out of the Depression and the wartime and early postwar expansion.

And what's notable, too, is that this was mostly infill on dead or lightly developed plats from the Roaring Twenties or before. The two early outlying suburbs here, Fort McKinley and Shiloh, are quite early, products of the interurban boom from before WWI.

Stripping away the plats, and showing the main streets + population growth, one can see how Northtown was positioned to attract shoppers out from areas developing closer-in (reversing the usual shopping trip into the city) but also to intercept shoppers heading into town (and from future plats that might occur in the 1950s).

The earlier Miracle Lane (first true strip center in Dayton from around 1946-47) is also shown, performing a similar function on Salem Avenue that Northtown did on North Main. Northtown was developed in the 1949-1951 time frame.

Let's Go Shopping (for urban form)

Beerman's firs shopping center was probably McCook Center off Keowee Street, where some of the features here make their appearnace. But McCook seems much more ad-hoc compared to Northtown.

Northtown in its contex on North Main Street, set in areas that were already developed east of Main. Whats' notable is the center was somewhat integrated into its site, with streets from adjacent development leading into the centers parking lots. The land behind the center was developed as apartments.

A closer-up, illustrating how the center was somewhat tentative, working out some basic strip-center concepts.

There are two larger stores, ancestors of the big box anchor store of today, but they are seperated from the center by an access drive to rear of the center. There is plenty of parking, but the center buildings are still held fairly close to the street. About half the parking is hidden to the rear of the center. The characterstic L form of Beerman's later centers appears, but the L comes very close to Main, leaving only two rows of parking. And ther's that access drive to the back parking.

Northtown today. The center apparently had facade updates over the years.

The Beerman's downtown Arcade might have been an inspiration here as, unlike other strip centers, there is a second floor of offices and a little shopping arcade connecting to the back parking.

Fairly unusual for a strip center, but there are contemporary examples in Dayton from the same era of two story mixed-use buildings going up at new suburban shopping nodes (like at Patterson and Wilmington or Far Hills in Oakwood). In this case this transitional building type is incorporated into a strip center.

Inside the shopping arcade, which is really just a wide hallway with storefronts arranged in a sort of zig-zag pattern to make the hall seem less of a tunnel.

(the offices are via the door to the left, which is probably original, with the original hardware, too).

The rear entrance to the shopping arcade....

...and the extensive rear parking area. Note the apartments in the backround as an illustration of how the center was somewhat integrated into surrounding housing. Though this is pretty desolate, a better landscaped and pedestrian -reindly parking area like this could be model for modern attempts to integrated strip centers into housing as a walkable ensemble.

The access drive to the front parking....
..the two "big boxes" on the northern part of the site. One of these is a supermarket, perhaps it always was.

The L, closing off the south side of the shopping center, here made up of one-story buildings. Present at the creation of postwar suburbia: this was the start of 59 years of shopping center development.

Yet memories of the old ways of city building linger here. Note how the L is so close to Main Street, with only two rows of angled parking. It's almost as if the desginers were still thinking stores should still be held close to the busy street, creating a street wall, not be set back away from it.

The details here are another illustration of how tentative this design is. Note the corner entrance of the store to the left. This would be typical of corner stores throughout Dayton, and is a detail carried over from the pre-war era of retail construction. Yes there is a corner here, but the "street" heading off the pix to the right isn't a street at all, it's another access drive (without sidewalks) to the rear parking.

Northtown: Past as Prologue?

What's interesting is how some of the later Beerman developments have returned to the mixed-use concept of Northtown, with stores on the ground floor and offices above. An excellent example is the Mad River Station across OH 725 from the Dayton Mall (which is no longer a Beerman property). And especially the Shoppes at 725, which harkens back to the era before shopping centers.


Anonymous said...

The "big box" section, back in the 1960s, was an Elder-Beerman Store. Not sure when it closed. The first store to the south of the E-B store was an A&P Grocery.

steve said...

The Elder-Beerman Budget story closed in 1974 or 75 the section that is the hardware store and Save a Lot was all Beermans
the A&P being to the south( left) and across the drive in the far north end( right) of the arcade section

Anonymous said...

Was the A&P ever an IGA? I was born in the late 60's and remember going to the grocery there and going to beermans getting toys there in thebasement and getting shoes up stairs. Does anyone have pictures of this back when Beerman's and A&P was there? Why did the grocery close? I never really knew but remember an old white haired cashier there that was so nice to me as a little kid. Beermans I figure closed because of Elder
r Beerman's Northwest. If there are pictures or anything please post or tell me where I can find them
Thanks for your help. I also remember a beauty shop and revco that were right up front by the grocery Around the arcade. Greshows grocery to. Please help me with this. Thank you and God bless you!

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