Purpose of short sidewalks in front of businesses
December 12, 2019 5:21 PM   Subscribe

Walking down the road in State College tonight, there was no sidewalk, but there were short and totally useless stretches of sidewalk in front of both Hilton properties I passed. Leading nowhere, not connecting anything in particular. I’ve sometimes seen this in front of other businesses too. What is the point of these little stretches?
posted by ftm to Grab Bag (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
ADA requirements meeting up with reality of what public agencies have the money and legality to enforce.

What happens is that originally, in some neighborhood or city block, there are no sidewalks, or undersized sidewalks. The agency (municipality, county, state, city, etc) has no mechanism to force landowners to build sidewalk out of the blue -- but they have things written into their code where if certain upgrades or new development occurs on a parcel, then ADA-compliant sidewalk needs to be built as well.

It's far from perfect - you get these stretches in the middle of nothing - but the idea is that over time, all the adjacent properties will go through the same thing, and so you'll eventually get your full, connected sidewalks.
posted by curious nu at 5:26 PM on December 12, 2019 [35 favorites]

My first thought was also that it could be a fire code–related precaution, and that would make sense in the context of the ADA as well. It's probably the case that the fire code and ADA requirements have changed in the area since a lot of nearby businesses were built, or maybe it's the case that Hilton and similar businesses are more cautious about the standard way they build their properties. I could see one potential use of sidewalk being to have a safe, level place for people to briefly stand (or roll), congregate, and regroup outside the building (that's not a potentially uneven lawn or dangerous street) in case of fire or other emergencies where evacuation is required.
posted by limeonaire at 5:29 PM on December 12, 2019

I’m pretty sure it’s not just ADA related, as the practice of requiring new construction to provide upgraded infrastructure goes back a long way. Sidewalks are an easy and very visible improvement for a city and since they can easily be built in segments the city can just change the building codes and wait for them to fill in. Best of all the money is coming out of developer’s pockets instead of the city budget.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:27 PM on December 12, 2019 [8 favorites]

Given that the orphan sidewalks are in front of hotels it is possible they were anticipating a lot of people being dropped off at the same time, such as for some kind of a convention. There might be a parking lot where people could be dropped off, the entrances and exits to that lot would be choke points if the hotel was busy. Often people will block all the convenient spots in front of the doors idling the engine while they wait half an hour for somebody who claimed to only intend to run inside for two minutes.

Sidewalks are also good for making the hotel's location appear more desirable. If there are no sidewalks in the picture of the hotel that you find on the internet, then you'll assume the hotel is in the sticks somewhere. If there are sidewalks you'll believe their claim that they are conveniently located. Sidewalks raise the value of the property - how can you have curb appeal if there is no curb?
posted by Jane the Brown at 7:28 PM on December 12, 2019 [4 favorites]

Also, if people are dropping off/picking up curbside for people with rolling suitcases, the benefit of sidewalk is pretty obvious.
posted by praemunire at 9:37 PM on December 12, 2019 [5 favorites]

Or they got sued for no sidewalk at one point, and made it part of their specifications because, Lawyers.
posted by theora55 at 11:52 AM on December 13, 2019

State College Municipal Code Chapter 16 H.702.B :
When Building. When any new building is to be constructed within the
Municipality, the owner of the premises shall be, and hereby is, required to construct sidewalks on all portions of the premises abutting a public street if the same have not already been constructed
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:04 PM on December 13, 2019 [6 favorites]

Eventually there will be enough new buildings to have sidewalks that are useful.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 6:17 PM on December 13, 2019

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