That’s the goal of neighborhood architect Eddie Maestri’s vision for the Lakewood Shopping Center.

Neighborhood architect Eddie Maestri’s brainstorms about what Lakewood Shopping Center could be include better pedestrian connections across Gaston and centralized parking so that concrete gives way to public space.

Neighborhood architect Eddie Maestri’s brainstorms about what Lakewood Shopping Center could be include better pedestrian connections across Gaston and centralized parking so that concrete gives way to public space.

Maestri lives in Lakewood Hills and is known around our neighborhood for designing new and remodeled homes that regularly wind up on the home tour circuits. Right after college, however, he cut his teeth with architecture firm RKTL, working with other architects and planners on projects such as The Domain in Austin. Its “park-like setting” mixes high-end retail stores, restaurants, hotels, residences and even a “great lawn” with play areas and a regular entertainment schedule. It was designed for pedestrians.

Inspiration for The Domain came from Las Ramblas in Barcelona, a boulevard cutting through the city center where pedestrians don’t have to compete with cars. RTKL also pulled ideas from Lincoln Road in Miami, designed in the ’80s and also inspired by Las Ramblas.

What’s to stop Lakewood from having something like this, Maestri wonders?

“It’s all about connections, how you perceive the space,” Maestri says.

  • He would start by centralizing parking in a few places. The first is the lot between Abrams Road and the U-shape of businesses in eastern section of the center owned by Lincoln Property Co. This is the most logical place to add a parking structure, Maestri believes, because it’s already next to a thoroughfare and because so many of the shops and restaurants have entrances on both sides.
  • The next structure would be multi-use, similar to West Village’s interior parking structure. Maestri suggests a new multi-family complex on the west side of Paulus would be a fitting replacement for the underutilized parking lots and old office building there. The new building could wrap a parking structure that tenants would use, and so could shopping center customers.
  • Another new structure could be built on the current Jack in the Box site, wrapped with retail space on the bottom floor. Maestri believes this would connect the shopping center to neighborhoods on the west. “Right now, the Lakewood Shopping Center is turning its back on Junius Heights and Swiss Avenue. There’s a vast nothingness in between,” Maestri says. It could be more cohesive, he says, so that “people are more likely to park somewhere else and walk.” He thinks another obstacle between the neighborhoods and the shopping center is the aging Faulkner tower, which is a prime opportunity for a boutique hotel, he says.
  • The goal of the structures would be to get rid of parking lots along the old Abrams road (now Abrams Parkway) and turn it into public space unencumbered by cars. Restaurants could add patios for outdoor seating. Shops would be free to host sidewalk sales and events. “It’s better for businesses,” Maestri argues. “You think about the NorthPark lawn, Klyde Warren Park. It makes it more of a destination. People are more likely to linger.” The purple shape close to Gaston could be an ideal spot for live music and art shows, “similar to what they have at Klyde Warren,” he says. The red shape close to Faulkner Cleaners would complement that unique building and could be anything, he says — perhaps a walk-up restaurant or a T-shirt shop. He imagines the circle drive around Faulkner Cleaners as a great spot for a valet stand.
  • Maestri wants to connect the shopping center south of Gaston with the existing tree-lined plaza outside of Lakewood Towers to the north. The bottom floor of that building would be an ideal space for restaurants and retailers, he argues, and the circular plaza is a natural patio space.  He would use traffic calming measures and landscape techniques to encourage pedestrians from one side of Gaston to the other. “Part of the issue is what you’re walking past and what you’re walking through,” Maestri says. “If you just did a little bit of beautification on this street, it wouldn’t feel like you’re walking that far. If it’s safe and it’s pretty and it’s an experience, people don’t mind it.” Along Gaston, he would replace a few parking spots with trees, so that “even though the street is the same size, it makes the driver slow down a bit, makes it a place rather than something you zoom through.” To help pedestrians cross at La Vista and Abrams Parkway, he would add swaths of a different pavement pattern, such as brick, to “identify the intersection and make it something you pay attention to.” Similar techniques were used on Lowest Greenville, he points out, where “changing the streetscape changed everything.”
  • Maestri also wants make the shops that stretch between the Lakewood Theater and Starbucks permeable for pedestrians from one side to the other. A gate on the back side of Mi Cocina would allow patrons to access the restaurant and nearby retail from either side, he says. He also would add three tiny, 10-foot by 10-foot shops behind the theater, similar to the incubator shops in the “town square” in Seaside, Fla. “It would be something that changes out and gets people moving through,” Maestri says. “Lakewoodstock has been such a success. If you build on that, it could be more of a long-term, full-time experience. It goes with that ‘Keep East Dallas Funky’ kind of vibe.”

No single vision to overhaul the center would be unilaterally embraced in East Dallas, Maestri realizes.

“It provokes questions, but it’s a conversation to think about,” he says. What’s most important, he believes, is to create a pedestrian environment that connects the different sections to each other and to the neighborhoods. If that happens, he says, “it really does create a little downtown.”

See all stories for Dreams and reality: Lakewood Shopping Center

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