Station Park: When Transit-Oriented Development Isn’t

When the location for the Farmington FrontRunner station was chosen, the land next to it was vacant and ripe for development.  There was a lot of talk of using the land to create “transit-oriented development.”  It’s potential was even mentioned in a 2007 New York Times article.  Unfortunately, just as staying in the presidential suite at a hotel does not make you the President, building a development next to a train station does not make it transit-oriented.  I’m not exactly sure where the planning process went wrong in Farmington, but I am well-aware that what has been built there is not what the planners at UTA had envisioned.  I usually hop on FrontRunner and make a visit there once every couple months.  Walking from the station to the shops, restaurants, and theater requires traversing a vast parking lot with a high risk of being struck by a soccerparent (trying to be gender neutral) driving a minivan.  I made a visit there this afternoon and snapped a few photos.

IMAG0265Here’s a view of the Farmington FrontRunner station looking down from the station’s pedestrian bridge which crosses over the FrontRunner and Union Pacific tracks.  To the right lies Station Park.
Another shot from the pedestrian bridge.  In the foreground is UTA’s park and ride.  In the background lies the core of Station Park, which is still under construction.
What was intended to be a transit-oriented development, looks just like typical suburban sprawl.
The parking lot is vast!
They have a fleet of golf carts offering to ferry patrons across the vast parking lot.  Walkability is a key aspect of transit-oriented development, which is something that Station Park lacks.
Fortunately, there is a gem at the heart of Station Park.  A beautiful space lies at the center featuring a fountain and playground, which is ringed by the Cinemark Theatre, restaurants, and shops.  Unfortunately, the gem is surrounded by sprawling parking lots.

I can’t help but think of what Station Park could have been.  It could have been a showcase for mix-used, transit-oriented development complete with apartments, condos, and offices.  Instead, we have the typical big-box suburban retail center built next to a train station with a few extra amenities added to make the mediocrity easier to accept.  I’m disappointed that we keep letting this kind of failure occur.