Originally Posted by mhays
I'd much rather live in a place where big properties are too rare and expensive, and they have to stack to go big. With a full-size store plus surface parking, it's not urban. It might be urban if you at least put the parking above/below the store. Ideally you're fitting the store onto a typical block in a tight grid, with parking below and housing or some other use above.
The massive new Loblaws at Queen and Portland in downtown Toronto is on the second floor of a new retail building (not sure if they building has any office or residential as well). The ground floor has numerous smaller retail spaces, while the second floor, I believe, is entirely the Loblaws. I didn't see any parking, but I would assume there is an underground garage accessed from the south side (the main street, Queen, is on the north side of the complex).
Here is the site from Google Streetview (from 2009):
Next time I'm going to be in that area I'll take my camera and walk around the entire periphery of the development to see if there are other uses and parking. Large supermarkets in Toronto usually have underground parking, so I would assume it has a garage.
The exterior of the store. Courtesy http://www.flickr.com/photos/canmark...n/photostream/
I believe that any store over about 20,000 or 30,000 square feet in an urban environment should be on the second floor or basement floor. Allowing that much space on the ground floor usually means very wide frontages along the sidewalk. That's wasting space that could go to multiple smaller stores. The more interesting retail streets are the ones where most of the storefronts are no more than 15 feet wide, and almost none are more than 30 feet wide. If you put the big box stores on the second floor or basement, they can be huge, but not waste large amounts of sidewalk frontage.