In the small town of Hilo, Hawaii, the nightly hot spot (by far) is… Walmart. While most everything is closed by 11 pm on a week night, the parking lot is full at the “Fortune 1” big box. Walmart is the town’s effective community center. Is this how it has to be?
As they say, if you can’t beat ’em (and that’s tough with the largest company in the world), join ’em. The idea is that if Walmart is inevitable, then make it inevitable in the downtown. A plan shown here from one of the top retail town planners in the country shows how: Have one side of the building oriented towards a large parking lot as usual, and have the other side fronting a walking main street. This is actually done in major cities and other countries all the time. You can even incorporate a shopping mall this way.
An even more progressive trend is to have “liner stores”, which are smaller stores that front the big box to make its pedestrian-oriented side seem less overwhelming.
*ps Make sure the code says that the doors on the pedestrian side must be open, as one rather shady big box kept them locked.