Is There a Way to Make the New Lowe’s Less Ugly?

I’ll start with a confession: I am not, and have never been a hater when it comes to the new Lowe’s on Bayshore Boulevard. The old Goodman’s was an eyesore, I always disliked driving to the ‘burbs just to buy a few things from a big-box hardware store, I still visit Cole Hardware whenever possible, and Bayshore itself is an ideal location to accommodate this kind of commercial roadside architecture. So bring it, I said back in the planning days.

And for the most part, I still think Lowe’s is a good use for that patch of land. Yet it must also be noted that the portion of the store that faces Bernalwood’s gateway intersection at Cortland is a complete disaster — a blank wall of stucco soullessness doesn’t even attempt to engage the flow of the surrounding streetscape. Total. Design. Fail.

Sure, it photographs well if you want to capture an image that typifies the bland impersonality and brutal aloofness of American big-box architecture. (See Exhibit A, above) But otherwise, it’s pretty heinous — even if the store itself is a net positive.

Yet now that the building is up and what’s done is done, is there any way the Cortland-facing portion of the Lowe’s structure can be redeemed and de-uglified in a neighborly sort of way?

UPDATE: 11 March, 2011

Reader Waldo has come up with an excellent proposal for the wall in question:

Photo: top, Telstar Logistics

32 thoughts on “Is There a Way to Make the New Lowe’s Less Ugly?

  1. They should commission a mural from a local artist.

    That would look great walking down Cortland. As soon as you make your way under the overpass — boom! A big, beautiful, colorful mural capturing the rich history of our neighborhood.

  2. UGLEE. Paint the building various bright colors; have the Precita Eyes muralists do some suitable murals for the building. Why is it “big box” stores are required to be so ugly? The huge parking lots in these places are bad enough. How about a “living roof” with a community garden on it?

  3. Mural seems like the absolute best way to go!

    When Goodmans was open, that intersection and stretch of street looked fine…because it is Bayshore blvd, never was anything more than a commercial/industrial corridor.

  4. I’ve been thinking that wall is perfect for a scenic mural like ones found throughout Disney’s California Adventure park.

    BTW, the light’s green. Go!

  5. Murals would be a nice start, but they don’t really address the heart of the problem: it’s an entire block of opaque wall. Minimally, they need windows, ideally ones that let you see into the store and back out. Glass on the doors. More doors. Make it a space that people use.

    If I’m really dreaming, I’d say carve out a bunch of 11×12 spaces behind that wall and rent them out as street-facing retail businesses. Dunno if that would be at all feasible with how the store is laid out internally, and god knows I don’t blame Lowes for not wanting to deal with the bureaucratic nightmare that such a plan would entail.

  6. The kicker is they can’t even grow the bamboo on the left side. (Who can’t grow bamboo? It’s practically a weed.) It’s turning brown and dying. A great advertisement for their garden center inside.

  7. The intersection is the logical place for a defining entryway to the building, but that was a Home Depot proposal rejected in the planning process because of either neighborhood or planning dept. concerns that aligning the entry to Cortland would encourage traffic on that street. So the entry was moved northward, and we have this soul-killing wall.

    I”m a big fan of trompe l’oeil murals, so I”m all for going that route. Perhaps an assemblage of San Francisco characters cavorting around their windows like the past and present leading lights of Lyon, France in this famous mural?

    Or as it might have looked in the post 1906 earthquake era?

  8. ya, blow it up and plant a garden

    you are seriously lazy, there is a lowes in san francicso less than 10 miles away, it is a straight shot, 10 minute drive.

    talk about bad city governance, the site was originally granted to home deepots, and after they pulled out, the city gave the city permits to lowes. many people in the neighborhood did not want this store, i will admit that the traffic was not as bad as i expected, but there is something that could have been done (and some things proposed by a group around the cole hardware folks) that could have made a much better and more creative use of that space.

    as it stands right now, that store will just be a place people come to get their specific goods, and leave. i dont think there is any aspect of that place that improves the neighborhood overall


    • I agree with everything said above, although I do find Lowe’s somewhat less offensive than Home Depot. Maybe that’s just because I didn’t grow up in suburban hell with Lowe’s so I have less built-in resentment towards it.

      I have never ever once needed to set foot inside a big box hardware store since moving to the Bay Area, despite the fact that I’ve done a lot of home and garden improvements and projects. I used to work at Cole Hardware and go there for plants and the like. I now get everything hardware-y I need from Center Hardware in Potrero Hill. In Daly City, seriously close by, there’s a Lowe’s, a Home Depot, and an OSH. (The latter of which at least is a Bay Area-based chain–and I feel like they’re too small to count as big box. Could be wrong.)

      The other thing is, whatever you think about the old building there being a eyesore (I thought it was cool), this new Lowes is going to drive a lot of small, independent businesses in that neighborhood out of business, which will create even more vacant eyesores. Nearly everything around there is a lumber/household fixtures/etc. store.

      While I’m a big fan of this blog and don’t mean to be disrespectful, has the author of this blog entry ever seen a Lowes that DIDN’T look like shit? ‘Cause I kind of feel like my overall reaction to this entry is “Duh! What did you expect?”

      • I really love the discussion this has generated, most of all the disagreements. I knew my position on this was not likely to be popular.

        You’re right, virtually all Lowe’s look like poop. In this particular location — Bayshore — I don’t think that’s such a great offense, given that a) it’s been an automobile-oriented commercial area since the 1920s and b) this is a pretty good location for that kind of building type and c) I grew up in New Jersey so this particular kind of architectural poop on this particular kind of commercial strip feels familiar.

        Really, my only gripe is with the wall facing Cortland, because it’s such a glaring missed opportunity.

  9. I don’t much care how ugly it is–San Francisco needed this kind of retail and this was/is the perfect place to put it. Every city needs a place for its less scenic but nevertheless necessary parts and Bayshore is one such place for SF. I’m afraid “the neighborhood” (if such exists) just needed to take one for the team in this case.

    That said, maybe a “living wall” (there’s that vine that graces the flat concrete around the state office building at MacAllister and Van Ness and seems to be able to grow anywhere on flat vertical surfaces)? Or a mural.

      • Ya, seriously, in what way does sf need lowes? Things were just fine before that store was opened

      • Agreed. I mean, I did miss Goodman’s, it was a great, local business that was doing just fine before their ownership battle (if I recall), but even after it was gone, I was able to fill 99% of my hardware needs at Cole’s. And, on the rare occasion when I needed something that Cole’s didn’t have? It’s a 10 minute drive to the south / daly city Lowes or Home Despot. Big woop.

      • I don’t often this kind of retail, but when I do, I really do. Like, when I was remodeling my house. Or doing a project that requires a lot of specific components + building materials. Or when I need something weird, like recently, when I wanted some 1″ plastic pipe to make a frame that would be used to hold a banner. I’ve found myself in SSF or Colma often enough over the years that it seemed silly and wasteful to me that I had to go down there to get what I need.

      • tax revenue?

        I have actually heard people talking on the street about going to Lowes as an errand on their list of things for the weekend.

        Also, with the increase in construction in our local neighborhoods (homes were cheaper back *then* and now families are fixing them up) it’s convenient for contractors to stop there for the smaller things. This is what contractors have told me.

        I think the coca cola sign is genius. :O

  10. Looks aside, the wall speaks volumes. It says, No pedestrians wanted! Lowe’s might as well hire people to throw flower pots off the roof at anyone daring to walk down that sidewalk. The fact that a traffic signal has been installed to facilitate driving into and out of the parking lot on a stretch of Bayshore where humans “can’t get there from here” shows who’s boss. It ain’t people!

  11. When I saw this post, I knew there would be more than one comment promoting the idea of a Precita Eyes mural. And, I have to say, 8 years ago when I first had interaction with the group, I would have agreed. It seems lately, though, like the program is just handing a paintbrush to a bunch of unsupervised kids and letting them have at it. (I say this from a quality-of-output standpoint, not whether there are adults keeping the children in check.) In other words, the murals I’ve seen of late have been more of an eyesore than just a good ol’ wall. Or maybe at a certain point a mural on every corner is just too much…

    Or maybe I’ve just crossed some curmudgeon threshold.

  12. How about painting some looney-tune’s gag joke like the road continues through a big tunnel. That’d be something, barreling down the backside of Cortland St……… WTF?

  13. It’s not only that its silly and wasteful to go to South SF or Serramonte to get the big box items I sometimes need, but then the sales tax is going to those communities, and I’d really rather my sales tax money (and all the other SF’ers who shop there) stay here.

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