Walk-Up Windows and Great Urban Places

If you can order a coffee from a window while standing on a sidewalk, you just might be in a great urban place. On a recent trip to Santiago, Chile, I walked out of our AirBnB and just up the sidewalk was a coffee shop with a window facing the sidewalk. The street happened to be Calle Jose Victorino Lastarria in the historic Barrio Lastarria district, but this great urban experience could have been just about anywhere. All you need are a street with slow vehicle traffic, a decent sidewalk, buildings with little or no setback, and a decent amount of pedestrian traffic.

But first, coffee. Barrio Lastarria, Santiago de Chile

Travel the world, and you will find coffee windows corresponding very highly with great walkable places. Among recent coffee windows I’ve seen is this one on Columbia Road in London, near the legendary flower market.

Columbia Road, London

My recent trip to Chile included a stop in Valparaiso, a city I highly recommend visiting and location of the recent Placemaking Week co-sposored by PPS. There, in a single block radius, I found not one but two coffee windows.

Valparaiso de Chile

Coffee need not be the only thing you can order from a sidewalk window. What about ice cream? The Twin Cities have a few ice cream places with walk-up windows. Dairy Queen has a few on the list, like the one on 38th Street. One of my favorite ice cream walk-up windows is Leo’s Grill and Malt Shop in wonderful, walkable Stillwater.

Leo’s in Stillwater

What about waffles? I was pleased to discover this in Salt Lake City a few years back!

Bruges Waffles, Salt Lake City

Not all walk-up windows work out. In this case, it’s a bike-up window, or a “bike-thru,” at the Dairy Queen near Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis. I think Dairy Queen wanted to build the typical automobile drive-thru, but in the approvals process was directed to build a bike-thru instead. It has never been used. Time to open it! (OK, maybe not now, but this summer.)

Open the Dairy Queen Bike-Thru Window!

So next time you see a walk-up window, remember, you just might be in a great urban place. Go ahead and buy the cup of coffee. Or ice cream. Or waffle.

(Note: an earlier version of this appeared at Joe Urban. Thanks to locals on Twitter for identifying walk-up windows in the Twin Cities!)

Sam Newberg

About Sam Newberg

Sam Newberg, a.k.a. Joe Urban, is an urbanist, real estate consultant and writer. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two kids, and his website is www.joe-urban.com.

5 thoughts on “Walk-Up Windows and Great Urban Places

  1. Matt SteeleMatt

    Ah yes that walkup window in Stillwater is great. Hope they can eliminate the turn lane and widen the sidewalk now that the highway bridge doesn’t dump on that block. https://goo.gl/maps/3JZ7Kaha7nS2

    It’s not on the sidewalk, but the Porchetteria at Terzo Wine Bar or the outdoor-facing bar at Italian Eatery come close.

    I thought I remembered a walkup coney window in Duluth, but I guess I was mistaken.

    Anyways, I could see some sort of window working near light rail stations. Imagine if the Cardinal had a window next to the 38th St station where you could get coffee and a breakfast sandwich in the morning or some late night grub.

    1. Monte Castleman

      Current plans are to completely close down Chestnut Street west of Main Street and turn it into a pedestrian mall. The Water Street crossing and maybe the connection between the parking lots will remain but will be some kind of shared-space type arrangement. The northbound right turn and southbound left turn lanes on Main Street will be removed with the Chestnut Street closure, they haven’t decided whether they want more on-street parking or wider sidewalks or some combination. There will not be a northbound left turn lane and the no left turn onto Chestnut will be removed since a traffic study showed it would not cause a problem, with the understanding the restriction could be reinstate if it does cause a problem in the future.

      1. Sam NewbergSam Newberg Post author

        Closing Chestnut Street west of Main or east of Main? East of Main would make sense in many respects. I was there last year on a very nice day, and with so many people and so little traffic on Chestnut it felt like a pedestrian mall of sorts. Formalizing that through design only makes sense.

        1. Monte Castleman

          Yes, meant to say “East of Main”. They’re also going to close down Sam Bloomer Way, the three block long route under the bridge along the river, which isn

    2. Sam NewbergSam Newberg Post author

      A window at 38th would be really cool! That first image in this post is an example of designing the interior of the coffee shop is close to the main entrance so that the back of the counter is near a sidewalk window. I suppose the only drawback is that takes up at least some window space where tables could be.

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