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Remember Wednesday's guess-the-anonymous-suburb contest? I'm very impressed: You all knew the right region -- the northeast United States. (Was it the Ames sign? The trees? The first comment suggesting that this was a place "north of the city"?)

Runner-up prizes consisting of official "Street Cred" go to Bill and Karla (your first attempt was closer!) for guessing the Albany area. The winner is: Matt Law, for his guess of Queensbury, N.Y.

In fact, the strip mall in question was located in ... drumroll ... Plattsburgh, N.Y., on the shore of beautiful Lake Champlain and not far from the Quebec border.

honkucover2.jpgMatt, you win a free copy of Honku: The Zen Antidote to Road Rage, generously donated by Aaron Naparstek. E-mail us to claim your prize.

The Times has been running stories recently about the exodus of young people and people in general from upstate New York. Do you think one of the reasons could be the poor built environment up there? Over on the east bank of Lake Champlain, in Vermont, the amount of crap sprawl like this was noticeably lower, and Vermont's economy seems to be more healthy. City and town centers in Vermont (we visited Burlington and Montpelier and a number of small towns) seemed vibrant, with lots of people out walking, shopping, strolling, talking, and enjoying the beautiful weather in town. There is hope for Plattsburgh though. Its downtown seemed relatively active, and two new hotels are being built there, within a short walking distance from the Amtrak station. (But they're not built yet, so we had to rent a car and stay in a lifeless motel over by the Interstate.)

As huge and hideous as this plaza was, it wasn't huge and hideous enough. Ames went out of business in 2002 as Wal-Mart has been moving into the region with bigger stores. Rather than buy this empty store with plenty of already-built parking, Wal-Mart opened a new store and parking lot down the street at 25 Consumer Square (I'm not making that up) in 2004. So now the abandoned Ames and parking lot sit empty while formerly unbuilt land has been transformed into a carbon copy of the same thing.

A good piece called How to Fight Superstore Sprawl, was put out by the Sustainability Institute, which is located in Vermont.

What a coincidence.

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