I saw this post from The Better Block on my daily newspaper, The Walkable Times (subscribe if you don't already). David Sucher, the author of City Comforts (order the book here), includes a chapter in his book in which he provides three simple rules for building a walkable neighborhood. They include:
1. Build to the sidewalk. We've seen this approach incorporated into recent developments here in Atlanta, and the effect is profound on the feel of the area from the pedestrian standpoint. For example, in Buckhead the recently constructed buildings have been built to the sidewalk (required by the City), as opposed to the '80s and '90s era developments which are set back from the sidewalk, resulting in a "dead zone" between sidewalk and building. The difference is obvious.
2. Make the building front permeable. Basically, this means don't build blank walls along sidewalks which damage the pedestrian experience. This seems like common sense, but unfortunately, it happens. Just a little thought put into the pedestrian experience while planning will easily alleviate this.
3. Prohibit parking lots in front of the building. Again, this is a no-brainer but is often violated. The old suburban retail concept of a large sea of black asphalt in front of a power center does not work for the pedestrian. Parking behind buildings can be, and is, successful. The GIF in the article which demonstrates the difference is pretty cool.
You can read the chapter from David's book here. I hope more planning departments and developers take his three concepts to heart.