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Thread: Regulating commercial mix

  1. #1
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    Regulating commercial mix

    How many restaurants are too many restaurants? I have a BID client who is concerned that there are too many restaurants and other eating establishments in the district. The commercial strip is located in a residential neighborhood with few local employers except the retailers along the strip.

    Have any of you heard of zoning codes that regulate the number of eating establishments along a commercial strip?

    Any ideas on how to determine how many are too many? Initial comparisons of local disposable income and number of eating establishments seem to indicate that there is not enough local cash to keep all these place going. However, they seem to be full all the time!

    Thanks

  2. #2
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    I have an ongoing task of tracking the sales for all the restaurants in our downtown (about 50 acres in size). This study is to elicit trends and watch out for segment saturation.

    The only way our zoning code could get at 'limiting' the restaurant market is that all restaurants are special uses and therefore require extra review by the elected officials.

    Within that review we have the petitioner provide a market study analyzing the current market for their segment.

    But in general, is would be very hard to explicitly manage the restuarant market through a zoning code. There are too many intangibles in the restaurant market.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    I would think that the market would control the number of Restraunts. For example, a traditional downtown surounded bu suburban infill could hold an infinite number of restraunts, as could a downtown of a major city. These would have little relationship to the number of folks who live within the city boundaries and more to do with the ability of that municipality to attract people.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    In "The death and life of great american cities", Jane Jacobs noted that if a popular area for restaurants becomes nothing but restaurants, that is a problem and it "kills" the area. (She similarly noted that having a bank on the corner that was "the 100% spot" would promptly stop being "the 100% spot" if the other 3 corners became occupied by banks trying to achieve the same thing.) So you might look up some of that info for some general rule of thumb type ideas, if it hasn't occured to you already.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    I'd be wary of a local government micromanaging restaurants to that extent. Don't restaurant rows always seem like a saturation of restaurants?

  6. #6
    I tend to believe that the market will dictate whether a street/strip will be, or should be, all restaurants. If that area provides a competitive advantage to restauranteurs, then who are you to come in and say "no"?? If it is too many, eventually some will go out of business, and you will be at, or approaching, some sort of equilibrium. If 100% saturation is where it wants to be, isn't that better than trying to force other types of businesses in there, and ending up with vacancies, damaging the area for those that did manage to stay?

    Now, there SHOULD be limits on the number of cheque cashing places / liquor stores in an area, but that's the topic of another discussion

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    The market is going to dictate this, not planners or ordinances. Plain and simple.

    Sure you can require a market study--but they can be sort of proprietary in the industry. I think you practically have to have some faith on the marketplace.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Jess's avatar
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    In our case, regulation for commercial use is balancing the number of stores offering the same goods. Previous experiences tell us that each household spent around 30% of net disposable cash to foods. If a restaurant is contained within the neighborhood, MANY is MANY if ratio is 1 restaurant for 1 household. Competition will be tight that only those who offer best foods and good services at competitive price will survive. Take it from entrepreneur's point of view.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    INTERESTING QUESTION.

    The high (main) street where I live has undergone significant changes over the years.
    Regular as clockwork, you hear people talking about how "The high street has too many ________(fill in the blank)".

    The market seems to, eventually, take care of that.

    Also, bear in mind the cluster effect. Many people who go out may seek a 'destination' area with several/many restuarants to choose from. It's not unusual for furniture stores or shoe shops to also cluster. This is a strength and should not be fought, IMHO.
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  10. #10
    Quote Originally posted by Michele Zone View post
    In "The death and life of great american cities", Jane Jacobs noted that if a popular area for restaurants becomes nothing but restaurants, that is a problem and it "kills" the area. (She similarly noted that having a bank on the corner that was "the 100% spot" would promptly stop being "the 100% spot" if the other 3 corners became occupied by banks trying to achieve the same thing.) So you might look up some of that info for some general rule of thumb type ideas, if it hasn't occured to you already.
    You need to ask what exactly is driving the restaurant business in that location, and how to protect it. A restaurant district is not a form of urban blight, it is an opportunity. It can draw in commercial activity from the entire region. If you have one, you should be nurturing it.

    Don't make the old Yogi Bera mistake to say that nobody goes there anymore because it's always full.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian SideshowBob's avatar
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    I've been told that Madison, WI is looking into limiting its # of bars. It was in the Minneapolis Star Tribune a few weeks ago.
    Fighting congestion by widening roads is like fighting obesity by buying larger clothes.

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