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Thread: Stores and businesses that can spur activity in downtown

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    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Stores and businesses that can spur activity in downtown

    After reading the list of typical strip mall stores, it made me wonder what stores can be a notable benefit to a downtown. We often hear “downtown needs a ....” and things such as a grocery market, pharmacy, or clothing store often come up.

    The walkable community link also had a list of business types it looked for as a quantitative measure to determine walkability of your address. But what business types truly matter to your downtown? How do you attract them into downtown and not the mall, strip mall, lifestyle center, or suburbs.
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    Two that come to mind are:

    Theater/Movies = Dinner crowds

    Bridal Niche = Dress Stores, Jewelers, Photographers, Bakeries, and Florists.
    @GigCityPlanner

  3. #3
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    My first reaction is that it really is a chicken and the egg scenario. What comes first? Do the businesses move downtown, drawing more residents? Or do the residents come first, drawing the businesses?

    Businesses locate where they do based largely on demographics, such as age and income. They aren't going to move downtown until the demographics are there. If by "activity" you mean "people living downtown", I don't think too many people choose to live downtown simply because there is a bookstore or grocery store.

    If by "activity" you just mean "more people", then you need more entertainment oriented businesses, whatever they may be.

    Perhaps you should further define what you mean by "activity".

  4. #4
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Good point...

    Activity – A reason for people to be in downtown and not some place else for any and every reason humanly possible. Can be a shopping, living, cultural, working, leaning, or other reason that acts as a draw and thus a catalyst to attract similar and opposing activities.
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    The answer is really dependent upon the downtown. I know of many downtowns that still have a relatively traditional mix of retail and service businesses. Others have gone over entirely to services. Still others have become specialty store destinations. How about the ones with large concentrations of office uses? What may be important to any of these may be very different. Anecdotally, there are always examples of the "one business that saved downtown." I would always caution against that as a strategy.
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    Cyburbian Mud Princess's avatar
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    More questions

    Are you trying to provide essential goods and services to residents downtown?

    Are you interested in capitalizing on and/or attracting tourists from outside the community?

    Doesn't it depend on what market you are trying to serve or capture?

    Tide makes a good point about clustering certain types of complementary businesses. A dress store alone may not be a great benefit to a downtown, but the right mix of businesses can have a strong impact.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian cch's avatar
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    If the downtown is hopping with daytime office workers (law firms, government, etc) there would be a need for lunch-time eateries, and perhaps other places where people could walk to get certain errands taken care of during lunch.. drug store, gift shop / greeting cards, office supplies / copy center / stationary, barbers, etc.

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    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Mud Princess View post
    Are you trying to provide essential goods and services to residents downtown?

    Are you interested in capitalizing on and/or attracting tourists from outside the community?

    Doesn't it depend on what market you are trying to serve or capture?

    Tide makes a good point about clustering certain types of complementary businesses. A dress store alone may not be a great benefit to a downtown, but the right mix of businesses can have a strong impact.
    All of the above.
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

  9. #9
    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    For something relatively quick - an entertainment or sporting venue. However, many of those venues have the plus of attracting thousands of people when in use, but are negatives when not in use - giant buildings with no pedestrian traffic in sight sucking life out of the neighborhood. I think in general, these places belong on the fringe of a walkable area.

    For continuous traffic, it's all about food and drink. Not necessarily just restaurants and bars, but also the more mundane grocery stores, wine shops, coffee shops, delis, etc. To me, this is what makes a walkable area.

  10. #10
    As a believer in the adage that retail follows rooftops, I say: housing, housing, housing, and more housing. Get the housing in place -- with a good mix of options and price points -- and retail will follow.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    Bar, restaurant, coffee shop, trendy clothes store, 1 specialty store (high end bike shop)...repeat.

    Its the model for my neighborhood, and it has worked quite well.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker View post
    As a believer in the adage that retail follows rooftops, I say: housing, housing, housing, and more housing. Get the housing in place -- with a good mix of options and price points -- and retail will follow.
    I must agree. Even in a city as vibrant, dense and wealthy as London, there are areas which were too single-use 10-20 years ago adn are now much more diverse in main use (i.e. they combine workplace/offices and residential). The gretar retail diversity (and quality) has followed in every case.
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    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    A nearby convenience store and a Dollar General type store is needed for the necessities of a pedestrian refusing to use a car all the tiime. i will pay a premium to not crank up the car.
    Last edited by mike gurnee; 21 Aug 2007 at 12:06 AM. Reason: elaborate

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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    According to a notice I recieved at my home a poultry killing and retail operation is a perfect match for an existing commercial district (even though my house is right behind it!).

    I can't believe that someone has even requested this appeal.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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    Downtown businesses

    Check out our downtown Master Plan

    http://www.gallatin-tn.gov/downloads...ter%20Plan.pdf

    I need to update the file to add the economic market study we did.

    Nonetheless, the main concept to take away from this is that the type of business is highly dependent on your individual community make up and market demand.

    Jim

  16. #16
    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker View post
    As a believer in the adage that retail follows rooftops, I say: housing, housing, housing, and more housing. Get the housing in place -- with a good mix of options and price points -- and retail will follow.
    I've got to agree with Gedunker here.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JimS View post
    Check out our downtown Master Plan

    http://www.gallatin-tn.gov/downloads...ter%20Plan.pdf

    I need to update the file to add the economic market study we did.

    Nonetheless, the main concept to take away from this is that the type of business is highly dependent on your individual community make up and market demand.

    Jim

    Very nice. Best of luck with it, looks like you'd have a terrific litle downtown if all that comes to fruition.
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Headline and article in my fair city's newspaper today:

    Main Street a hub for business growth
    http://www.courierpress.com/news/200...siness-growth/

    Downtown has changed for the better with the housing increase.
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  19. #19
    Cyburbian MDGARD01's avatar
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    a good downtown should have

    IMO good downtowns should have:
    an upscale entertainment distict with
    nice clubs, bars, live music

    barbershops/hair salons to cater to working professionals

    i dont believe in theatres downtown anymore, since most people arent't flocking to theatres in general as a whole, hollywood is not what it used to be...

    bookstores..

    daycare businesses

    i dont believe in trendy shops either, since trendy shops usually bring in looky loos but no real buyers they sometimes struggle and close up shop...

    coffee shops seem to work almost everywhere

    how about a nice outdoor public space that is wi-fi capable..
    :)

    The present is a gift

  20. #20
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Many buildings along Pacific Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz CA were damaged or destroyed by the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. What spurred the downtown's redevelopment and reconstruction was a multi-screen movie theater.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by btrage View post
    If by "activity" you mean "people living downtown", I don't think too many people choose to live downtown simply because there is a bookstore or grocery store.
    One of the reasons we were so easily convinced to move out of downtown was the lack of services including a grocery store, barber shop, hardware store and such. We lived downtown and both worked downtown, but when we needed to run errands it required a 4- to 6-mile round-trip to the strip malls along the arterials. That is the last thing one wants to do after work on a week day to grab a box of linguine. Now EVERYTHING is on our way home and the trip is only 15-minutes each way.

    I hate to say it, but to be truly competitive I think downtowns need chain stores. Successful urban shopping districts nearly always have a Gap, Banana Republic, Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Barnes and Noble, etc. A small movie theatre won't hurt either, as long as the nearby restaurants and bars are walkable from the theatre.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jmello View post
    One of the reasons we were so easily convinced to move out of downtown was the lack of services including a grocery store, barber shop, hardware store and such.
    Makes perfect sense. Now, if more people lived downtown to begin with, eventually someone would open grocery stores, etc. Yet as planners you guys realize that there are all sorts of imperfections/issues with the market solution (minimum critical mass/chicken-egg, perverse zoning/permissioning, NIMBY-ism, plain under-/mis-information on the part of retailers, most insidious: non-linear concentration /homogenization effects) so that a little “help” can make a difference

    Quote Originally posted by jmello View post
    I hate to say it, but to be truly competitive I think downtowns need chain stores. Successful urban shopping districts nearly always have a Gap, Banana Republic, Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Barnes and Noble, etc.
    Why do you “hate to say it”? Chain stores are successful for a number of reasons, but typically a big part of it id that they are stores that people like to shop in. If you compare the average chain clothing store/café/informal restaurant/whatever to the average independent; they are clearly better. Yet, too much homogeneity and people will start wondering what’s so special about location X, as opposed to the mall next to their subdivision.

    But broadly I agree, especially if the downtown has business, entertainment, civic uses that draw people in ANY CASE, then having a good amount of quality chains is a total plus AND, if properly handled, can actually benefit high-quality independents (especially if you get specific merchandise mini-districts).
    Life and death of great pattern languages

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