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Thread: Promoting small retail store size

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    Promoting small retail store size

    Are there examples of city using zoning to promote the building of smaller retail spaces which in theory would allow for independent businesses. I know there are retail size limits but I was looking for ways to incentives small retail store size rather then force it.

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    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by pcosta4 View post
    Are there examples of city using zoning to promote the building of smaller retail spaces which in theory would allow for independent businesses. I know there are retail size limits but I was looking for ways to incentives small retail store size rather then force it.
    You can place a maximum square footage on retail space. That is no guarantee you will get small businesses, though, especially in this economy.
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    Cyburbian ssc's avatar
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    I would look outside zoning. I've seen some success in places that make their community business-friendly. Some thoughts:
    - Make it easy for businesses to understand the regulatory process and help them through permitting - maybe a series of brochures or a new business manual?
    - Encourage a businesses organization
    - "Brand" and promote the business district
    - Consider low-interest loans, small grants, etc. to assist with facade improvement or even with business start-up
    - Review zoning to make sure there isn't anything hidden in there that discourages small businesses. Are parking requirements too strict? Are application fees too high? Site plan submission requirements too onerous? etc. etc. etc.
    Good luck!

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    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    The size of the space is really not a factor. The issue is the cost of rent. Rent is a factor of location and development costs. New buildings will often cost more, resulting in rents that are several times the cost of older space.
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    Has anyone seen studies or heard about the negative impacts of limiting store sizes in an area?

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    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    I would disagree with Cardinal that its primarily about cost/sf. Certainly, cost is a factor and it is one attractive aspect of smaller spaces (cost to enter the market becomes within the reach of more businesses). But the kind of businesses are also a key factor as is the clustering of numerous spaces in one area. There are many types of businesses that are successful primarily in the context of other spaces/enterprises within a business district. Stick that same business (say, a coffee shop) out on a big box locale with miles of parking and they are not likely to do very well, even if the rent is the same.

    I actually think that small retail in this market is likely to be more successful or at the least, attract a more entrepreneurial, small scale business clientele. There is an older streetcar suburb (now part of the City) in my city that saw a tremendous resurgence beginning in the 1980s. Now the area is HOPPING. A large part of its success was built on these older, smaller, more affordable and conglomerated retail spaces. Pedestrian-friendly, eclectic and human-scaled, it provided affordable ways to enter the market and a collective identity that helped buoy many of the businesses that would have struggled off on their own. It’s a very divers mix of businesses, some of which are more “boutique” and some of which are not (dry cleaners, restaurants, food coop, coffee shops, clothing stores, small theater)

    Interestingly, this same area has seen some bizarre expansions in the last few years as these smaller businesses became successful and outgrew their spaces. But they value the location so much that rather than moving, they have simply supersized. There are several places that have built larger spaces on their current site or elsewhere in the district. Personally, I find it a little overwhelming, but again, I think the success of the area is in no small part related to the modest spaces available at the time of resurgence both because of cost and the “economy of proximity” as businesses compliment one another and together draw a larger crowd.

    You might want to factor in the possibility of future size expansion if you pursue a maximum size zoning approach. Do you want successful businesses to have to leave if they grow, or stay in the area? If you want them to stay, you should anticipate the possibility of expansion and larger spaces. This can still be done in a way that preserves the image of smaller spaces by maintaining exteriors that imply a smaller storefront appearance, while allowing interior expansion.
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    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I should not have implied that the cost to lease space is the only factor. Wahday is right in that there are many other conditions related to the site, space, business mix, traffic, residential patterns, etc., which go into making a successful district comprised of largely local and independent businesses. The cost of space is one such factor. Regardless of the size of space, you will find that the national chains are better able to afford the higher costs of new space. This is a problem of redevelopment. In tearing down the older buildings we may get a newer structure that may be nicer, may offer additional residential units, and will have a greater value. On the other hand, the independent businesses who previously occupied the site may be forced out to attract the likes of Jamba Juice and Coldwater Creek. Simply limiting floor area will not be enough to keep the district from becoming a mirror image of a mall.
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    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal View post
    Simply limiting floor area will not be enough to keep the district from becoming a mirror image of a mall.
    This is a key point to consider when making a "walkable neighborhood". You still are going to get the chains coming in, and maybe if you are lucky you can get a couple local eateries and other standard local businesses. Your design standards must go along with the sf/FAR whatever is implemented.
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  9. #9
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    I find that small store size results in very limited selections.

    However, with the economy and the internet (requiring no space, having far more selections than local stores, and considering local/state tax savings) taking more of a role in purchasing items that are normally sold in stores, large expensive foot print stores may be declining anyway.

    We recently found that a new large national grocery store (in addition to a wonderful selection - expecially exotic fresh fruits and vegatables - even sushi and a deli) had enough space to put in a breakfast bar with interior eating gallery in a separate "room" next to its bakery, connected to an exterior terrace, and it also had a separate interior lounge chair area in a reading section!

    No, we don't walk there (too much to carry home especially on hot or rainy or cold days), but we are gradually developing a bikeway system that will be separate from vehicle traffic.

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