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We want more cafes, a grocery store, etc. but we don't want more people

Does anyone have any information or know where I can find details on general standards for what size population within what distance is required to support commercial developments such as a neighborhood grocery store, a family restaurant, an elementary school, etc.

I realize that there are difficulties in applying generic standards as so many local factors are influential, but any sources that we can use as a guide would be appreciated.



ULI is a good source for some of the information you are looking for. I believe the "Shopping Center Development Handbook" has standards regarding population requirments for various types and scales of commercial development. Their website is www.uli.org


We are looking for the same type of information. See the message regarding Community Standards. No one has any good answers. Working with your state may be the best bet to at least start establishing something. We (private consulting firm)are now working with our State to create standards for at least health facilities (i.e. assisted living, medical clinics, hospitals...). If you know of anything else, it would help. There are some standards for recreational needs in the Natonal Park Service as well as your State Game and Parks. You may want to check with the fire marshall regarding schools- they usually know how much square footage is needed for each child so you could use that for some projecting. Good luck! I hope you have more luck than I have.


The concept of population thresholds may be one to consider. This information is often backed out of the Census of Retail Trade or similar sources, so the numbers are not too good. It is basically a ratio of the number of people to a given class of merchant (i.e., x thousand people per grocery store). I think the University of Wisconsin - Extension, Community Economic Development, still has an example on its web site.

Some trade organizations have information on square footage per capita. Also, you can occassionally find information on specific retailers at their web sites or in trade publications.

Jerry Weitz

From Time Saver Standards for Housing and Residential Development (2nd Edition, 1995, by Joseaph DeChiara, Julius Panero, and Martin Zelnick. New York: McGraw Hill), the following thresholds exist:

Corner store: 1 per 500 persons.
Convenience grocery: 1 per 2,000.
Delicatessen and bakery: 1 per 3,000.
Drug store: 1 per 3,000.
Beauty parlor: 1 per 3,000.
Service station: 1 per 5,000.
Bank office: 1 per 5,000.
Hardware store: 1 per 5,000.
Barber shop: 1 per 5,000.
Supermarket: 1 per 10,000.

Also, a neighborhood activity might be located and sized according to the following principles:

Serve a one-half mile radius.
Support population of 2,500 to 10,000 persons.
Total square footage of 2,000-100,000 square feet of gross leasable area.
Overall purpose of providing convenience retail goods and services to surrounding areas.

Jerry Weitz, Ph.D., AICP
Planning and Development Consultant
Alpharetta, Georgia
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