Thursday, May 19, 2016

Quantifying your Workforce: ESRI or Census OnTheMap?

In the world of commercial revitalization quantifying your customer population is a fundamental step to communicate the economic viability and potential of your district. However, in downtown communities in particular, residents are not the only source of market demand. The local workforce population also plays a significant role in generating retail demand.  Two of the most well-known sources of employment population data are OnTheMap (from the US Census Bureau) and ESRI, Business Analyst. In this post I would like to share some of my recent experiences using both sources, their data differences, and offer some suggestions for mitigating data inaccuracies.

 Density of workers in my neighborhood, OnTheMap
A couple of months ago I was doing a typical collection of workforce data from OnTheMap and when I shared the findings with the client she was surprised and certain that the data was overestimating the number of local workers. To have a base of comparison, I also collected data for the same trade area from ESRI Business Analyst and got numbers that were over twice as high as the ones obtained from OnTheMap. Since then, the same incident has happened with other projects: ESRI numbers have been significantly higher (sometimes over three times higher) than OnTheMap numbers.

Which one should be trusted? How can we tell which one to choose?

For starters, OnTheMap is an application from the US Census Bureau that provides an online interface for creating, viewing, printing and downloading workforce related maps and reports. The site quantifies how many potential customers/employees work near your commercial district and allows you to select your area of analysis (trade area) based on a specific address (radial), a geographic boundary (census tract, county, city, etc.) or a polygon that you create.

OnTheMap has been developed through a partnership between the U.S. Census Bureau and 50 partner states (plus the District of Columbia) through the Local Employment Dynamics (LED) partnership.  The employment data used in this application are derived from payroll tax (unemployment insurance) payment records maintained by each state. The states assign employer locations (QCEW data), while individual worker home locations are assigned by the U.S. Census Bureau using data from multiple Federal agencies. Age, earnings, and industry profiles are compiled using each state's records along with other supplemental Census Bureau source data. OnTheMap contains annual historical data from 2002 through 2014 for most participating states.

Two greats feature of this application are the Area Profile Analysis and the Inflow/Outflow Analysis. The Area Profile Analysis shows not only the total numbers of workers, their age, ethnicity, industry, and income distributions but also their density: its maps are color coded and show the density of workers, allowing you to see where the higher concentrations of workers within your district are. The Inflow/Outflow Analysis shows the ratio of workers who don’t live in your district but work there versus the number of residents who live in your district and work there or somewhere else.

A limitation of the OnTheMap application is that its data only extend to 2014. Districts experiencing significant revitalization and investment in the past couple of years might find that its data doesn’t reflect recent sizable increase in workforce. One way to mitigate that is to list the number of new commercial developments completed and in the pipeline and their square footage, which can help illustrate the scale of recent changes that may not be captured by data sets from 2014.  

Heat map of food stores  (NAICS code 445), ESRI
The other provider, ESRI Business Analyst, extracts its business data from a comprehensive list of businesses licensed from Infogroup (a commercial data provider). Their business list contains data on more than 13 million US businesses—including the business name, location, franchise code, industry classification code (both SIC and NAICS), number of employees, and sales volume— that is current as of January 2015. The most typical way of getting its workforce data is through downloading its Business Summary Report, which provides the total number of business and employees within your trade area (as well as their break-down by NAICS Codes).

According to ESRI’s Methodology Statement, in maintaining and adding to its business database, Infogroup references several sources including directory listings such as Yellow Pages and business white pages; annual  Reports 10 K and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) information; federal, state, and municipal government data; business magazines; newsletters and newspapers; and information from the US Postal Service. To ensure accurate and complete information, they (Infogroup) conduct annual telephone verifications with each business listed in the database.

As ESRI acknowledges, the quality of the local address system varies; address matching is better in urban areas that use street-level address systems than in rural areas. Also, ZIP codes from Infogroup may differ from the residential ZIP codes in the ESRI demographic databases because Infogroup includes business-only ZIP codes that are unique to particular establishments and include no residential area, which might reflect inconsistencies with the data.

In contrast with OnTheMap, ESRI data does not include density and geographic concentration of workers, nor their age, ethnicity or income distribution. The interesting feature ESRI provides is the Business and Facilities Search within its map application. The Business and Facilities Search allows you to see how many businesses there are in a particular location (i.e. your trade area) based on selected NAICS or SIC codes. Furthermore, you can download this list of businesses, which includes their number of employees and retail sales. This application is quite useful to map competitive offerings for particular business types and estimate their number of workers. The application also allows you to see the concentration of particular business types in the form of heat maps. 

Deciding which provider to use will depend on the exact information you’re trying to collect, and the location and characteristics of your district (and trade area).

Keep in mind that access to ESRI Business Analyst data requires a paid subscription. However, if your commercial district is in Massachusetts, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands (states not covered by the OnTheMap application) your only option at this moment is ESRI.

We like OntheMap because it gives you more detailed info on your workforce: it includes their geographic concentration within your district's trade area as well as their age, ethnicity, industry and income distribution. Even though its data only goes until 2014, it still provides reliable numbers that can be mitigated by collecting additional data 'on the ground' (i.e. contacting major new employers and asking their workforce numbers as well as estimating new employment based on new square footage added through recent developments). It is a great tool to help you understand your local workforce population and estimate demand.

ESRI Business Analyst is useful in other ways. It provides you with the total number of workers and allows you to see the concentration of particular types of businesses within your trade area, instead of the concentration of workers. It is a great tool to identify business nodes within your district and help you decide where particular types of businesses would be the best fit.

It is important to note that ESRI Business Analyst has many more applications and data possibilities than the ones I'm sharing here. These are just the ones we use the most and found most useful to the work we do.

Patricia Voltolini is a Senior Associate at Larisa Ortiz Associates. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Round Up: Nerd Out on Wayfinding, Art Revitalizing a Tennessee Street, Street Design, Sharing is Caring: ED Plans

I like to nerd out sometimes a lot. When I do I like to nerd out on interesting podcasts like this 99 Percent Invisible piece on wayfinding.  

Jim Harding, one of the experts in the field of wayfinding, explains how it is a field of unrecognized work and discusses one of his biggest projects in the Hartsfield Jackson International airport. This audio piece also discusses the financial impact of wayfinding - it is not just about creating a visual only system that guides people through a physical environment, it is also about the bottom line. 

Try to watch this film and not get emotional. Dare you.

Chattanooga gets a unifying mural on the former "Berlin wall" of a once vibrant community.  The video walks you through the history of the boulevard, the community and the artist, Meg Saligman, as she and her team take on the project.

Download this free Next City ebook publication about the future of street design. Currently pedestrians are demanding more from livable walkable streets - this piece provides the how and why of corridor design and improvement in response to current consumer needs.

The Metropolitan Policy Program run by the Brookings Institute developed the solutions map which features "stories, lessons, and resources for people in cities and metro areas" to advance initiatives and to build networks for economic development. 

Scott Landfried is a Business and Office Manager at Larisa Ortiz Associates. 

Let's start at the very to make sure your economic development efforts don't fall flat

Why is it that some communities fail to advance their economic development goals while others do not? A new report out from Brookings entitled "Remaking Economic Development" highlights the challenges that communities face when they try to advance economic development initiatives. And perhaps more importantly, the report identifies key strategies to avoiding the perennial problem of the “plan on the shelf”. 

Defining an economic development agenda that surpasses election cycles and individual agendas is a tall order. But is it one we cannot shy away from. Funding for economic development at all levels is waning, and successful efforts now require the cobbling together of a variety of resources that often come attached to a set of institutional or individual agendas. This means that getting everyone on the same page and pointed in the same direction is increasingly critical to successful execution. Enter the convening agency – cities, non-profits, business improvement districts, etc. - these organizations will increasingly play an outsized role in leading these efforts in partnership with the private sector. 

Perhaps the most critical step in the planning process comes at the beginning, first by engaging participants and leaders and second by providing them with market and asset information they need to come to consensus around a set of viable strategies. With this lens in mind, we share our own thoughts on these two important fundamentals - and highlight our favorite quotes from the Brookings report that reinforce the value getting started on the right foot. 

Fundamental #1: Great planning and execution begins with a "Diagnostic" - an understanding of an area’s unique "Strategic Position" and "Market Assessment"
“Undertaking transformative economic change requires developing a sense of urgency and high visibility. That starts with an economic narrative grounded in hard data and clear-sighted assessment of the region’s competitive strengths and weaknesses”
We couldn't agree more. Successful planning means taking a cold hard look at your assets and how they can serve as a viable starting point for partnerships and investments. Why is this step so critical? Because it allows for smarter decision making around the allocation of limited resources. Consider the downtown that borders a major educational institution or hospital (Pittsburgh is a great model of how "eds and meds" can play a major role in revitalization). These anchors are significant assets who are in a good position to drive investment overtime. Engaging these partners begins with understanding their needs and interests.

Brookings argues that this asset assessment is predicated on the identification of industry clusters that form a “unique foundation of regional economies”. These clusters exist because of a set of conditions in your community and region. At LOA we call these conditions the "DNA of place". By identifying your community's unique strengths, as well as competitive needs, you are in a position to understand opportunities you have to differentiate yourself in the regional marketplace. This in turn informs the kinds of improvements and policies that serve as the basis of your economic development strategies.
“economic development is most effective—and cost-effective—when it focuses on improving the shared assets that support clusters and advanced industries, rather than providing subsidies”
The Diagnostic is where you take stock of the opportunities you have to build on existing assets, identify challenges that may stand in the way, and develop a deeper understanding of market dynamics and trends that will shape your policies. When we work with communities, the outcome of the Diagnostic is a “Strategic Positioning Statement” - a clear vision that communicates a vision deeply rooted in market reality, one that identifies strengths and serves to differentiate the community from its competitors. A strategic position for a commercial district or downtown, for instance, will clearly state not only the facts on the ground, things like consumer lifestyle, price point and tenant mix, but also a clear vision of what the community would like to be. This stage is critical, because a strategic positioning statement offers a “true north” for all the economic development initiatives to follow.
“Data can dispel illusions and overcome complacency. Lack of solid data and analytic capacity can stymie regions at this initial stage. Establishing a common economic narrative brings leaders and the community together to mobilize action.”
Sometimes the information that emerges from a Diagnostic is sobering. I recently worked with a community that was working on a master plan. I came in a bit late in the process and noted that the recommendations on the table included suggestions for retail in each of the five subdistricts identified in the plan. The problem was, the entire area - a few square miles - could only support enough demand for around 60,000 sf of retail - even in the best case scenario. Scattering small retail around a very large geographic area would do little to create the business density necessary for businesses to succeed.

Fundamental #2: There is no substitute for capacity and leadership at the outset 
“Regions that create high-level steering committees composed of corporate, political, and philanthropic leaders, joined with broadly representative community partners, are better positioned to succeed—and to survive inevitable transitions in leadership. Without visible champions, such as prominent co-chairs, to reinforce the sense of urgency and centrality, even well designed plans can founder or get lost amid other initiatives.”
The absence of capacity and leadership is often what kills many an economic development initiative. Consultants may provide expert insight and direction, but without diverse leadership among public and private sector partners, and a plan of action that is reflective of their input and commitment of time and resources, the plans more often than not up sitting on the proverbial shelf.
“leaders must start with the basics: a firm grasp of both the markets and the civics required, which equally under gird this economic development framework”
Once a market understanding is in place, a diverse group of leaders must be engaged and committed to defining the goals and strategies that emerge from the Diagnostic phase. Brookings recommends that the economic development planning process offer both long-term goals and shorter-term metrics for success. In the short-term, visible success is an important in building legitimacy for the effort. Funders and partners will see those early successes and come to the table with deeper confidence in the ability to execute on the larger vision and strategies that may be more complicated and resource intensive.
“put an end to the hero economy” 
I love this quote - it might just be my favorite in the report. I have found that while a single charismatic leader is a great thing to have, it does not replace the need for meaningful partnerships and resources above and beyond what any one individual can deliver. Ideally, the Diagnostic results in a collective agreement that includes clear cut set of goals that reflect a strong, market-informed strategic position for the community, as well as a set of initiatives linked to a set of clear expectations and deliverables by all parties.

At LOA, we work hard to help communities define their assets and understand their markets. Over the years we have found that our work and findings gain traction when they are part of planning processes that engage participants in active dialogue. This is not about a consultant team telling you what to do, but rather a consultant team that advises and engages in conversation about what strategies make the most sense based on both market information as well as what partners are willing to contribute in the form of time and resources to a set of mutually agreed upon economic development outcomes. We find that when our clients lead a participatory process, we end client engagements with much more confidence  in the outcomes that will emerge from the planning effort. 

But getting started on the right foot is easier said than done. In an economic environment that is increasingly complex, one defined not by political boundaries but by industry clusters and regions, there is no short cut to defining economic development strategies with long term staying power. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Retail Spotlight of the Month: Empanada Mama

This month our retailer spotlight is Empanada Mama, a NYC based chain-let of Latin food. The menu contains more than forty flavors of empanadas (the store’s specialty) and other small offerings of arepas, tamales and larger entree dishes. With locations in Hell's Kitchen and the Lower East Side in Manhattan, Empanada Mama stores have a modern and casual vibe. The bright, industrial interior is as quirky and varied as the menu. Empanadas aside; the something-for-everyone philosophy makes this Latin patty place a distinctly American joint.

Price Point: Affordable

Target Market: Families and workers looking for authentic empanadas from scratch or a quick and fresh meal

History: Empanada Mama is a venture of Socrates Nanas, a first time restaurateur, and Javier Garcia, the owner of the Mama’s Empanadas chains in Queens. They grew up together in Jackson Heights, Queens, and decided to open the first Empanada Mama in Manhattan over ten years ago.

Expansion Plans: The store is looking for opportunities to expand locally as well as on a national scale.

Site Requirements: 1,000 - 2,000 square feet

Contact Info:   

763 9th Avenue
New York City, NY 11019
(212) 698-9008 / 646 928-2907

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

What comes after streetscape improvements? One Caribbean island tries to figure out what's next for its centuries old historic district.

Last week I had the opportunity to tour the Ciudad Colonial, or the "colonial city" of Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. The tour was led by the Inter American Development Bank (IDB), one of the leading funders of downtown revitalization throughout Latin America. I was thrilled to be back in my element. Almost twenty years ago I spent a year traveling around the world as a Watson Fellow (quite honestly the best gig I have ever had!). I puddle jumped my way through thirteen countries to study downtown revitalization as it was being practiced in Spain and former Spanish colonies. Yet despite all of my travels, this was my first visit to Santo Domingo.

The downtown is of modest size - 9,000 residents - and is about 5 km square. As one of the first Spanish colonial outposts in the New World, the city follows the Law of the Indies. These were the planning ordinances that the Spanish Crown set for its colonies. These laws were themselves modeled on Roman planning practices that were developed during the expansion of the Roman Empire in Europe.

I was thrilled to see the effort to revitalize the City Center taking shape. The effort has received significant support from the IDB and according to my guides, almost $30 million dollars has been invested in streetscape improvements intended to both beautify and make the very narrow colonial streets safer for pedestrians. The improvements were quite impressive and certainly have made an impact on the street.

But challenges remain. As the IDB team and local stakeholders look to graduate their efforts from capital and physical improvements, the road ahead can be rocky. Capital funding is generally easier to secure than the resources - both human and financial - that are often critical to keeping up the momentum.  Now that the streets are in great shape, the work of getting people there, and ensuring that the offerings of housing, hospitality, culture, retail and entertainment keep them there as either visitors, businesses or residents, is the next step. 

In thinking this through, I am reminded of the "Retail Ready" Hierarchy that we speak about at LOA quite frequently. 

"Retail Ready" Hierarchy

The first step involves "who" is going to get things done. The individuals, organizations and institutions who lead and execute the effort. The second phase involves focusing on the fundamentals, making sure the physical environment is comfortable, clean, accessible and safe. While you never really move on from Phase II - maintaining improvements over time is as important as getting them constructed int he first place - you need some of the basics in place before moving on to the advanced stages of revitalization. Phase III is about building the customer base through a variety of methods. For some communities, it can mean increasing the number of residents who form the basis of stable market demand. In a district like the Ciudad Colonial, with a 70% upper vacancy rate, repopulating the downtown is one potential strategy. These residents subsequently become a stable source of demand that support local businesses through the ups and downs of tourism. In communities whose economies are driven by tourism, there is the additional need to ensure that visitors have enough to see and do, from retail offerings, to events and activities, to make a stay worthwhile. These offerings need to be simultaneously marketed through thoughtful promotion and innovative partnerships that help attract visitors to the district - and ensure they stay as long as possible.   

Nearly 18 years ago I wrote about this strategy in Habitat Debate, a United Nations publication, in a piece entitled "Rehabilitating Historic Districts through Public-Private Partnerships" (which amazing can still be found on-line!). The premise of those findings still hold. In both Santiago, Chile and Quito, Ecuador, non-profit or public-private partnerships were first formed to improve the physical environment, attract investment and development new housing - i.e. grow the customer base - for downtown goods and services. Both efforts have had great success and have been lauded as models for other Latin American countries. These lessons have clearly made it to Santo Domingo and it will be exciting to see what happens next!

Here are a few pics from my visit...enjoy!

Thank you to my wonderful hosts! And to my son for being rather patient as him mom takes him on urban planning tours. 
A quaint residential block in the historic district
Tourists can rent bicycles for an easy ride around town. 
Paseo Conde is the main pedestrian corridor. 
Directional Signage/Maps for tourists dot the Paseo El Conde

The IDB is funding some development projects that promise to bring more people to the district.
The building clad in black scaffolding is one such project. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Roundup: "Brick & Mortar is Dead," Right Turns on Red, Local Loyalty, Grocers Disappearing Act, Neon Heaven

Brick & Mortar Is Dead

A short, graphic and infographic heavy, article regarding e-commerce's continued dominance over in-store shopping.  It introduces new terms "showrooming" and "webrooming" - I for one am guilty of showrooming. It also spotlights how brick and mortar stores are taking on new on-line connected purposes and highlights the rise of young global digital buyers.

It’s Time for U.S. Cities to Ban Right Turns on Red

Cars making right turns on red lights are becoming increasingly dangerous to pedestrians. NYC already bans RTOR and other cities are catching on to the policy to reduce unnecessary pedestrian deaths.

How Much Loyalty Do I Owe My Local Shops?

Point and counterpoint by CityLab staff regarding whether we should feel guilty for abandoning your local shop for an equivalent new one. They have good points to both sides.

Map: New York City's Disappearing Grocery Stores

Curbed NY gives you an interactive map of the growing number of NYC grocery stores that have shuttered in the last few years. These closures aare leaving some neighborhoods without an affordable option for groceries—or any option. They point out that many factors have led to these closures and a majority are in Brooklyn.

And in other news...
There’s A Neon Warehouse In London And It Is Basically Heaven
If your district could use the soft cool glow of neon, may we suggest this place.

Introducing “Retailer Spotlight of the Month”

Through our work on retail attraction we often come across a variety of chain-lets that are growing and looking for expansion opportunities. We also come across a number of commercial corridors who are retail ready and actively looking for retail prospects. Building relationships is a big part of what we do, so we thought would be a great idea to create a monthly post that profiles expanding chain-lets to provide our readers an extra resource in their retail attraction efforts.  Every month we will be featuring a new retailer, so if you have retailers expanding in your district and would like to share in our blog, let us know!

Retailer Spotlight of the Month: Caffe Bene

Caffe Bene is an international coffeehouse chain designed after European open-air cafes. In the US Caffe Bene sells a variety of hot and cold beverages (coffees, teas, smoothies and its signature Misugaru), pastries, sandwiches, and a variety of waffles and gelatos. 

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Price Point: Moderate

Target Market:  Coffee enthusiasts, families, tourists and office workers.

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History: Caffe Bene was founded in 2008 in South Korea and has rapidly expanded to other countries including the U.S. (over 100 stores), Canada (1store), China (283 stores), among others. 

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Expansion Plans: In the US Caffe Bene adopts a franchise model and is actively looking for expansion opportunities in both urban and suburban locations.

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Site Requirements: Caffe Bene adopts a flexible floor plan model which allows stores of a variety of sizes and locations, from prime Times Square real estate to convenience commercial corridors in more modest working class neighborhoods.  According to their marketing materials, their suitable locations include non-traditional sites such as airports, hospitals, convenience stores, cinemas, hotels, zoos, casinos, museums, amusement parks and sports arenas.

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Contact Info:    New York
1430 Broadway, Suite 1401 New York, NY 10018
Franchise: 800.284.8053
Office: 212.575.5484

Los Angeles
5670 Wilshire Blvd #760 Los Angeles, CA 90036
Franchise: 844.833.3500
Office: 323.933.3500