Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Walmart Seeks Aggressive Growth of Smaller Stores in Urban Markets

More and more retailers are seeing sluggish US growth and beginning to tap opportunities in urban markets - markets that have previously gone underserved. Hold your breath...Walmart is now among them. (Wal-Mart to Aggressively Roll Out Smaller Stores). The national retailer seems to "scouring" urban communities looking for spaces of less than 20,000 sf - a far cry from their typical protype of around 150,000 sf. Their recent small prototype is called "Marketside" and includes a focus on fresh food. According to the article, there are now four of these prototypes and they average 15,000 square feet each. It seems Walmart isn't letting "Fresh and Easy" (a 15,000 sf grocery store developed by British-based Tesco, the third largest retailer in world) get away without a run for its money. Another Walmart prototype called "Neighborhood Market" includes a mix of food, pharmacy, beauty, etc. in about 42,000 square feet.

Watch out for more retailers trying to tap underserved urban markets. This Friday Target plans to detail it's own urban strategy...I'll be sure to keep you updated!

Great Professional Development Resources (some free!) for Commercial Revitalization Newbies

There is no single path that leads to a career in commercial district revitalization. People end up in this field from a myriad of backgrounds. As a result, practitioners may come from marketing, communications, urban planning, or law, to name a few of the more common ones. So how do we make sure that these commercial district management professionals all speak the same language and have the tools and information necessary to achieve results? One of our goals at the Commercial District Advisor is to support the creation of a nationally recognized certification in commercial district management – but we recognize that is a long term goal. In the meantime, what do you do if you are a ‘newbie’ to the field. What are the best books and articles that can help you get started? I’ve compiled a few books below (some of which are available for free on-line) as a starting point. But readers should be sure to share their own favorite books. ..

  1. LISC Commercial Markets Advisory Service, “Commercial Revitalization Planning Guide: A Toolkit for Community Based Organizations”. This is probably the best free resource out there. It is a basic “how-to” manual for practitioners based out of community development organizations. The manual includes practical step-by-step instructions and a good set of document templates for use.
  2. Fannie Mae Foundation, “Revitalizing Commerce for America’s City’s”. The author, Karl Siedman, is a professor/practitioner based at MIT. Karl is also my go-to guy on economic development policy for commercial revitalization. What I appreciate about this book is the recognition that a single framework for successful commercial district revitalization is elusive. Karl defines district revitalization efforts by four types of orientation: “development-oriented”, “retention-oriented”, “promotion-oriented” and “organization-oriented”. Knowing what kind of district you are can help you determine how to allocate resources more effectively.
  3. “Making Business Districts Work” Ed. Feehan, Feit This book is a very good summary of the set of skills and information that newbies need when they start work in this field. Feehan was the former president of the International Downtown Association. Available via and other on-line outlets.
  4. Larry Houston, "Business Improvement Districts". Larry Houston is one of the granddaddies of the field. While this book could stand some updating, it is a good basic read that withstands the test of time. Available via

These are some of my favorite, but I'd love to hear other suggestions from readers...

Friday, September 3, 2010

Larisa Ortiz named one of the "Top 50 Urban Policy Wonk Bloggers" for The Commercial District Advisor!

It's always good to get a smidge of recognition! Our editor and top blogger, Larisa Ortiz, was just named one of the Top 50 Urban Policy Wonk Bloggers by The Public Servant blog. She's in great company. The list includes other good bloggers that you should definitely check out.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

New Resource for Town-Gown Issues

I just heard about an interesting new resource for communities trying to build relationships with their local educational institutions. The International Town-Gown Association was recently started by Clemson University and looks to be a good (and hopefully growing!) resource for commercial district practitioners. The site includes information best practicies and information that looks very promising.