Monday, October 25, 2010

The Seeds of Trendy Districts

A colleague just sent me this must read piece in Crain's New York called "Musty Streets Now Hot Strips". These great images tell the story of once seedy districts that have all turned the corner towards 'cool'. Here are some of the elements that helped seed the beginning of these great commercial district turnaround stories...

Food First:
"Fashion follows food,” says Faith Hope Consolo, chairman of Prudential Douglas Elliman's retail leasing and sales division. “These are the [two] that add the sparkle that creates the buzz and excitement.”

Cheap Rent: 
In almost every case, these districts saw a confluence of low rents and landlords willing to make deals. Low rents allow small business owners to take risks they otherwise would be unable to take in other locations. The challenge is often how to maintain affordable rents once the area has become a hot destination.

Proximity to a Cultural Draw:
In more than one case, the proximity to cultural institutions and events helped ensure steady traffic among potential patrons. When entrepreneurs see growing demand for complimentary goods and services, low rent allows them to pounce.

A Growing Residential Population:
A growing residential population is not only a source of customers, but in some cases a source of local entrepreneurs as well.

Merchants Giving Back and Building Loyalty:
A local merchant community that is connected to the local residential community is also a good sign (in one case, local merchants helped put together a fundraiser for a local school). This helps to reinforce customer loyalty and suggests that excellent customer service is an expectation, not an afterthought.

Resources: The CDA Facebook page is a great resource for images of commercial districts from around the nation. Check out the album for Fort Greene, Brooklyn, one of the districts covered in the Crain's article. Consider sharing pics of your own district!

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