Thursday, September 17, 2015

Roundup: Surgeon General rare push for exercise, placemaking projects, transportation trends translating out of urban core, big box parking lot solutions for peds

Surgeon general pushes people to start walking, communities to step up

The surgeon general, Vivek Murthy, on September 9th encouraged Americans to take a walk, to combat sedentary America, but he asked communities to also step up to make neighborhoods easier and safer for foot traffic.

Photo: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

4 Cities Get $3 Million Each for Placemaking Projects

ArtPlace America granted funding to see art and culture intertwined not at the end of the project but throughout, in an effort to make art and culture the focus of community projects. "The winners include Cook Inlet Housing Authority in Anchorage, Fairmount Park Conservancy in Philadelphia, Jackson Medical Mall Foundation in Jackson, Mississippi, and Little Tokyo Service Center in Los Angeles."    More coverage here.

Will Big City Transportation Trends Translate to Small Town USA?

With the rise of transportation options in urban core America - Uber, TaskRabbit, Lyft, Seamless, etc - to deliver people, food, and services, those in the periphery are at the cusp of figuring out how to make it useful for them as well but finding few options.

Photo: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

How to Make Big Box Stores Less Terrible for Walking: 8 Expert Tips

Big Box stores are not going anywhere, especially in America, and the vast majority are not designed for the pedestrian but for the personal automobile making them a dangerous destination by foot.  This article gives guidance to the big boxes to help get their non-auto patrons safely to the door.

Photo: @fineplanner/Twitter

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Is upstairs retail the new normal?

I was struck by a Crain's piece I read today entitled "Retailers find bargain-basement prices upstairs". What they are finding is that there is increased interest in second floor space by some retailers. As certain commercial districts see rapid rent increases in the price psf of ground floor retail space, some intrepid entrepreneurs are findings second floor space more appealing - and certainly less expensive. But there are caveats. This approach does not work for everyone nor can this be replicated in every market.

That said, there are retailers who succeed in making this happen . As we like to do here at the office, we took some time to think about when and where we have seen second floor retail makes sense. In general, we have found that second floor retail works under the following circumstances.
  • By and large, impulse shopping does not drive sales for these businesses. These businesses are destination retailers. As one retailer said in the article "suits are never an impulse sale."
  • These retailers are savvy with social media. They know how to use the media and internet to drive visitation because location and visibility, the basic visitation drivers for most retailers, don't work in their favor.
  • This kind of retail works when the differential between ground floor retail price psf and upper floor psf has to be significant enough to make the upper floor sufficiently worth the trade off. That means stronger urban markets where demand for retail exceeds what can be provided by existing ground floor space. 
  • Retailers who make the leap often employ visual aids to overcome the lack of visibility. For example, one retailer in the article hung lanterns up the stairwell to "draw eyes upward." Sandwich signs, creative lighting, blade signs on the building, window decals...anything that gives a customer reason to contemplate looking up is key. A few years ago our firm did some work on a facade program in Lower Manhattan. Midtown Comics, a destination comic store located on the second floor of a building on Fulton Street, engaged the architect on the project to design great decals and bright purple awnings that were hard to miss. 
  • Being a recognizable brand with a following can help. Great service
Being on the second floor isn't for the faint of heart. It requires a heftier commitment to marketing and promotion, but some retailers and restaurateurs are finding that the payoff is worth it. 

Why should the public/non-profit sectors attend an ICSC Deal Making?

As a planner and consultant with a focus on downtown retail environments, I have always found membership in the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) of incredible value. Over the years I have used the network, training and professional development available through ICSC to gain great insight into how and why shoppers behave the way they do, and these insights have been invaluable to me in understanding how and why some downtown's function well as retail districts, and why others don't.

My understanding of the value of ICSC has only deepened as I have participated as a volunteer leader with ICSC's Alliance Program. The program is an effort to support and enhance public-private partnership, or "P3 Retail" efforts. The need for increased understanding between the public, private and non-profit sectors is indisputable. The retail real estate industry is increasingly looking towards urban sites - and those sites are frequently encumbered or more difficult to assemble. They are also often mired in political challenges, require negotiations, gap financing and incentives, not to mention permitting and approvals that demand public sector understanding of what retail needs to be successful. This is why I am such an advocate for greater public sector engagement in ICSC.

As the New York  Eastern Division Co-Chair for the ICSC Alliance Program, and as Chair of the New York Deal Making Municipalities Sub-Committee, I have been working with an amazing group of ICSC colleagues to develop more robust programming for public and non-profit sector industry professionals, beginning with the ICSC New York National Deal Making forum in December 2015. See below for a short clip on why Deal Making is what one participant calls "a prerequisite for anybody who is doing business in the retail real estate arena." I couldn't agree more with that statement.

I will also be posting information about upcoming ICSC educational webinars for public/non-profit sector professionals so please be sure to check back for more info. (Psst...if you sign up for our free newsletter on this page, you'll get a quarterly update on all things related to downtown retail in your inbox!).

Thanks all - we'll keep you posted as events get scheduled!

- Larisa