This years annual conference of the International Downtown Association promises to be a good one. The energy is palpable - and it is always connect with old friends and make new ones. We will be sharing insights and tweeting throughout the conference, so be sure to follow us on twitter! @cdadvisor #IDASF
I was particularly excited to co-present a session sponsored by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) with David Greensfelder, of Greensfelder Commercial Realty. His firm is the preferred developer for CVS in the SF region and he was chock full of great insight into what drives the decision making of commodities retailers like grocery stores and drug stores. I really enjoyed seeing what goes on "inside the box" of these retailers, most of whom use sophisticated, data driven retail site selection strategies. I did not know, for example, that CVS site maps the incidence of AIDS cases in neighborhoods to determine the strength of a particular SF site. From a business perspective, this makes sense because it is one strong indicator of market potential.
Another major take away was the role that even minor inconveniences play in site selection. I have always known that coffee shops like to be on the "inbound" side of the street for instance. That is the side of the street that accommodates the traffic (automobile, pedestrian or otherwise) of people who are going to work. David mentioned again and again and again the importance of accessibility and convenience. He had us close our eyes and imagine sitting behind the wheel of a car that is low on gas. Do we make a left hand turn across two lanes of traffic on the way to work (and keep in mind we are already running late), or do we keep on driving on fumes to find a gas station on the right side of the street? Nearly everyone, myself included, indicated they would keep driving on fumes. The power of accessibility and convenience is a powerful message that those of us in the public sector - if we can create a district that is easy to get into and out of, easy to find through wayfinding and signage, easy and comfortable to get to not just by driving, but by biking and walking, we have helped create the conditions for successful retail, and made our districts a little more attractive to the retailers looking for good locations.
With that, I'm off to the IDA Board Meeting! I look forward to the rest of the conference and to sharing more of our insights from sessions!