Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Brooklyn Chamber hosts panel discussion on "How to Save Brooklyn's Retail Corridors"

Join us on Friday, June 17th from 8:30-10:30 am for a panel hosted by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce on "How to Save Brooklyn's Retail Corridors." A diverse group of community leaders, retail consultants and brokers will be on hand to discuss why corridors in Brooklyn seem to be facing growing vacancy rates even as the borough sees incredibly strong economic growth.

Speakers include:
- Carlo A. Scissura, President & CEO, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce
- Hon. Jo Anne Simon, Assembly Member, 52nd District
- Hon. Brad Lander, Council Member, 39th District
- Larisa Ortiz, Principal, Larisa Ortiz Associates
- Tim King, Managing Partner, CPEX

For more information and to RSVP, CLICK HERE

Retailer Spotlight of the Month: Pio Pio

Pio Pio is a NYC based chain-let of Peruvian food specialized in Pollo a La Brasa (Rotisserie Chicken). With locations throughout Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx and Manhattan, Pio Pio restaurants have a modern and contemporary design, and lively atmosphere.

Price Point: Affordable

Target Market: Patrons looking for authentic Peruvian food and environment

History: First opened in 1994 in Rego Park, Queens, it has since expanded with four locations in Manhattan, three in Queens, one in Brooklyn, and one in the Bronx. Certain locations have expanded their menu beyond their hallmark rotisserie chicken & famous green sauce, rice & beans, avocado salad, plantains, and sangria to include Chinese-Peruvian stir fry, fresh fish, an array of ceviches, and fresh juice pisco cocktails.

Expansion Plans: With nine successful locations it is likely that they could expand.

Site Requirements: 2,500 square feet

Contact Info:  
84-02 Northern Blvd
Queens, NY 11372
718-803-7392 (for corporate representative dial extension 0)

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 beginning...how 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.