Thursday, October 27, 2016

New York City Department of Small Business Services issues Commercial District Needs Assessments

We are thrilled to share the release of the City of New York's Commercial District Needs Assessments (CDNA's). These six neighborhood assessments set a tremendously high bar for the kind of information that government entities can collect and share on behalf of local communities. The assessments give neighborhoods a powerful tool that they can use to encourage investment and advocate for the improvements they want and need. They allow neighborhoods to communicate not only strengths, but also make clear the kinds of enhancements that are needed to improve quality of life and business opportunities for both residents and businesses alike.

Our connection to this project is quite personal. Over a year ago, the New York office of the Local Initiative Support Corporation provided funding for our firm, Larisa Ortiz Associates, to develop the framework for what eventually became the CDNA approach. In coming months we will be working with LISC  to turn the methodology in a practical 'how to' manual so that other communities can benefit from - and perhaps even replicate - the approach.

Our philosophy has always been that communities - particularly underserved urban communities - cannot and should not be understood by market data alone. The syndicated data that is available is often inaccurate. So when retailers or investors use it to understand urban markets they are often misled to believe there is limited opportunity for new business. To combat that perception we have developed an approach, honed over many years, that considers four key areas of inquiry as follows:

  • Business environment - in particular locations of high retail density, as well as the quality and type of retail offerings
  • Physical environment - including the conditions of the public realm (i.e. streets, sidewalks, and public spaces) and the private realm (buildings, and privately owned assets) as well as the degree to which the corridor is easily accessible the the resident and non-resident customer base
  • Market and demographic data - not just for residents, but also for non-residents, including employees and visitors to the community who may alter the customer profile
  • Adminstrative capacity - which reflects the organizations, institutions and local leaders whose engagement is critical to the success of commercial revitlaizaiton efforts. 
This approach results in a much more comprehensive profile of opportunities and needs - and helps put communities behind the steering wheel when it comes to advocating for the investments that they want and need. We couldn't be more excited to share this with the field. Congrats to the amazing team at SBS for the hard work that went into creating these wonderful tools!

To download the assessments and to find out more about the great work that the Department of Small Business Services is doing click here

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Round Up: Streets That Define America, Barcelona's Superblocks, Detroit's Food Incubators, Illuminating Blight

This Curbed article gives perspective to different characterizations a street can embody. Referring to their work Curbed says, "Four factors emerged as the dominant forces shaping our cities: Regeneration fueled by small businesses, new development and the changes that follow, alternative transportation options, and rich, if burdensome, cultural legacies."

Beautiful graphics, images, videos and storytelling in this piece!

What New York Can Learn From Barcelona’s ‘Superblocks’
Unlike New York's attempt to carve out public plazas in busy pedestrian corridors, Barcelona's plan to create "superblocks represents a more radical approach that fundamentally challenges the notion that streets even belong to cars."

FoodLab Detroit Is Baking Equity Into Detroit's Food Scene
Detroit has a growing food scene. Through funding and awareness, FoodLab Detroit created Detroit Kitchen Connect, "a network of shared kitchens in community centers and churches that double as incubator space" and "also provides low-income entrepreneurs of color access to the organization’s social and financial capital."

Illuminating Blight in Upstate New York
A temporary art installation in the three Capital Region cities calls for a solution to vacancy and abandonment by illuminating 100's of abandoned buildings to cast light on the topic of blight. "Breathing Lights" is funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Challenge and hopes to draw "attention to the widespread issue of blight and calling for a tangible path to revitalization."

Retailer Spotlight of the Month: Warby Parker

Warby Parker is a socially-conscious business that offers trendy designer eye wear at affordable prices. The business began online before opening its first brick-and-mortar store in New York City's SoHo neighborhood in 2013. Similar to TOMS Shoe,Warby Parker practices a one-for-one social model by distributing eyeglasses to those in need through non-profit, VisionSpring. Warby Parker stores not only offer non-prescription glasses to be sold right away, but also include an in-house optometrist and store pick-up services. Stores have bright, open layouts with floor to ceiling displays and is artfully decorated with mid-century furniture and mono-hued books, mimicking the interiors of an old library. 

Price Point
Moderate, most products cost less than $100

Target Market
High potential customers tend to be 'millenials', or men and women aged 22 to 35, who are educated, sophisticated, and tech-savvy. According to co-founder, Dave Gilboa, “These customers love discovering new brands and styles but also want to make smart choices”. Warby Parker’s appeal lies in its clean, beautifully-designed products, stores, and signage.

Warby Parker was first an online retailer that provided an alternative to artificially high prices of eye wear. By ‘circumventing traditional channels and designing glasses in-house’, Warby Parker has been able to provide high-quality, designer prescription eye wear at a fraction of the usual price. Its online platform began with a simple Home Try-On Program that enabled customers to pick 5 frames to try on at home for 5 days, for free! Once the 5 days were up, customers sent the frames back with a prepaid return label and if they chose to purchase one permanently, a fresh new pair got sent within a week.
In 2011, Warby Parker began partnering with boutiques to open stores-within-stores/ ‘pop ups’ or small showrooms where customers could try on eyeglasses in person. These showrooms were all over the country including Nashville, San Francisco and Los Angeles, and were raking in profits. Finally, in 2013, Warby Parker opened their first, flagship retail store. Since opening brick-and-mortar stores, Warby Parker has also begun to build its status as a lifestyle brand. With over 40 stores all over the country, Warby Parker now also offers carefully-curated magazines and books. 

Expansion Plans
The selective locations of Warby Parker outlets offers a prestige to the neighborhoods that the business chooses. So far, it can only be found in the U.S. and Canada in cities like New York, Seattle, Miami, Chicago, Portland, Los Angeles, and Toronto. However, the store's retail expansion does not seem to be slowing down as it continues to expand globally.

Site Requirements
Average store size: 1,613 sq ft [as of Nov 2014]

Contact Info

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

LIMITED SPOTS AVAILABLE - Attend ICSC NY National Deal Making in December for a Steep Discount

As any broker or retailer can tell you, building relationships is critical to successful retail attraction and retail development. In our experience, attending ICSC Deal Making is among the most effective ways to build relationshped counts anyone?) are invaluable to communities looking to jump start their retail attraction efforts.
ips that lead to successful deals. The two days that are spent getting to know brokers, meeting property owner, developers, and service providers (

This is why we - and I say this as a member of the New York Deal Making planning committee - have fought so hard to ensure that members of the public and non-profit sectors are able to gain entry (including ICSC membership) for $395. This is nearly a 60% discount over combined entry and membership. For our public and non-profit sector partners attending Deal Making for the first or second time, this is a great chance to get a feel for the trade room floor, talk up your district with investors and retailers, and gain an understanding of just what it takes to make your experience a productive one.

Why is this discount for newbies? Because we have seen that the most productive experiences attending Deal Making come from those who are fully prepared to work the trade show floor - but this preparation doesn't happen overnight. It often comes after a few years of trial and error and relationship building. The first time for most attendees is frankly overwhelming. This discount is about giving those who have never experienced the trade show floor the opportunity to do so without the initial cost being a significant hurdle to entry.

Need help prepping? The communities that get the most out of this trade show known their market, prep adequately, set up meetings in advance, and work the relationships they started at Deal Making all year round. For some good tips and advice on how to hone your Deal Making approach, read this primer prepared by ICSC. LOA also provides coaching and technical assistance to support communities get the most out of ICSC. Feel free to call us for more information.

How to Apply. To apply for these limited discounts, please contact Michael Cowden at ICSC (

For more information on New York National Deal Making, click here.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

High Streets, Main Streets, Cool Streets

Even though we often assume that the term "cool" is subjective, arbitrary, and up to the perception of the individual, Cushman & Wakefield in their recent publication Cool Streets, assert that economists and real estate analysts should be paying even more attention to what is cool, even if it is a moving target

Why is cool, in this sense, a new phenomenon? Technology could be giving the boost. I was listening to a podcast recently that commented how past generations measured cool through movie stars and models, new generations (Millennials and younger) are using social media influencers to gauge cool. Combined with social media geotagging, it is also easy to pick up on hip trending geographic areas.

The report does acknowledge that the spotlighted Cool Streets communities are largely hipster, unconventional embracing, neighborhoods, some are made up of longstanding bohemian and arts enclaves while other up-and-coming areas are driven by changing demographics and preference for urban living. Yes, hip neighborhoods have ebbed and flowed and aren't a new phenomenon; in the past they were mostly driven by intellectual or philosophical movements with niche subcultures, but this new movement of cool streets differs in its mainstream aspirations.

What used to take many decades for neighborhoods to become it places now can take a span of less than a decade. Case and point, Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood. But being too cool makes a neighborhood ascend and then crash, or become mainstream way too quickly (again, Williamsburg). There is obviously a negative to crystallizing an area as cool. Many want to quickly seize the opportunity to cash in, but those that made the cool in the first place can head out in search of authenticity and character, which can deplete the charm and hipness. 

Their current top 15 Cool Streets are:

  • Brooklyn / Sunset Park
  • Chicago / Logan Square
  • Cincinnati / Over-the-Rhine
  • Denver / RiNo
  • Los Angeles / Silver Lake
  • Miami / Wynwood
  • Minneapolis / North Loop
  • Phoenix / Roosevelt Row
  • Richmond / Carytown
  • San Diego / East Village
  • San Francisco / Jackson Square
  • St. Louis / Delmar Loop
  • Toronto / West Queen West
  • Vancouver / Mount Pleasant / Main Street
  • Washington D.C. / Shaw