Friday, March 30, 2018

Whole Foods + Daybreaker = Experiential Grocery

Dan McCombie is a Research Associate at Larisa Ortiz Associates

**The following blog post contains a brief discussion of the state of online grocery retail, and then turns to look at an experiential company (Daybreaker) that has partnered with a grocery chain (Whole Foods) in what is a unique example of experience-based retail. At root is an exploration about how we understand customers, what they want to see in today's brick-and-mortars, and how "experiential" can have a broad range of applications.**

Here we are now, almost a year out since Amazon officially announced its acquisition of Whole Foods Market, the chain known for its high-quality, natural, and organic grocery store model. This $13.7BN deal fueled speculation that the e-commerce giant was making a play for a larger share of the online grocery retail market, and could feasibly change the entire way we think about food access. Sure enough, we have seen some marked changes in the way Whole Foods functions, but has the trajectory of online grocery retail changed all that much?

Some insight can be gleaned from a recent article by Neil Stern, a contributing writer for Forbes, wherein he summarizes Forrester's "The State of Global Online Retail 2018" report. Here are some of the key findings from it:

  • The global online grocery market is predicted to double from $150BN in 2017 to $334BN by 2022
  • The online grocery market is still wide open "as retailers race to become the default provider"
  • Countries differ in their adoption of online grocery based on factors like geography and economic maturity
To this last bullet point, Stern further explains that geographically concentrated (denser) markets are further ahead in their embrace of online grocery, primarily because their distribution systems are advantaged through economies of scale. They don't need nearly as much infrastructure to serve the same amount of people, whether that's based on home delivery (e.g. Fresh Direct, Peapod) or a click and collect pickup model.

So does this mean that urban markets might start to see brick and mortar grocery lose ground faster than less-urbanized markets? Possibly. If that is the case, it feels like an important one. Grocery stores help support a host of smaller neighborhood services and stores. In short, they're both commercial catalysts and anchors. So any trend in the markets that impact their health is liable to have huge ripple effects. To be completely honest, I find it highly unlikely that Kroger and Publix (shout out to my friends down south) are going to disappear overnight. Nor do I think they'll all turn into Amazon fulfillment centers (or maybe they will). In any event, this got me to thinking about ways grocery stores can adapt. And if we've learned anything in recent years, for retail its either death in the middle, or death for being boring.

Which brings me to Daybreaker.

For those not familiar, Daybreaker is maybe best understood as a company that organizes and manages large, high energy, highly-attended early morning dance parts with a deep health and wellness focus (read: no drugs, no alcohol, only natural adrenaline). Though not the only company peddling the pre-work experiential dance rave model, they've definitely risen to the top with a presence in more than 20 cities worldwide, including San Diego, DC, Vancouver, Sydney, Mexico City, Berlin, Tel Aviv, Stockholm, etc. 

And I bring them up because on May 10th, 2017, they held one of their dance raves at the Whole Foods flagship location on Lamar Boulevard in Austin, TX (a month prior to the Amazon acquisition, for those who are wondering). The itinerary for the event consisted of a 6am-7am yoga class, followed immediately by a raucous dance party from 7am-9am. Music was provided by both a record-spinning (or is it laptop-clicking?) DJ and a "legendary husband-wife hop hop duo." It really doesn't get less boring/more experiential than that for a grocery store. Did I mention Whole Foods provided breakfast? This all brings me to my next point...


Daybreaker is perhaps the epitome of a company that is operated by and creates events for young Millennials. If you need further proof, one need only look at the event description (posted here). Give it a quick read and you'll notice the frequent use of emjois, the way "yoga session" becomes "yoga sesh" and "amazing" is spelled "uhmazing." If Gigi Hadid was a language, I think this would be it. 

To drive this home a little more, the following quote was culled from the Daybreaker website:
"DAYBREAKER IS CREATING AN ENTIRELY NEW GENRE OF EXPERIENCE. We are a global movement driven by incredible humans who turn crazy ideas - like sober early morning dance parties - into reality. What began as a social experiment and art project, Daybreaker is fueling a worldwide movement to increase mindfulness, camaraderie, wellness, self-expression, and mischief."  
Mindfulness. Camaraderie. Wellness. Self-expression. Mischief. These are the Daybreaker core values. And personally, I think these serve as a great shorthand way to describe the Millennial shopper (depending on how you slice the age brackets). Some might quibble with that statement for reading as reductive, especially the Daybreaker apparatus itself, but often times that's an inherent challenge to understanding any customer demographic. We always prefer to collect primary data when possible, whether through first-person testimonials, surveys, focus groups, etc, but comprehensive big picture analysis also requires we look at things like U.S. Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics data, secondary syndicated sources, and other aggregated information that necessarily obscures individual nuance.

To summarize, if you feel like you don't understand how Millennials shop, perhaps this is a good template. I don't have figures for direct economic impacts of the Daybreaker event, but without a doubt it created strong associations between an established retailer and an exciting experiential brand. Nor was this the first time Daybreaker had collaborated with a large retail brand, having also partnered with Saks, Nike, IBM, Samsung, Macy's, GE Electric, Clinique, etc.  It also raises an interesting paradox when you go back to Forrester report: dense urban centers where brick and mortars may be more imperiled by online retail is precisely where young Millennials concentrate, and thus where it makes more sense to explore experiential marketing opportunities.

Key takeaways:

  • The Amazon acquisition has not impacted brick and mortar grocery the way many anticipated
  • Regardless, online grocery is a growing share of the overall market
  • With that in mind, retailers still need to think about how to differentiate themselves and not be boring
  • That means understanding your customers and what gets them up in the morning (in this case kombucha and a dance party)
For those who were good enough to make it this far in the post, I definitely recommend revisiting a past post on this blog by Mike Berne of MJB Consulting, written in the days following the announcement of the Amazon acquisition of Whole Foods. One of Mike's main points is that Amazon's motivation for the deal was driven not so much as a way to "conquer the grocery space," but rather to gain valuable real estate in close proximity to their predominantly urban Amazon Prime customers.

Thanks for reading!

Instagram post from the Daybreaker Austin launch
Image: @dybrkr

Instagram post from an event at the National Building Museum, DC
Image: @dybrkr

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Concerns about a Census Under-count are Not a New Phenomenon

Larisa Ortiz is Principal of Larisa Ortiz Associates

Yesterday the New York Times reported that "at least 12 states have signaled that they would sue to block the Trump Administration from adding a question about citizenship" for fear that such a question would result in a census under-count that would threaten federal funding for communities with large immigrant communities. 

Jackson Heights, Queens, NY is a destination for immigrants,
many from Central and South America. It is precisely these
communities where under-counts do the most damage. 
The concern regarding an under-count is an old and recurring one. In fact, today I received a Facebook notification of a post I wrote over eight years ago. At that time, it was Mayor Bloomberg who railed against the Census, claiming that the Census under-count amounted to roughly 2.6 percent of the City's population, mostly in communities of color. What I wrote at the time holds meaning today. 

"For commercial district managers, a census under-count, or findings that suggests a population decrease, means more hours logged overcoming the misconception that there is decreased discretionary demand in your neighborhood. It means more time spend finding other, more credible, sources that tell the true story, that your neighborhood is  teeming with people who have money to spend, but few places to spend it. A Census under-count means that retailers are more likely to forego urban opportunities, because when they pull market data, they may not like what they see at first glance. 

We already know that getting retailers to urban areas is a challenge, which is why Census accuracy is so critical. In 2004, the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) completed a survey of retailers in partnership with Business for Social Responsibility. When asked why they didn't invest in urban areas, the second most cited obstacle to investment was an 'insufficient concentration of the retailer’s target customer'. Too bad a Census under-count only serves to reaffirm these misconceptions."

While the contours of the concern have changed, we remain somewhat accustomed to under-counts in immigrant communities. It only means that we have continue to find ways to augment the data to ensure that communities, investors and retailers have the information they need to make informed decisions. 

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Store-for-Hire Model

Source: Instagram (@thisisstory)

Nur Asri is an Associate at Larisa Ortiz Associates

As preferences shift and consumers continue to demand experiences in retail stores, the store-for-hire concept has become an incredibly popular strategy to keep brick-and-mortar stores exciting and refreshing. These stores change products and experiences constantly so that consumers are able to visit often without getting bored of the store and its offerings. But how do these pop-up-esque stores operate and how can you create one in your downtown? Let’s take a closer look at two of New York City’s most innovative stores- for- hire – Bulletin and Story.

With vacancy in downtown environments rising from the impact of e-commerce and rent speculation, get creative and put in-store spaces up for hire. Stores-for-hire can be a great way to regenerate interest in your downtown, especially among local entrepreneurs and makers who are still digitally-native and who can yet afford leasing an entire storefront all by themselves.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Millennials' Impact on Health and Wellness in Retail

Nur Asri is an Associate at Larisa Ortiz Associates

Health and wellness is no longer characterized by illness or disease, but to a more holistic state of being that considers the wellbeing of one’s mind, body, and emotions. According to Jack Ma, Chairman of China’s largest e-commerce company, Alibaba, “…today’s customers want to be healthy and happy, no matter who they are”.  As a result, they are showing an increasing preference for products, brands, and experiences that appear to promote their overall wellbeing.
Wellness has become one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing industriesAccording to Global Wellness Institute, the global wellness market is estimated to be worth $3.4 trillion, three times the size of the global pharmaceutical industry. The industries measured as part of the global wellness market included fitness and mind-body, healthy eating, nutrition and weight loss, preventative and personalized health, spa, beauty and anti-aging and alternative medicine – many of which we now find downtown and along our commercial corridors.

The wired and self-reliant Millennial is particularly dedicated to health and wellnessThe group’s disillusionment with the current state of health care costs has apparently pushed Millennials to behave differently when it comes to taking care of themselves. They are relying on personal networks and wider ranges of products, services, and providers to manage their health and wellness. Many are even tracking their levels of activity and calorie consumption on mobile apps.

Most importantly, they are increasingly willing to spend money and time on ‘preventative health care’ through exercising, eating right, and conscious living. This daily pursuit to wellness and the subsequent lifestyle changes have influenced trends in food and drink, fitness, and fashion, and as a result, the retail tenant mix that we are seeing in our commercial districts.

Here are some key retail categories that are growing with Millennials’ pursuit of health and wellness:

Apparel & Accessories
Millennials are paying more for athletic gear or what is now more commonly known as, athleisure wear. According to research firm Forrester, Millennials and Gen Zers account for 69% of all fitness wearable owners. In fact, these young consumers are wearing athletic outfits for activities other than working out and this trend has grown rapidly with various brand apparel retailers growing their active wear options.

Popular athleisure retailers that are growing in urban markets with higher shares of Millennial customers include Lululemon, Sweaty Betty, Alo and Outdoor Voices – each with its unique brand and community of followers.
Alo has built its brand specifically around yoga. Its product offerings are designed for yogis and its stores offer extensive yoga class schedules. Alo has opened three stores in urban neighborhoods in California, where the wellness and yoga movement is particularly strong.

Outdoor Voices, on the other hand, has built its brand as technical apparel for ‘recreation’ – which really is all-encompassing. Anyone participating in a recreational activity, whether it’s dog walking or yoga or a fun group sport, would easily identify with the brand and its products.  The store has opened locations across the country – from Colorado to Texas and New York.

Gyms have long been tenants in many of our downtowns and commercial districts, however, in recent years there has been a significant growth in boutique fitness concepts. According to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, these types of spaces now account for 42% of the entire health club market and they range from yoga, spinning and boxing studios to grungy crossfit facilities. In particular, the 2016 IHRSA Health Club Consumer Report found that Millennials preferred specialized fitness classes like kickboxing, barre, crossfit, and yoga as opposed to Gen Xers. They love the personalized and community experience that these boutique fitness concepts provide and are willing to pay more than the monthly average of $33 for these classes.

Like the athleisure stores that have grown in numbers, boutique fitness concepts have built strong brands and communities of followers that subscribe to distinct sets of values.

Food and Beverage stores
As part of their shift toward holistic health and wellness, Millennials are also increasingly spending on healthy produce. According to the Organic Trade Association, 52% of organic consumers are Millennials. Furthermore, Millennials eat 52% more vegetables than their older counterparts and about 12% of this age group claimed they are totally vegetarian back in 2011. These shares may even be even larger today.

Grocers and convenient stores that offer organic and locally-sourced produce such as Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s are growing fast in urban markets and in even smaller formats. Whole Foods opened its first 365 small store concept on the east coast in downtown Brooklyn, where the psychographic group known as the ‘Laptops and Lattes’ has grown rapidly in recent years. This group is essentially made up of single, affluent and well-educated Millennials with a median age of 36.9.

Food and drinking places
Even when they’re eating out, Millennials continue to demand responsibly-sourced, health-conscious food and drink options. Research shows that Millennials look for food options that are wholesome and healthy. Organic, freshly-made, and authentic foods are all important labels to Millennials. This has led to a strong growth in quick-service juice and salad bars across many metropolitan cities. Sweetgreen, a fast-casual salad bar that prides its offerings on being locally sourced and customizable, started in DC in 2008 has since grown to 85 locations across 8 states. Again, its locations are mostly in urban neighborhoods with strong Millennial representation.

Beauty and Personal Care Services
The final retail tenant type that has grown in many urban markets as a result of the Millennial shift toward holistic health and wellness is beauty and personal care services. This includes everything from spas and salons to meditation clinics.  From 2007 to 2013, the spa industry grew 58% with a 47% increase in spa locations from 71,762 to 105,591.

The truth is Millennials want the experience of being ‘transformed’. Even department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue are addressing that desire by introducing wellness service centers in their stores such as the Wellery in New York. These wellness centers offer spas and detox treatments, and even meditation clinics that help those who are constantly wired from busy lifestyles to unplug.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Three Trends in Parking Management

Dan McCombie is a Research Associate at Larisa Ortiz Associates

I’ve noticed a couple of trends of late in regards to parking and how downtowns are trying to effectively manage the demand for it. It feels important to understand these trends because they all have implications for how customers access downtowns, as well as the toolbox of strategies and tactics we have as district managers. In any event, I would be curious to know if what I’ve observed tracks with what others have also seen. Here goes…

1.       Parking decks (as we know them) are experiencing incremental extinction

There was a Crain’s NY article recently talking about the challenges being faced by Manhattan parking garages. Operators say they’ve felt a lost demand over the past 18 months, citing a 10% drop in the number of “transient units” (cars that park by the day or hour). They attribute this trend to growing patronage of car-share (Car2Go) and ride-share (Lyft and Uber), but made all the worse by rising labor costs and recent rumblings by politicos about possible congestion pricing in Manhattan. Yet this is not unique to New York. Waning demand for structured parking is also being felt in cities like Chicago, Philadelphia, and Boston where competition from alternative transit choices and concerns over congestion are just as prevalent.

Uber has been unapologetic, responding that it’s all for the better those garages disappear if that creates more space for affordable housing and public parks. Sounds rosy, and there is some sense to it since affordable housing--typically exempt from parking minimum--presents a real option for infill development. But we’re also seeing cities like Philadelphia incrementally knock down their garages and replace them with luxury housing. In other cases, owners are getting creative and turning their underutilized parking structures into trendy food hall retrofits.

To be clear, parking structures are still being built, but increasingly with an eye towards a ten to fifteen year horizon where the use of that deck will likely be fundamentally different based on declines in car ownership and increases in autonomous vehicle use. That means designing for easier retrofitting to retail or other non-residential uses, usually by adding a few feet to ceiling heights. Or it means curbing costs and capitalizing on economies of scale by going fully automated with garages that don’t require human labor and can store more cars in a smaller footprint.

Regardless, in more and more places we’re seeing garages adapt based on the anticipation (or realization) of reduced demand.

Automated garage designed by BRN Architects in Izmir, Turkey
Photo: Inhabitat

2.       On-street parking is off-brand

The literature is rich in urbanist corners about the benefits of turning traffic lanes and on-street parking into bike lanes and larger sidewalks. A really good example of this is the NYC DOT’s report, The Economic Benefits of Sustainable Streets, commissioned during Janette Sadik-Khan’s time at the helm of the agency. The report is notable because it seeks to draw the connection between complete streets and economic development, and does so employing an objective methodological approach where local business sales were monitored before and after street renovations. Their change in sales was controlled against sales figures for other comparable commercial corridors within the same neighborhood. After conducting this research, the study conclusively found that complete streets provided benefits to businesses in all types of neighborhoods, “from the central business district to modest retail strips in residential areas.”

I bring this up because more and more people are recognizing the spending power of pedestrians while the notion of creating more space for cars feels counterintuitive and antiquated. So while we see reports and case studies that supports removing on-street parking to bring in a protected bike lane, the literature becomes much more scant on whether or not it makes sense to turn a traffic lane into on-street parking. I draw attention to this because complete streets means supporting as many competing uses as possible, but many streets simply don't have the capacity to do that. If you must choose, what is the argument for parking instead of bike lanes (if there is one)? Yes--I’m familiar with the oft-quoted fact that every on-street parking space is responsible for some $200-$300K in revenue for nearby businesses. I’ve seen this number quoted ad nauseam and out of its original context. That is not to say it’s wrong, but it glosses over many of the variables that are responsible for generating that value.

On-street parking can play a valuable role for commercial districts that goes well beyond providing direct storefront access for shoppers. Good flexible on-street parking can also provide commercial loading areas for vendors or serve as designated pick-up and drop-off points for ride-share services in an effort to ease congestion. It can also have a “teaser” effect in that it suggests to shoppers there is easy and available parking (thereby inducing more shopping trips), but actually increase the utilization of garages and decks as a substitute when curbside spots are at capacity. And at the end of the day, it also can calm traffic and reduce crossing distances which also serves the pedestrian environment. In short, flexible curbside parking has its benefits which may or may not make sense depending on the district.

Ninth Avenue street improvement project
Image: Economic Benefits of Sustainable Streets; NYC DOT

3.       “Smart Parking” is smarter thank you might think

A common refrain in many districts is that there is simply not enough parking to suit retail. And this assertion comes from all corners; not just customers but also property owners and merchants. But with the growth in alternative transit choices and with Millennials owning fewer cars, more often than not we’ve found it’s an issue with parking management and not supply. How do we address situations where one lot is at capacity while other lots are underutilized? There are several solutions, but I'm increasingly drawn to the growing number of apps that seek to address the parking management question. Here are a few examples:

·         ParkMobile – Perhaps one of the more ubiquitous options in the market right now, it provides seamless parking payments through an app, with the advantage of allowing the user to feed the meter remotely when their time runs out. The company also provides a website as a way to make reservations with parking garages and ensure a spot is waiting for you when you arrive at your destination.

·         ParkWhiz – Similarly allows users to reserve and pay for spaces seamlessly and allows parking operators to adjust prices and offer deals based on real-time demand data.

·         ParkBee – This UK/Netherlands based company created a partnership with ParkMobile that allows owners of private lots to advertise their spaces to the public (think Airbnb for parking).

The value proposition for many of these apps is not just based on convenience, but also an ability to offer competitive pricing. And they’re being embraced through ever more channels with some car manufacturers incorporating them into the on-board computers (e.g. BMW 2018 models use ParkMobile) and navigation services like WAZE thinking about how they can complement their existing platform.

And apps are only half of the picture. A growing number of parking data collection companies like Streetline and parking management platforms like NuPark are working in coordination with these apps to make getting from point A to point B as seamless and efficient as possible through tech that allows remote gate activation and license plate recognition.

One of several parking management services offered by NuPark

What do these trends mean for district managers?

Does your district still need a large supply of parking decks? Should it substitute curbside parking for a protected bike lane? If there is a strain on parking, is it based on management or supply? Different districts have different needs and there is no one size fits all strategy here.

As Kimley Horn stated in a report for their White Paper Series, parking guidelines developed by the Institute for Transportation Engineers and Urban Land Institute are “routinely applied in areas they should not be”, meaning that standards for standalone shopping centers are being used for downtown Main Streets. For that reason, any parking intervention should really be predicated on an accurate picture of existing conditions and we have a growing number of tools at our disposal to do that and to bring that picture into sharper relief. 

As mentioned, I’m wildly curious to know if others agree with these trends or have observed others that are as impactful.

Source Cited:
Parking Generation – Replacing Flawed Standards with the Custom Realities of Park+; Kimley Horn; May 2016

Thursday, March 1, 2018

How to mitigate construction in your downtown

Nur Asri is an Associate at Larisa Ortiz Associates

Downtowns and cities around the country are undergoing rapid physical transformations whether due to re-investment or adaptation to technological advancements. However, during the process of transformation, roads and sidewalks are often torn up and diverted, street furniture and public spaces are re-designed and replaced and the shopping environment is essentially disrupted.

Regardless of the length of time in which the disruptions occurs (two months or a whole year), customer traffic for retail businesses will be affected because downtowns appear to be less accessible by car and even more difficult to navigate on foot. Furthermore, construction often occurs during the day (and during peak visitation times!) and can be loud and dusty, resulting in an overall unpleasant shopping experience.

Downtown businesses associations and storeowners across the country are adopting a variety of strategies to mitigate the impacts of construction on their operations, sales and visitation.

Here are some steps that you can take to maintain business vitality during your downtown transformation: 

‘Still Open for Business’ Signage
These signs help increase visibility of stores to pedestrians and vehicles passing through your downtown. Customers often assume businesses are closed during construction and are therefore quick to make the decision to drive past and go somewhere else altogether so it is crucial that accurate information is relayed to customers through these signs. Include the names of businesses that are open and directions to any alternate business access, and make sure the signs are placed at key intersections and entry points to your downtown. Some cities have also gotten really creative with their signs:

In Arlington, MA, Capitol Square Business Association plays around with the regular text found on construction signs.

In the City of North Bend, where roads were being torn up for an infrastructure project to bury utility lines and replace the sidewalks and street trees, sign spinners were hired to sing, dance, and do cartwheels while holding out signs that say ‘Downtown Business are Open!’

Signs, however, are only one part of the solution. There are many more steps that need to be taken to ensure that downtown businesses aren’t severely impacted by the process of transformation.

Marketing/ Promotion
Many business associations have dedicated resources to organizing district-wide marketing campaigns to educate customers about construction work and businesses that still need their support during this time.

Pre- Construction
In Madison WI, marketing efforts began two years before construction occurred in order to inform locals that stores and restaurants would remain open throughout the process. The guerilla campaign was extensive and consisted of yard signs, community newsletters, local media coverage and even a Facebook page.

During Construction 

The Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership launched an ‘Eat Drink Shop [HERE]’ Campaign. The Partnership rolled out bright yellow signs and handouts that list all of the businesses that were open during construction. 

Meanwhile, in Bangor, Maine, (and also downtown Coral Gables) happy hour events ensured that customers were still coming downtown after dark despite the facelift it was undergoing. Bars affected by the construction zone participated in the ‘Hard Hat Happy Hours’ events, which took place weekly. Customers who attended were then rewarded with highly coveted downtown parking passes and gift certificates to local businesses to drive return visits. Similarly, many other downtowns have also handed out coupon books to entice customers to continue shopping thru the construction period.

Valet parking
When convenient on-street parking spaces are temporarily lost to construction activity, customers may be less than willing to patronize downtown stores if they have to park in parking garages/lots located farther away from the retail core. Every effort should be made to ease the driving customer’s journey (especially if the majority of your downtown customers are arriving by car!) and this might include a valet service.

In Birmingham, MI, where construction through the city center is expected to take about 4-5 years, the city’s promotional arm Birmingham Shopping District is planning to provide valet service that would allow customers to drive to the edge of the construction site to drop off their cars before hitting the rest of the downtown on foot.

Painted fences/barriers
Finally, there are creative ways to turn construction fencing and barriers into public art. Back in 2012, we featured Alliance for Downtown New York’s RE:Construction program. Since then many more downtowns and cities have also turned to art as a way to mask the eyesore of construction. In 2013, the Downtown Ithaca Alliance put out a call for artists to adopt 8x4 plywood panels that were put up as fencing around the reconstruction of the Commons public space. Selected artists were invited to paint directly on to the panels that stayed up throughout the construction period.

In downtown Seattle, WA mural artists and artist-teams have created 200-foot long murals now on view on the Civic Square construction fence. The site will be home to a mixed-use, high-rise tower and open space that will complete the city's Civic Center Campus.

While the above strategies aim to ease the impact of construction for customers, there are also steps that need to be taken to mitigate the impact on business operations.

Even without the complications of construction downtown, loading and unloading of delivery trucks is already a common issue faced by business owners. Without a well-thought out contingency plan, your downtown may face heavy congestion as a result of trucks double-parking on narrow side streets.

To avoid this, pre-planned alternative delivery routes must be identified for affected drivers and relayed early on so that staff are alerted to the change of procedures. In addition, detour signs must be posted clearly to guide delivery drivers. Where possible, alleyways may be re-purposed for loading/unloading during construction phase.

Low-interest loans
With larger-scale construction projects, many cities such as Portland, OR and Salt Lake City, UT have set precedents for dedicating resources to offer low-interest loans to affected businesses. Salt Lake City’s Economic Development Office, for example, established a revolving loan program and set aside funding for light rail construction mitigation up to $20,000 at 3% interest per applicant. Successful applicants simply had to be within one block of construction and be able to demonstrate how they were being impacted.

Finally, with additional financial and technical assistance, business owners might even consider implementing another method to reach customers if they don’t already have one. Starting online delivery services can certainly nudge customers who are unable or unwilling to navigate through construction to continue to support downtown businesses.

Make sure your downtown transformation works for you
The menu of strategies offered here cost lots of time and money to plan and implement. (Note: Birmingham Shopping District set aside $100,000 just to carry out a promotional campaign including free valet parking and shopping coupons). Depending on the capacity and resources of your downtown, and also the scale of construction happening, you may elect strategies that work best for your businesses.

Most importantly, ensure that you start planning early and work very closely with local merchants to ensure their buy-in and support for your elected strategies.