New Living Spaces, New Shopping Spaces
By Bernice Hurst, Contributing Editor, RetailWire
Foreclosures and closed retail premises all
over the U.S. are encouraging people to re-think where and how they live
and work. Add to that consideration of ways to reduce fuel consumption
and the result is a possibly new way of designing towns.
Around Washington D.C., The Washington
Post reports, developers “want to capitalize on the demand for housing
from people without children and draw suburbanites to walkable communities
where they can live, work and socialize. Local governments see town centers
as a form of suburban renewal — a way to make over aging downtowns,
diversify tax bases and reduce traffic congestion — and some are providing
developers with incentives to help make it happen.”
Urban planners and other experts are coming
up with forecasts based on projections of growth in adult only households
including single people, empty nesters and millennials setting up home
independently for the first time who, they believe, “largely prefer densely
populated, walkable communities.”
Faroll Hamer, director of planning and zoning
for Alexandria, said, “We’re not abandoning the suburbs, but we’re providing
Robin McBride, of Federal Realty Investment
Trust, added, “Merchants have to figure out what works and what doesn’t,
who the customer is, where they are traveling from,” matching merchandise,
pricing and offerings to demand.
One development in the D.C. area is “still
taking shape” after three years with “the large space leased to the Superfresh
grocery chain” still empty, restaurants struggling and many stores that
were leased having changed hands already. The problem may have been timing
but may also be the combination of retail, residential and office space
and lack of car parking spaces. Despite being close to a metro station,
consumers apparently prefer the convenience of their own transportation.
Citing several other developments around
the district, some of the more successful were likened to destinations,
(“People want to be somewhere. There’s a ‘there’ there.”) while the failures
may feel “like a pass-through to other places”.
Meanwhile, a recent profile of Detroit in The
Guardian looked at both its desolation and early signs of restoration.
Houses that are beyond salvaging are being demolished and replaced with
community gardens (some offering free vegetables), new shops and entertainment
and eating venues. One resident involved in a group called Blight Busters
refers to their objective as “right sizing” the city.
Are town centers an expansion opportunity for retailers? What will
it take for town centers to succeed?
- It takes more than stores to build a winning
town center – The Washington Post
- Detroit homes sell for $1 amid mortgage
and car industry crisis – The Guardian