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Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

To get independent businesses you need to rebuild the supporting infrastructure

Urban Market DallasUrban Market in Downtown Dallas. NATALIE CAUDILL/Dallas Morning News. You can have a glass of wine at the market's full bar while preparing your grocery list.

In November, I wrote about various efforts including the Downtown Retail Initiative in Los Angeles,which is designed to promote the development of independent, unique, authentic businesses. This needs to be supported and extended because the kind of infrastructure that supported the development of independent retail, including merchants associations and thriving businesses as examples, doesn't exist that much outside of places like Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Portland, Oregon.

Earlier this week, I read about an effort in Austin Texas that seems to be a model to learn from, in particular for the new building projects spearheaded by city government connected agencies such as the National Capital Revitalization Corporation or the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative. The article from the Austin American-Statesman (registration required), "Second Street comes to life: New downtown Austin district is filling up with shops," discusses how the City of Austin, as well as a particular developed focused their efforts on developing independent businesses for a district that will eventually have 200,000 square feet of shops, restaurants, and other retail services.

From the article:

True to its word, Urban Partners, the consultant that the city and AMLI hired to recruit retailers, is keeping an Austin flavor. So far, 17 of the leases are with locally owned businesses. The focus is clothing and home furnishings stores, but the mix will include places as diverse as a day spa and a scooter store. Local retailers were offered leases with rents that increase over time and allowances to finish the interior of their stores.

One of the merchants' biggest challenges has been spreading the word about the new district. The shop owners are contributing a portion of their sales to a marketing fund. Three radio spots will air soon, and the effort will include print advertising and special event promotions for the holiday season and the upcoming year. "Once the restaurants open, the coffee shops, the wine bar, and people can start experiencing the street, it's going to boom," McCan said. "I think we're on the verge of something huge."
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In order to be successful in developing independent retail, particularly in new buildings, which are going to have rents as much as double (or more) compared to extant buildings, special attention must be paid...

Click here for more information on Austin's Second Street District. From the website:

Creating a 24-hour neighborhood that walks the walk

Austin is a fusion of culture and style all its own. People here are looking for something beyond a cookie-cutter mall experience transplanted from another city. They’re ready for something that speaks to them in their own language. Which is why 2nd Street District will look, feel, taste and sound like one place, and one place only. Austin. With 225,000 square feet of well-integrated retail, restaurants and entertainment, 2nd Street District is the most significant retail development in downtown Austin and a promising venue to launch a concept or put a fresh spin on a current one.

In a city known for its cool vibe, 2nd Street District will add to the urban energy. On the edge of the Austin skyline, on the north shore of Town Lake, 2nd Street District is being built with the feel of SoHo and the intimacy of Boston’s Back Bay. Interesting places to live. Great restaurants. Outdoor cafes. Unusual shops. Art films. All within a few blocks of museums and outdoor activities. The kind of neighborhood where the pedestrian is king and there’s always a new find no matter what time of day.
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Defining what you want to be and then figuring out how and making sure that you get there is the only way...

shikiDeborah Lykins/AMERICAN-STATESMAN. Jane Vanisko McCan, owner of a women's clothing store on Guadalupe Street called Shiki, plans to open a shop on the ground floor of CSC's east building. With residential projects springing up in downtown Austin, it's inevitable that retailers will follow, McCan said. 'I think there's a niche that needs to be filled. The restaurants and the nightlife are already there. Why not the retail?'

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