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.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

PeopleFund of Austin Texas and funding local independent retail businesses

Is a nonprofit that funds community-focused small businesses.  One of their projects is funding a grocery store called Rosewood Community Market.  It's a small market in an underserved part of Austin.

But it's less than 1,000 s.f.  See "Market Brings Local Food to Food Desert" from Supermarket News and this article from Austinist.

Organizations like PeopleFund are going to be increasingly important going forward for (re)developing local businesses in the face of the changes in the retail industry that I described in the blog entry last week, The long term shake out of local retailers and independent retail districts"."

Someone "criticized" that piece as not offering solutions.  Frankly, I've written so much about this topic that I feel like I already have written plenty of solutions.  But the two posts that cover much of what I think about how to respond are these:

-- "Why ask why? Because
-- "Independent retailers can succeed and thrive"

and maybe these too:

-- The Soft side of commercial district revitalization"
-- "Retail and Restaurant Check Up Surveys"

Although these ideas need to be paired with linking potential entrepreneurs to:

(1) a capacity building and technical assistance infrastructure that identifies and trains entrepreneurs
(2) so that they can build robust concepts and systems that are realized in complete businesses
(3) find reasonably priced, outfitted space in good locations
(4) because the commercial district revitalization organization has established relationships with property owners and has a master list of all available properties and
(5) financing from various sources, including organizations like PeopleFund that have to be created in most places.

What I argued for is the creation of a retail entrepreneurship development program in a district or a city that brands the community as ripe for local businesses.  This allows you to develop a system and so to speak a farm team of potential businesses that can be put into spaces as they become available.

The way we do it now is very much happenstance.

And emotional.

E.g., I wrote about the Phoenix Public Market, a building-based locavore oriented grocery built at the site of the Downtown Phoenix Farmers Market, which opened in 2008.  It lasted about 3.5 years.  I think the issue there is that locavore is a niche market anyway and Downtown Phoenix is not full of residents, and definitely not residents who walk places.  (See the article from the Downtown Devil blog.)

But as I say, these are real dollars that people are investing and putting out and that when businesses fail those dollars are destroyed.

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