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.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The retail numbers "they" don't want you to know...

Well, not really, there's no conspiracy, just not a lot of directness and honesty.

According to one of the nation's leading retail consultants, office workers support 2 s.f. of retail and 5 s.f. of restaurant/food service space.

So figure it out, 1,000 office workers support 2,000 s.f. of retail and 5,000 s.f. of restaurant.

Plus, the retail these workers tend to be interested in is pretty narrow--convenience goods and service (drug stores, dry cleaners, wireless phone services, etc.)

That's why you need a variety of market segments (visitors, residents, etc.) in order to get a wider mix of retail, and to create a retail "district."

So, when reading the Post article "All Quiet on Carlyle's Retail Front" about the failure of the Patent and Trade Office to jumpstart retail in Alexandria around their new site, you'll be prepared.

Note to Post journalist and to officials and residents in Alexandria:

-- Did you ever go to Crystal City in Arlington when PTO was over there?
-- Did you not notice that the extant retail was pretty paltry? Some restaurants for office workers, some shops selling stuff, a small Safeway, a Rite Aid, etc.

From the article:

Two years after the PTO fully occupied its $885 million complex, the surrounding area consists mostly of a few sandwich shops, a travel agency, a day spa and lots of empty office space. Several more "quick service" restaurants are in the pipeline, but Carlyle remains quiet after the thousands of government workers go home.

"The PTO is a daytime operation, and all of these people leave at 5 p.m.," said David Buckley, president of the Carlyle Towers homeowners association. "It takes on the aura of Crystal City or something like that when nobody is there." ....

Overall, the Carlyle area offers about 260,000 square feet of retail space. About 30,000 square feet is in use now and of that, city officials said, 11,000 square feet is filled with quick-service restaurants. ...

But she acknowledged that the city may have misjudged whether the PTO's more than 7,000 employees would want to stick around the neighborhood after the workday is done. "We really thought we were going to have all this evening activity," Pepper said. "We thought there would be more offerings to attract people. We did envision something totally different than what we seem to be getting."

Note that M Street SE has the same problem. All the buildings constructed for Navy related contractors, when various agencies were moved to the Navy Yard in the last BRAC effort. But that area is deader than a doorknob after 5pm.

And do the math for the Carlyle folks:

7,000 workers = 14,000 s.f. of retail and 35,000 s.f. of restaurant
260,000 s.f. - 49,000 s.f. = 211,000 s.f. of empty retail space



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