Could the future of retail once again be downtown?

Greater Ohio has written before about the importance of placemaking as a tool to capitalize on a local community’s assets, inspiration and potential. Placemaking creates public spaces that promote people’s health, happiness, and well-being.

Placemaking through physical investments such as facade improvements, streetscaping, public art, and mixed-use buildings also makes downtown and other community spaces attractive to talent and businesses who value the distinctive quality of place that results.

Recently, our friends at Public Square wrote about a pair of “shopability” studies that analyzed the best opportunities and biggest challenges for urban retail and downtown space in New Port Richey and Delray Beach in Florida. These analyses review issues ranging from storefront appearances, to parking access and the walkability of streets.

The report is a great read and presents a compelling vision for how downtowns in cities large and small could once again be the shopping destinations they once were for local and national retailers before the shopping mall boom of the 1960’s changed the landscape of cities.

A few of the report’s main conclusions are:

  • Cities should have a parking management plan that ensures shoppers are able to find convenient parking near their destination. “A well-calibrated parking plan will leave approximately 10 percent of on-street stalls available with turnover of 15 to 20 times per day, while off-street or garage parking should always be readily available with turnover of three to five times per day.”

  • Cites should embrace having a mix of both national and local retailers to attract shoppers downtown. “National retailers with their highly focused research, planning, management, and marketing strategies can serve as anchors or draws for the downtown and expose more consumers to local shops. These standards and strategies may also ‘raise-the-bar’ in terms of shopper expectations and promote healthy competition and cross-shopping within the district.”

  • Cities need to embrace walkable streets. Road diets that make it easier for pedestrians to navigate downtown streets, and clean, well maintained sidewalks will help to attract and retain shoppers downtown.