Connecting Dots in the Storm: An Opportunity for Cities, Retailers, and Developers

We read, we think, we see, we hear, and we know that things have changed. Some parties have remained stunned and frozen. Others have surveyed the landscape and begun the work of plotting a course out of today’s mired mess toward better days ahead. My experience at Buxton has allowed me to work first hand with retailers, health care providers, and cities alike. This experience has allowed me to craft a unique perspective with which I interpret the news articles, blogs, and reports that document these historic times. While I admit that I have been accused of being an optimist I do see a series of needs (these are the dots) that can be connected to shape a legitimate opportunity for cities to help move our economy forward.

Dot 1: The next generation of retail development will look much different than the last. Members of the retail development community are fully aware that they must adapt in order to survive. Once the economy settles and funding thaws the key words and best practices in retail development are going to be: Urban Redevelopment, Infill Development, Downtown Development, and Neighborhood Serving Development.

Dot 2: For the majority of retailers and developers these growth opportunities are unfamiliar, hard to quantify, and therefore hard to recognize (with the possible exception of the Neighborhood Serving Development). To whatever degree they may be difficult to identify, it is equally ironic that each of these development opportunities come with an abundance of the one thing retailers crave most – immediate access to consumers. These are residential and workplace consumers that up to now have found themselves widely ignored and underserved. Providing convenient access to these consumers through the channels of Urban Redevelopment, Infill Development, Downtown Development, and Neighborhood Serving Development aligns with the smart growth principles of our evolving American cities.

Dot 3: In the hey-days of retail development it was clearly a challenge to convince developers and retailers to turn their backs on the quick and easy growth opportunities that built-to-suit green spaces afforded. But in the waves of uncertainty generated by the housing market meltdown one thing is obvious - those hey-days are now over. Retailers and developers are going to need help finding the pathway to tomorrow’s growth opportunities. It is here and now that cities have the opportunity to increase their weight in the retail development equation. To accomplish this, proactive and opportunistic cities will bring to the table two things the retail development world will be lacking (and will feel naked without). First, these cities will provide a valuable enumeration of their development ready smart growth opportunities. Second, these cities will provide market assessments that not only highlight an adequate density of consumers but work to reveal the latent needs and preferences of those consumers.

So there are three dots to connect. What Urban Redevelopment, Infill Development, Downtown Development, and Neighborhood Serving Development needs can your city convert into an opportunity for retailers and developers lost in this storm? In what ways can your city become not only a partner, but a leader in defining the future of retail development in this country? We would love for you to share your thoughts and ideas around this topic.

Chris is a member of the International Council of Shopping Centers, currently serves on the planning committee for the 2009 Conference of the International City Managers Association, and has served in an advisory and resource support role to multiple academic programs related to the field of consumer analytics. During his tenure with Buxton, Chris has worked as a senior analyst and project manager providing solutions for hundreds of retailers, healthcare providers, and cities.

Journey Awareness Persona Economic Development/Elected Official City Government