Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Commercial District News Round Up - Week of March 16th

Skimming the internet for news, so you don't have to...

Outlet Malls Move Closer to Cities in Upending of Rules, Bloomberg Business

"After years of outperforming regular malls, outlets are increasingly encroaching on downtown shopping districts. The shift is part of a painful dislocation for brick-and-mortar retailers, which are abandoning decades of etiquette as they chase a dwindling number of shoppers."

LA City's re:code-Pitched as Simplifying City's Complex and Opaque Zoning Code

LA is starting a very huge project to update its zoning code - the second oldest zoning code in the US for major cities.  It is a five-year project that will produce two zoning codes (one for the central downtown area and one for the rest of the city) and a dynamic web-based code delivery system, which they plan to showcase at the APA national conference in Seattle.

Sausalito Leaders Consider Cap on Bikes Entering City Streets

Not typical news, but Saulsalito is considering measures to limit the number of rental bikers coming to their city from San Francisco due to safety concerns. There is resistance and plenty of businesses that feel this is unnecessary. This is not a done deal and only in investigation phase.  The situation doesn't look anything similar Amsterdam's current bike overload woes.
Amsterdam bike overload

Regional Planning Agency forms first Millennial Advisory Panel

Now that Millennials outnumber Baby Boomers in the Atlanta area they have become a constituent group that has expressed desire to be involved with regional planning issues.  The Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) Millennial Advisory Panel formed in the wake of this desire and looks to be a sea change in the future of America's planning. The panel will formulate policy recommendations related to infrastructure, innovation economy and healthy, livable communities.

Why Some Parklets Work Better Than Others

A report from CityLab on why some parklets work and others don't shows that the type of businesses closest to the parklet plays a key role in its success.  The study showed that an adjacent business with modest interior seating and large front windows were very successful at attracting good parklet usage. Interesting article.
Parklet peak use time varied depending on location, Image: University City District

Parking Madness 2015: Nashville vs Amarillo

Coming out at the same time as college basketball March Madness, Parking Madness, is an interesting series presented by Streetsblog USA and puts two US cities against each other in a bracket tournament of sorts to win the title of "Golden Crater".  It's eye-opening to see how bleak these downtown centers are with so much of the land covered in parking lots.  Some pictures look devoid of human existence.
Amarillo from above (Google Maps).

Egypt's Strange $45 Billion Plan to Abandon Cairo as its Capital City

Similar to Brasilia in Brazil, Abuja in Nigeria, or Islamabad in Pakistan, Egypt looks to create a new capital.  The $45 billion plan would establish the new city to Cairo's east, closer to the Red Sea and would sprawl an estimated 150 square miles for 7 million potential inhabitants.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

News round up...

Image source: Walk [Your City]
We scoured the web so you don't have to. Here are some things this week that caught our eye...

DIY Wayfinding Signs Are About to Go Mainstream

Former graduate student Matt Tomasulo began a project in Raleigh that debuted in 2012 drawing much attention for his self created signs which guided and informed citizens of Raleigh which direction and how long it would take to get to a certain destination, often noted in minutes by foot or by bike.  Now, after a Kickstarter campaign and funding from the Knight Foundation, Tomasulo's "WalkRaleigh" project is expanding in a big way.

Check out the story and see how the new "Walk [Your City]" project allows users to create signs aimed at guiding others to destinations within their city.  Signs are color coded for their type - Commercial, Public Space, Civic/Institutional , and Amusement.

The Neighborhood Has Gentrified, But Where's the Grocery Store?

Image from GOVERNING article,
credit: Shutterstock
Part of a series by GOVERNING regarding gentrification, this article covers the issue of the changing landscape and revitalization of America's downtowns, such as Cleveland, which still noticeably lack grocery options.

Urban Regeneration: What recent research says about best practices

The mid-19th Century brought declining population and disinvestment in the core areas of major American cities, many in the Rustbelt, and coincided with state and federal policies that effectively encouraged suburbinization. This post provides key findings and many potential strategies to address disinvestment and spur regeneration.

Why Are Developers Still Building Sprawl?

Image from The Atlantic article, credit: Don Graham/Flickr
The Atlantic points out that while data and feedback supports that Boomers and Millennials alike want to live in compact, walkable developments builders still are investing in sprawling suburban communities complete with even larger McMansions than before.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Having trouble getting buy-in from your stakeholders?

I'm too excited about the Chicago Business District Leadership Program to limit this to one post. We are now in Day 3 of our opening retreat so here goes....

A BDL participant sharing their vision stand
How do you succinctly and effectively find partners and champions to support you in your corridor revitalization efforts? For corridor managers, the key to success hinges on the answer to this question.
For most, a one-on-one conversation is critical to engaging and garnering support from key stakeholders. Think about it. Have you ever gotten a big grant without a one-on-one pitch to a funder? Have you ever convinced a business to come to your corridor without a one-on-one? My guess is no.

This afternoon the LISC Chicago Business Leadership program worked on this issue. We call them “Vision Stands”. What are those, you ask? At its most basic, a vision stand is a clear and compelling picture of the future you envision…in less than 2 min. Basically an elevator speech. And a darn good one.

Why is a succinct pitch so important? Because the truth is that attention span is short – most of the time  you lose your audience to their own thought processes long before you get to the so called important part of your pitch. Being able to engage is critical to getting others to enroll and provide support for your efforts.

So what makes for a good vision stand? In the BDL program, participants are each given 2 minutes to present their visions to the whole group. They are then provided feedback from one another on three key areas - presence, clarity and credibility. They are pushed to make sure that their vision inspires, and to do that, they need to make sure that they excel in those three key areas.
  • Presence refers to how you show up in front of the group. The speakers quality of being and connection with the group and people’s experience of the speaker who is up in front of them.
  • Clarity refers to an individual’s ability to explain their thoughts clearly and to leave the audience with an ability to summarize elements from their vision.
  • Credibility is the toughest of the three. This refers to the ability of the speaker to offer the audience a sense that they can do what they said they were going to do. Is the speaker believable and do they have the capacity to pull it off? Are they believable? Do they exude confidence. Does their body language communicate self confidence in their work? 
It's not just about the speaker. The exercise is as critical for those providing feedback as it is for the recipient. Offering constructive feedback is so important to effective leadership. Managing people, whether they are your staff or your partners, means having honest discussions about what is working and what isn't. So the exercise really goes both ways and helps all participants.

After the exercise, our facilitator Jose Acevedo shared with us research conducted by Albert Mehrabian from UCLA. What Mehrabian found was that three things contribute to how people perceive and feel about the speaker – whether they like or dislike the speaker and message. What I found fascinating is that people’s perception of you has very little to do with the content of what you say. In fact, only 7% of their feelings are associated with the actual words you say. 38% is related to voice dynamics and the WAY words are said.  And finally, 55% of people’s perception of you is related to your body language, specifically your facial expressions.
Receiving praise from participants after a Vision Stand

Understanding this is powerful, because it tells us about the importance of non-verbal communication in building credibility with our stakeholders. So step away from your email, and make or the call, or better yet, set up a one-on-one with a potential new partner and be prepared to share your vision. This is the first step in your ability to convince others to contribute to your efforts – whether that be a contribution of time (like attendance at meetings), money (contributions in the form of membership, or grants or city funding), or expertise.

Good luck!

Friday, February 27, 2015

LISC Chicago Business District Leadership Program tackles “Active Listening”

An "Active Listening" exercise during the LISC Chicago
Business District Leadership retreat
Two years of planning is finally realized! The first LISC Chicago Business District Leadership Retreat is well underway. This program is an outgrowth of the Coro Neighborhood Leadership Program in New York – now in its fifth year. These programs are truly groundbreaking - they seek to provide leadership and skills training for a cohort of twenty commercial district practitioners annually. This is not your typical training program folks. These individuals were competitively selected and use the six month training program to hone the skills that they need to make their work productive. Today we are tackling active listening. When our masterful facilitator, Jose Acevedo, asked the co-hort this morning “how many of you depend on people over whom you have no authority to be successful at your job?” every hand shot up. That is inherent in this work. The property owners, the business owners, the political leaders, the community leaders and the funders who are our partners are not staff. They are not people who are paid by us and whose performance review is based on how well they execute exactly what we want. How many of you have faced the challenge of a recalcitrant property owner – someone who seems reticent to participate in your commercial revitalization efforts – yet controls a critical and visible property in your district? Or the business owners who bristle at your efforts to improve the district and refuse to engage?

Jose made the powerful point that building relationships with those individuals begin by actively listening to them. But what really is “active listening”? This is the definition we are using here: “ATTENDING carefully to what another person says, means, intends and feels and RESPONDING in a way that lets them know they are heard and understood.” The key here is that active listening requires two steps. First, listening. And next, talking to demonstrate that you have an understanding of what the other person said. That simple, very generous act builds the foundation for a relationship based on mutual understanding.

So go ahead and active listen today! 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Vibrant Streets

Washington DC has been taking big steps in a new direction to connect its residents who choose walkable, bikeable, transit-rich neighborhoods to services - a connection they dubbed Vibrant Streets.  Vibrant Streets started as a DC Office of Planning study that has now excitedly turned into something bigger and now includes The Vibrant Retail Streets Toolkit, a guide designed to take advantage of renewed interest in urban markets by retailers as well as growing districts.

The Vibrant Streets movement expanded after well attended conferences, interest from the industry, and a 2012 Downtown Merit Award from the International Downtown Association.

The toolkit, downloadable for free through ICSC's website, studied several successful national and international shopping districts to gather information for best practices. It comprises "the building blocks to vibrant streets" containing elements of a vibrant street along with explanation and relevancy.

It goes on to walk the reader through an eight step implementation process to create a vibrant retail street.  Many steps to complete, but this toolkit makes it simple and understandable.

The toolkit also spotlights innovative approaches around the country that spur vibrant retail markets like "creatively financing local heritage businesses" in Ithaca, NY, as well as highlights what goes into retailer decision making process and site selection.

We encourage BIDs and commercial districts to check out this valuable toolkit out if you haven't already!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Great signs, great streets...

 Courtesy of Lyn Falk and the National Main Street Center

Lyn Falk, President and Owner of Retailworks, Inc. shares her "Do's and Don'ts of Main Street Signage" on this great post by the National Main Street Center.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Nine hot trends that the retail real estate industry can expect in 2015

We really enjoyed Joel Groover's article in the most recent Shopping Centers Today covering nine "hot topics" he identified after surveying experts in the industry.  Commercial district managers take note! Could some of these trends make their way to your district?
  1. More Mobile Tech and E-Commerce - The continued rise of Internet users worldwide coincides with the ability to capture and use data in ways that improve overall performance. The article goes as far as to note the ability to track customer movement inside malls and stores to gather information - is this move overstepping privacy though?
  2. More Redevelopments of Well-Located Properties - A lot of capital investment is being leveraged against redevelopment of strategically located properties that have the investors cool as cucumbers because the demand for good real estate is so high.
  3. Continued Growth of Fast-Casual Dining - Sales among fast-casual dining establishments increased 11% from 2012 to 2013 and are expected to continue.  Baja Fresh, Chipotle, Panera Bread, and Qdoba are all lumped into the lot of fast-casual as well as Shake Shack who's recent IPO sold 5 million shares. Fast-casual, as I see it is a step above fast-food, which Americans are slowly recanting from. But don't take our word for it, just take a look at what's been happening to McDonald's lately..."As sales dip, McDonald's is replacing Don Johnson as chief", NYTimes, 1/28/15. So here is our question for you...what is your mix of food offerings and is fast-casual dining part of your retail mix? If probably should be. 
  4. More Subleasing of Retail Space - Basically a store or brand within a store or brand. This is expected to increase in 2015. Large-format retailers are turning to creative sublease solutions amid the trend toward downsizing.
  5. More Solar Arrays on Shopping Center Rooftops - Companies, mostly big box stores, are seeing solar as a way to turn underused land and rooftops into productive assets while also impressing environmentally friendly consumers.
  6. Healthier Employment and Consumer Spending - The article relates lowered energy, i.e. oil prices, to savings for employers and consumers who will spend the money saved on gas.  This equates to, among other things, more hiring by employers.
  7. More Same-Day Delivery - As Amazon has notably taken the charge toward same-day delivery, other retailers such as Macy's and Target have also rolled out same-day delivery for select markets of time-stricken consumers. But only 9% of consumers surveyed "cited same-day delivery as a top factor that would improve their online shopping." This means that while delivery remains important, people still want to go to stores to purchase. That's good news for downtown. 
  8. New Initiatives to Recapture Coveted Spaces - Like putting a peg in a hole, retailers are adjusting their size to fit into more appropriate and more coveted spaces as they "right-size" their portfolios. Some of the retailers taking space include Nordstrom Rack, Sprouts, Trader Joe's, and Whole Foods. Looks like luxury bargains and specialty food are taking advantage of these opportunities.
  9. More Retailer Spin off Concepts - Spin off concepts ideally allow established retailers to capture interest of new demographic groups and enter normally inaccessible markets. For example Space Ninety8, an Urban Outfitters concept store, opened in normally chain unfriendly Williamsburg, Brooklyn. COS by H&M spins off higher luxury while F21 Red is lower priced than it's spin off parent, Forever 21. Could some of these spin offs find their way to your district?
Credit: This post was developed in part an article in SCT (“Nine Hot Topics For 2015,” Jan. 2015).