Retailers’ Idea: Think Smaller in Urban Push

By Stephanie Cliffor
Published: July 25, 2012
NY Times

As young Americans move to cities, retailers that grew up in the suburbs are following them. And unlike previous efforts, they are doing it the cities’ way.

With little room to expand in the suburbs, retailers, including Office Depot, Wal-Mart and Target, are betting that opening small city stores will help their growth.

It is a significant shift from their approach in the past, when they tried to cram their big-box formats into cities, often prompting big fights. This time, the retailers studied city dwellers with anthropological intensity and overhauled things as varied as store sizes (the city stores are a small fraction of the size of the suburban ones), packages (they must be compact enough for pedestrians) and signs (they are simple, so shoppers can get in and out within minutes).

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Enticing visitors downtown…and then incarcerating them.

Published: July 24, 2012
American Dirt

As much as street-level engagement for large projects in city centers should, by this point, seem like a foregone conclusion, it continues to amaze how many big ticket items—in cities of widely varying size—either engage in terpsichorean negotiations around it or neglect it completely.  When developers confront a zoning ordinance or design guideline that insists on activating the sidewalks with retail, commercial, residential, or offices, they might challenge the requirement through a number of arguments: the development itself is too small, the street is not prominent enough, the economy for retail is particularly soft.  If the public-sector approving agency for the development fears that the proposal will collapse without kowtowing to the developer’s demands, chances are likely it will pass, therefore lacking that street-level engagement otherwise mandated by code.

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