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Nathan_in_DC

Downtown Department Stores

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With the resurgence of downtown and non-mall based shopping, will there ever be a boom in urban CBD based department stores? I keep hearing rumors here in Philadelphia of department stores opening up on Chestnut and Market Streets, outside of the area malls. The Macys (in the former Wannamaker Department Store) continues to be popular. But, although both cities are experiencing a resurgence in CBD retail, Philadelphia and Nashville are very different cities with very different markets.

Will we ever see, say, a Dillard's or a Macy's in downtown? With more people living downtown, in the Gulch, and, soon, in SoBro, will there be enough demand to justify the massive rent even a small department store would pay in the foreseeable future? If so, where will it be?

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I don't think I would want them. At least, them specifically related to Macy's/Dillards/3-story department stores. I'm much more of a fan of the boutiques, so if we could get a Hill Center type development in SoBro/Gulch area, I would be just fine with that. Not that Nashville is a mecca for fashion, but it just seems like they would do better than, well... Macy's. And with the proximity to the Caycee homes/Mission/Shelters, a department store in that area would serve as a potential haven for undesirable activity.

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Hill Center Development in Sobro or the Gulch would be fantastic...lots of tourists shopping down there, and more and more residential coming on line in the next few years...

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I don't think I would want them. At least, them specifically related to Macy's/Dillards/3-story department stores. I'm much more of a fan of the boutiques, so if we could get a Hill Center type development in SoBro/Gulch area, I would be just fine with that. Not that Nashville is a mecca for fashion, but it just seems like they would do better than, well... Macy's. And with the proximity to the Caycee homes/Mission/Shelters, a department store in that area would serve as a potential haven for undesirable activity.

I tend to agree that boutiques would better serve the core area, but it might not hurt to have one or two anchor department stores to help draw in more patrons...perhaps a store that is unique to Nashville rather than Dillard's or Macy's, which I doubt would want to locate there because of the proximity to Green Hills. And while I would like to see a downtown or SoBro mall, that type of development seems more suited for Midtown.

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Yes, I would much rather see a "high street" type development like the Hill Center at Green Hills closer to the core. I also just don't see a department store working downtown for a number of reasons such as the proximity of Green Hills and the lack of a huge core residential population like a major city such as Philly.

We'll all have to see what Boyle & NW Mutual have in store for the North Gulch, but hopefully they take some cues from centers like the Hill Center. The Hill Center has proved to be a very popular complement to the mall. It's my understanding that many retailers are starting to favor the stand-alone stores like our Urban Outfitters in the Gulch or the West Elm at the end of the Hill Center.

Edited by ariesjow

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What about something in between a Hill Center and a Dillard's: something like Boyd's in Philadelphia or Barney's in New York. Upscale, one-off or very limited chains of true department stores, not just a boutique. Does Nashville have enough of a concentration of cash to make that sort of thing work, though? If it did, it would be very interesting to see what kind of activation it would bring to whatever block it is on.

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I have two words for this little discussion: Castner Knott :yahoo: Maybe they could put it on Church Street.... oh, um, wait.. hmmm

My one contribution to the Nashville Scene's "You Are So Nashville If..." contest was: You are so Nashville if you believe Macy's can't hold a candle to Castner Knott. Oddly, that was not the winner that year.

And now, back to your regularly scheduled programming :thumbsup:

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I read this thread with interest because, when I lived in Nashville up until 1984, I was struck that downtown still had its department stores (Cain Sloan, Castner Knott and Harvey's) long after most of the ones in Florida's cities had disappeared. At the time, the theory was that downtown's stable mix of state government employees kept the stores viable.

I know that in Orlando's case the downtown stores closed, not because they were unprofitable, but mostly because by the late 80's the owners of the chains simply no longer wanted to bother with them (old infrastructure and odd-shaped buildings, etc.) Ironically, in Nashville's case they seem to have left just as the renaissance of the second-tier center cities was just gathering steam.

I am struck by the fact that a lot of younger people I talk to locally are amazed when I tell them just how many chains they associate with malls could once be found downtown in smaller towns like Orlando was at the time. Of course, if you're under 30, they were long gone by the time you were born.

My guess is, that if major retail is to return to our downtowns, it is more likely to happen in a district with new construction rather than fitting into existing buildings. The trick, I think , will be to make sure such a district is extended into the existing street grid to avoid dropping what is essentially a suburban mall into a center city and to incorporate things like pocket parks, offices for consumer activities, etc., into the mix. Orlando tried to require ground floor retail in each new building spread out downtown and it has mostly been a failure. It may be time to try the alternate approach for those downtowns with enough land to make it work.

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My guess is, that if major retail is to return to our downtowns, it is more likely to happen in a district with new construction rather than fitting into existing buildings. The trick, I think , will be to make sure such a district is extended into the existing street grid to avoid dropping what is essentially a suburban mall into a center city and to incorporate things like pocket parks, offices for consumer activities, etc., into the mix.

That is the key. Philadelphia has the horrendous Gallery at Market East. It's a terrible monstrosity that destroyed the block it was placed on. It is the one place in Center City Philadelphia that most people actively avoid because it's just so crappy.

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Let's not forget that Target is a department store (and don't forget that Target bought Marshall Fields, the Chicago department store). I'm still holding out that an Urban Target will go in the Northwestern Mutual/Boyle property off of Charlotte, or at least be included in the mix. I'm not a big fan of Target per se, but one thing that I will give them is that when they came into Chicago they built structures that worked with their neighboring buildings, that were built up to the street, and that were pedestrian and even handicap accessible from public transportation. Their willingness to work with urban design and to put a store in a mixed-use complex with housing is part of the reason that they are miles ahead of Walmart in terms of coming into Chicago.

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Actually, I believe it was Macy's that bought Chicago's beloved Marshall Fields. (and the folks in Chicago really hated to let go of their old favorite department store!) The downtown Target went into the historic Carson Pirie Scott department store building just down the street from Marshall Fields' flagship store. Here is a copy/paste from wiki--

The 600,000-square-foot (56,000 m2) building, now renamed the Sullivan Center, is currently owned by Joseph Freed and Associates LLC, a real estate developer based in Palatine, Illinois.

In 2008, a second renovation project of the decorative iron work on the lower three floors began. This included the State Street facade as well as rear portions of the building which face Wabash Avenue. Part of the funding for this renovation was provided by the City of Chicago. The Wabash facade was completed in August 2009 and the work on State Street in late 2010.[13][14]

Tenants of the Sullivan Center include the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Gensler. In December 2010, Freed and Associates announced it was in talks with retailer Target, who expressed an interest in occupying part of the structure.[15] On February 15, 2011, the retailer announced it would lease 125,000 sq ft (11,600 m2) spread over two floors of the building. The new store opened July 26, 2012 and was met with favorable reviews for its clean design while being sensitive to the historic character of the structure.[16]

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