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spenser1058

Waiting For Godot...er, Downtown Retail

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As I ponder Thomas Chatmon's amazing Downtown Retail-Free Zone, it has been interesting to note that several (Zou Zou clothing and Woof Gang Bakery come immediately to mind, not to mention the all time champ La Belle Furs) of the few retail locations downtown actually seem to be achieving some longevity in comparison to the endless parade of here today, gone tomorrow eateries. This, of course, makes me wonder why so many budding young entrepreneurs seem to add to the endless supply of restaurants instead of trying a merchandise location. The herd mentality, I suppose.

Edited by spenser1058

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Sadly, Cloak & Dapper was not able to sustain their Ivanhoe presence.  

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Having helped someone look for a retail space in Orlando/Winter Park's few historic areas, I can tell you price, size, and parking are still big drawbacks. Prices are high when compared to strip malls and downtown spaces usually need a lot more build-out. Size was also an issue: it seems like there are either 600 sq ft shops or 10,000 sq ft spaces. We had a hard time finding something in the 1,500 to 2,000 sq ft range. And lastly: parking. For bars, restaurants, services (salons, etc.), and venues, not having close parking isn't a big deal. You can park once and walk or just Uber. However, for retail (especially the kind where people need to quickly pop in or load/unload while running errands) not having convenient parking is a drawback. Right now there just aren't enough incentives for downtown retail that counteract these problems. 

I think the answer to this could be a large, concentrated retail effort like a pedestrian shopping street or urban mall. Not to beat a dead horse, but Lincoln Road in Miami Beach or any European shopping street would be the answer. For example, whatever is developed on the Orlando Sentinel property could have a new pedestrian-only north-south road go parallel between Orange and Magnolia.

Here's a quick mock-up of what that could look like, with storefronts in red and improved pedestrian areas in tan:

OrlandoRetailDowntown.jpg

Here's an example from Lincoln Road:

lincoln-road-900x400.jpg

Here's an example from Germany:

IMG_1445.jpg

An example of what was built around the Dadeland Metrorail station in Miami (see seven-story buildings in lower half of image):

dadeland-condos-1.jpg

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That would explain why La Belle does so well, I suppose, as there's plenty of parking available along that rather nondescript segment of Orange Ave. I had hoped with all the residential within walking distance of areas like Thornton Park that would be less of a necessity, but I guess O-town is still working on less dependence on automobility.

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Germany seems to have mastered the outdoor pedestrian mall space.  There is a decent one in nearly every mid- to- large sized city.

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6 minutes ago, prahaboheme said:

Germany seems to have mastered the outdoor pedestrian mall space.  There is a decent one in nearly every mid- to- large sized city.

German, French, and other continental European cities are leaps and bounds ahead of anything I've seen in the US when it comes to pedestrian street. Even Manhattan has only recently built some pedestrian-only cut-throughs. American cities seem to have adopted for a more English style of city building: more green spaces, front yards, and grassy medians, but also more suburbs and auto infrastructure.

Two interesting things about the German example I posted: 1) This is from the city of Saarbrücken, which is only around 180,000 people (in a state of 1 million). I took that photo on a random weekday afternoon, and it was as busy as Florida Mall on a Saturday. (During Christmas time it's packed.) Meanwhile, Orlando proper has around 270,000 people (in a metro of 2.4 million), so something of this magnitude should be possible downtown. Of course, you could argue that Orlando has too many malls--but the German example also has plenty of malls and other shopping streets.

2) This didn't happen by accident. The image below shows what this street looked like in the '60s. A big effort was made to pedestrianize and improve this stretch. Looks a lot like Orange Avenue, right? Again, Orlando should be capable of doing something like this, either through new development (Orlando Sentinel property) or as a conversion of Orange or Magnolia.

Bahnhofstrasse_alt_gross.jpg

IMG_1445.jpg

I wrote a blog post about this city here: http://www.canin.com/connectivity-case-study-germany/ 

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I think it's simply a case of downtown Orlando just not yet having achieved enough residents living within walking distance of any possible downtown retail centers. 

Most people do not want to have to pay to park while they shop, or pay to have someone else drive them to and from.

Downtown is still an inconvenient place to go to for those who have to drive or be driven there.

If there was a way to provide free parking and then heavily advertise it, people might start coming downtown to shop.

 

 

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The upper photo reminds me of Orange Avenue looking from about Sears (where the Copper Whopper is now) in the 1960s when people still shopped downtown.

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Interestingly, Publix at the Paramount continues to get busier every time I visit. Whether that's because of free parking in the garage I don't know (especially since it seems to be full every time I try to use it with people leaving to go other places).

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I'd imagine all the new apartments being built will encourage retail growth.

Another concern for retail, I have to imagine, is the homeless. We were out for a walk the other night and had a random homeless person walk up and wrap their arms around both myself and my girlfriend unexpectedly. When I reacted by removing them, I was yelled at for being racist, etc. Occurrences like this aren't unusual, and to be honest it's a big part of why I'm considering relocating from downtown.

Why deal with the above problem when you can go to a place that doesn't have those problems, has plentiful parking and comparable or lower prices due to lower rents? Uphill battle. 

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I haven't really run into negative interactions with street folk on the Thornton Park side in a while. Having grown up in the 'burbs of West Orlando when it was a pain to get anywhere, I'm still a huge fan of walking to Publix, the Y, OPL, FUMCO and just strolling around Eola. I definitely prefer Thornton Park/South Eola to downtown proper, however. I also much prefer all the trees on the east side of Eola. Due to our Retail-Free Zone, however, I am quite pleased there is now an amazon locker at the 7-Eleven on Summerlin.

Edited by spenser1058

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The east side is substantially better, I think ... I haven't had as many issues over there. The CBD is often a cesspit, though. It's not just that homeless are present, but that they are often aggressive or even invade your personal space.

I would love to find a place on the east side, but it is difficult with a family of 3 where both parents work from home. We need a lot of space. I've been looking at Winter Garden lately because it strikes me as one of the places outside of downtown that is growing, has historic character and doesn't look like the Truman Show (i.e. Lake Nona, Baldwin Park, other faux city centers.)

On the topic of retail, it seems to have been marching steadily forward, even if it is slower than I'd like. Walgreens is in the process of build out at Orange and Church. That's going to be a great addition and I'm hoping it inspires others to come downtown. The lack of a pharmacy in that Walgreens is a real blow, though. Hearing that really lowered my excitement for that addition.

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Winter Garden (which is where my father and his parents are from) would definitely be my next choice if I left Thornton Park. It's still a tad too Republican for my very political soul, and being out and proud, it would be tough to give up my rainbow flag- bedecked neighborhood (especially since I first came out to myself on an Eola park bench in 1977 after concluding my hometown would accept me  - if only I'd known how right I'd be, given my Southern friends who had a very different experience where they grew up.)

Edited by spenser1058
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I've been hearing good things about DeLand lately (and still about Sanford), so it's a real shame the SunRail stations aren't/won't be in the city centers there.That's the kind of growth we need: mainstreets with walkable cores and easy access to downtown Orlando/Winter Park without a car. Someday...

Back to retail: Sanford's downtown retail easily outshines downtown Orlando's. The fact that they have an independent bookstore, coffee shops, and a small food store makes it a good example for our downtown. Since parking is similar, maybe it's low rents and a dedicated customer base that make those businesses stay open? 

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51 minutes ago, spenser1058 said:

Winter Garden (which is where my father and his parents are from) would definitely be my next choice if I left Thornton Park. It's still a tad too Republican for my very political soul, and being out and proud as I am, it would be tough to give up my rainbow flag- bedecked neighborhood (especially since I first came out to myself on an Eola park bench in 1977 after concluding my hometown would accept me  - if only I'd known how right I'd be, especially given my Southern friends who had a very different experience where they grew up.)

Yeah. As a liberal, and a very political one at that, living in a GOP stronghold is definitely a down side. We saw more than a few high flying confederate flags and Trump signs. So I totally get that mindset.

That said, if I were to, say, open a small office in downtown Winter Garden for my software company, plant some roots (There's a Plant Street pun in here somewhere...), that is how a person can really help spread change they want. By being PRESENT, KIND to others, and an ADVOCATE for the things you care about. This stuff changes quickly, and the trend has been for the better. Plus, maybe my vote counts a little more!

Sorry to hijack the thread. And thanks for your story about coming out. I'm glad we live in a city where it's not only accepted but actively celebrated. 

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47 minutes ago, alex said:

I've been hearing good things about DeLand lately (and still about Sanford), so it's a real shame the SunRail stations aren't/won't be in the city centers there.That's the kind of growth we need: mainstreets with walkable cores and easy access to downtown Orlando/Winter Park without a car. Someday...

Back to retail: Sanford's downtown retail easily outshines downtown Orlando's. The fact that they have an independent bookstore, coffee shops, and a small food store makes it a good example for our downtown. Since parking is similar, maybe it's low rents and a dedicated customer base that make those businesses stay open? 

Some type of east-west rail from Winter Garden (maybe even Clermont?) to Waterford with a SunRail transfer right in downtown would be amazing.

I think it must be rents, right? Then again, look at Winter Park. Rents must be insane. But it's a shopping destination, so it's surviving. Wealthy neighbors helps, too, of course.

I love downtown Sanford. It's very comparable to Winter Garden. And, sadly, neither is connected to any sort of transit. :(

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Just got back from Miami Beach and can report that Lincoln Road Mall has seen its better days. It looks ragged, dated, locals are abandoning it in droves and stores can't compete with the malls. Word is that a modest upgrade is in the works, not to start until Spring 2018.

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Winter Garden really is a success story.The Plant Street Market is, dare I say, an upgrade on the East End Market (all the perks, none of the pretension).  And the Crooked Can Brewery is on its way to rivaling Cigar City in the years ahead if it keeps on winning local and state-wide accolades. 

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Honestly, the critical mass still is just not there to support such retail space in downtown.  You would end up with a bunch of vacant storefronts.  If people want to shop like that they go to Millennia or outlets near the tourist area.  I think the best we can hope for downtown are some real destination stores.  Something that can draw it's own traffic is what would work. Something like an Apple store downtown or Crate & Barrel or Niketown, etc.  It has to be able to drive it's own demand and appeal to a crowd that would walk in, not like a generic big box or strip mall type destination.  Get a couple of those downtown and others can ride on the coattails. And it really helps if it is near more cultural crowd drivers.  This is why things like the DPAC, the Amway/Magic entertainment complex, Plaza movie theater, and a proposed downtown museum are so important.  Cluster all these things around each other in the same area, and they multiply and create the traffic that is necessary to support retail.  We are not there yet, but important steps have been taken to make this come eventually.  Compare downtown around a decade ago before the Plaza, 55 West, DPAC, the Paramount with Publix, etc. . . and we are light years ahead.

I hope someday we get to the point were the CBD between Central and South is to the point were it is a vibrant self sustaining block of awesome. . . but it takes one step at a time.  I want it to get like the Loop or San Fran's Market Street/Union Square area eventually, not a fabricated pedestrian mall with vacant storefronts and non-exiting businesses.

 

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5 hours ago, Dale said:

Just got back from Miami Beach and can report that Lincoln Road Mall has seen its better days. It looks ragged, dated, locals are abandoning it in droves and stores can't compete with the malls. Word is that a modest upgrade is in the works, not to start until Spring 2018.

CityPlace in WPB seems to have fallen on hard times, too.

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8 hours ago, spenser1058 said:

Interestingly, Publix at the Paramount continues to get busier every time I visit. Whether that's because of free parking in the garage I don't know (especially since it seems to be full every time I try to use it with people leaving to go other places).

I do think Central Ave has hit a certain level of sustained traffic to support the Publix and the other businesses along it. For this reason, I think Central could intentionally transform (again!) into a solid retail corridor. For this to happen, it would take some planning. Every building from Modera down to Publix would require a renovation that includes direct streetside retail space. The city would need to orchestrate something like this through a long term initiative.

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38 minutes ago, prahaboheme said:

CityPlace in WPB seems to have fallen on hard times, too.

Really ? Clematis Street is the real deal though.

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1 hour ago, Dale said:

Really ? Clematis Street is the real deal though.

Yes--was there just a week ago and it was more desolate than I've seen it in many years.

Meanwhile, Worth Ave continues its tradition of 100% occupancy (like Park Ave, Winter Park).

Edited by prahaboheme
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Is there any reason why the Uptown experience cannot be replicated south of Colonial ?

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18 hours ago, prahaboheme said:

  And the Crooked Can Brewery is on its way to rivaling Cigar City in the years ahead if it keeps on winning local and state-wide accolades. 

I don't know a single beer person that thinks that.  If we're talking about just in the metro area, Hourglass is light years ahead of Crooked Can.  Crooked Can has a few good things for sure, but isn't remotely in the same tier as Cigar City.

On 11/18/2016 at 0:44 PM, castorvx said:

Another concern for retail, I have to imagine, is the homeless. We were out for a walk the other night and had a random homeless person walk up and wrap their arms around both myself and my girlfriend unexpectedly. When I reacted by removing them, I was yelled at for being racist, etc. Occurrences like this aren't unusual, and to be honest it's a big part of why I'm considering relocating from downtown.

I'm so fascinated by your experiences, I feel like this isn't the first time something like this has happened to you.  I can only think of really one time in the 4 years living in 55W that I've had a homeless touch me, and really only 5 or so times I ever felt any concern based on their yelling at me or my girlfriend.

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