Urbanity

Drive for 'Center City' retail

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I may be incorrect to start a new topic (and if so, please feel free to merge into an existing thread), but as the theme of Uptown/City Center retail is consistently discussed in other threads, I thought it might be good to have a thread of its own.

I would hope it focuses primarily on Uptown as well as the surrounding neighborhoods as discussed in the current 2020 vision plan.

This morning's edition of the Observer has a great opinion piece by Mary Newsom on the subject which I think is the perfect launch item for this thread. I particularly love the lead:

"Uptown Charlotte, for all its success in recent years, is like a marching band without trombones. It's figure-skating without sequins, or winter Olympics without snow.

What's lacking? Call it window shopping or stores or retail. Whatever you call it, it's hard to have a satisfying downtown without it. And when you walk down Charlotte's center city sidewalks, you don't see many stores."

Charlotte's uptown shopping dilemma

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viewnewsom0123.ART_GA411H9MV.1+JackWoodStore.JPG.embedded.prod_affiliate.138.jpg

What a great building! I wish it was still here - I think this is in the lot that is now "300 S. Tryon"? I would much rather have this building than another highrise.

I missed out on the Center City 2020 thing - too bad. But if I were there, I would have suggested one thing:

-Center City Partners could organize a Uptown Is Open event, wherein they convince and heavily publicize all existing shops and restaurants (I'm looking at you Salsaritas on S. Tryon, and you Latta Arcade) to be OPEN one full weekend a month (NORMAL HOURS!). Put it together with an extended Green Market, a Flea Market/Bazaar, street sales, whatever... but make it a calling card that at least once a month, if anyone is interested, you can spend a day in the city browsing, eating, shopping and socializing.

Edited by The Escapists

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^It should've been considered a crime to tear down that building. What a wasted opportunity for retail in uptown. I can't believe it sat as a parking lot for that long.

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And that's the sort of thing that happened all around Uptown: those traditional stores/shops were torn down for office highrises which just aren't conducive for retail at street level. As Mary Newsome said, "In Charlotte, many decisions and designs, public and private, over decades essentially destroyed the places where street-front retail might naturally have occurred in a reviving downtown." This is why smaller cities like Charleston, Greenville, and Greensboro do so much better than Charlotte with their downtown retail scenes: they retained more of those storefronts where street-front retail "naturally occurs."

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I would edit her statement to say "naturally occurred" instead of "occurs." It seems like the good stuff doesn't happen naturally anymore. Cities have to require it.

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I'm certain this was added on another thread, but I thought it might be helpful to post here as well.

The Center City Charlotte Retail Market Assessment was undertaken to quantify the need for retail in Uptown Charlotte. Center City’s emergence as the area’s dominant employment center and entertainment zone and its evolution as a residential neighborhood support the goal of adding a broad complement of shopper’s goods to the existing base of convenience retail and restaurants.

http://www.charlottecentercity.org/initiatives/project/3/retail-market-assessment/

It makes for an interesting read regarding the prospects of retail in Center City as well as what kind of stores would be (hopefully already are being) pursued for the city's core.

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<br />I would edit her statement to say &quot;naturally occurred&quot; instead of &quot;occurs.&quot; It seems like the good stuff doesn't happen naturally anymore. Cities have to require it.<br />
<br />

I have had some lengthy arguments related to this. The state of American free enterprise is such that the value of the quick buck far exceeds the long term investment. It takes a social action (ie, the government) to basically "force" free enterprise into being a little more socially valuable over the long haul.

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I didn't agree with Mary Newsom's article:

(1) In a city, uses of space (high-end stores; car dealerships; big-box stores; office space; etc.) tend to cluster in certain areas. Why in the world would the "off the beaten path"/non-chain retail that Newsom wants cluster uptown- and not in Elizabeth, Dilworth, etc., particular with Uptown's high rental rates?

(2) So Mary Newsom wants off the beaten path retail uptown- and she wants it to be mandatory. So she wants certain types of stores- why should the government force a real estate developer have to pay out of his or her pocket so that Mary Newsom's retail desires are met?

In NYC, plenty of areas with lots of finance-related office space (Wall Street, and parts of Midtown farther away from Fifth Avenue) have little destination retail- plenty of blocks have nothing but Starbucks, bank branches and drugstores- and destination retail is clustered in touristy areas and areas with upper-income residential. Charlotte's no different- just on a smaller scale. (At least Charlotte has a Target and a nice new movie theater in the center city- that's way better than a lot of cities have.)

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I didn't agree with Mary Newsom's article:

(1) In a city, uses of space (high-end stores; car dealerships; big-box stores; office space; etc.) tend to cluster in certain areas. Why in the world would the "off the beaten path"/non-chain retail that Newsom wants cluster uptown- and not in Elizabeth, Dilworth, etc., particular with Uptown's high rental rates?

(2) So Mary Newsom wants off the beaten path retail uptown- and she wants it to be mandatory. So she wants certain types of stores- why should the government force a real estate developer have to pay out of his or her pocket so that Mary Newsom's retail desires are met?

In NYC, plenty of areas with lots of finance-related office space (Wall Street, and parts of Midtown farther away from Fifth Avenue) have little destination retail- plenty of blocks have nothing but Starbucks, bank branches and drugstores- and destination retail is clustered in touristy areas and areas with upper-income residential. Charlotte's no different- just on a smaller scale. (At least Charlotte has a Target and a nice new movie theater in the center city- that's way better than a lot of cities have.)

Are you disagreeing with Mary Newsom or the professional outside retail consultant assessment that was done? In either case I don't believe I've seen an argument made for Uptown to focus on "off the beaten path" retail.

I also don't see anything about "mandatory" either. She (and the retail assessment) does (rightfully) point out that in order to get significant street facing retail in Uptown zoning changes are required, but this isn't anything that hasn't already been pointed out by others from casual observer to city planners.

You may be missing the point about her article, the retail assessment done, and many comments and observations made on this board: People want to be able to shop in Uptown.

There is closing in on 10,000 residents in the area; I don't know how many tourists; thousands of office workers; and countless numbers who come to Uptown for the day. For any of those parties to buy a shirt, a book, or maybe a gift - they have to either find the appropriate building that a shop may be hidden inside (away from street view/ and as long as it's Mon - Fri 9-5) or get in a car and drive? That makes no sense.

I don't think NYC is a fair comparison btw for the majority of cities, but since you mentioned it as an example, truth is that there is shopping retail blocks in almost every neighborhood of Manhattan including the Financial District and Midtown.

The Wall Street area alone has the Century 21 Flagship Department Store, JR Music World Flagship store, all the shops on Chambers Street, Broadway, Fulton, Maiden.

As for the Midtown area, I don't get your statement regarding areas of Midtown that are farther away from Fifth as it runs in the dead center of Midtown and is only a couple of blocks from either the farthest west or east point. Yet even if we rule out Fifth, there is Madison, Lexington, and Third of the East side, and Eight and Ninth on the Westide side that all have retail throughout, and even Tenth Avenue is starting to get some niche retail. This doesn't even count the retail that one can find on many of the side streets that run crosstown.

Edited by Urbanity

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It's always going to be a struggle to go back in time and try to retrofit a business center downtown into a retail attraction. I would love to read of some successful examples?

I would prefer to establish blocks of indie small storefront retail but that horse left the barn and the farm so long ago it's in another state. Perhaps in the context of an "urban village" we will achieve that, but it still won't have the organic feel of the little we do posess in Plaza Midwood or NoDa for example.

The focus of the powers that be seems to be placed on luring a chain store. Well that would be cool too. But Virgin is gone, Borders is teetering on bankruptcy. B&N seems anchored to suburbia. As others have mentioned H&M or Topshop would be cool but what must their impression be of a downtown whose few restaurants and convenience stores on the signature street are closed on weekends? Yeah it's gotten better over the years but Tryon is still pretty much dead during the day on the weekends. The cultural campus is helping generate some life on it's end.

I have an idea ,the O is constantly struggling financially so they can relocate to a smaller facility and their Taj Mahal can go retail.

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I think the idea from the retail assessment is that you need to first establish retail that speaks to the largest number of people first before you go the niche/indie route. Page 80 on the assessment gives an idea of what is believed would work for both a residential/office worker/tourist market.

As far as not enough people being in Uptown, I think that is whole chicken/egg issue that keeps getting mentioned. I disagree that there is not enough people walking around on a Saturday to support retail because the visual of people walking around Tryon is misleading since there is nothing for the causal stroller to do on Tryon on a Saturday until very recently (i.e. cultural campus) so people don't usually think to take a stroll on Tryon. Add some retail and that would eventually change.

That said, I'm more in favor of developing retail off of most of Tryon as I don't think the street has to be everything.

Edited by Urbanity

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I still feel that Charlotte is doing a slightly better job than some cities of the same relative size in mixing big business with retail/attractions. One only needs to take a trip to either New Orleans or Denver to see what I mean. New Orleans has the French Quarter on one side, the riverfront, and then Magazine and St. Charles on the other side of the city. In between is a large center business district and the Superdome with virtually nothing in terms of activity other than a few hotels sprinkled throughout. The same thing in Denver - 16th St. mall and the convention center on one side, LoDo to the west I believe, then a vast area of huge highrises that make for kind of a creepy walk when trying to get to Eastern downtown near the capital and "gay district." The real detraction from retail in Charlotte at the moment, which has been said a thousand times, is the Overstreet Mall.

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I still feel that Charlotte is doing a slightly better job than some cities of the same relative size in mixing big business with retail/attractions.

I very much agree that Charlotte has a leg up on many cities of comparable size as far as big business and attractions. I think that's what makes the lack of significant retail much more apparent.

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Are you disagreeing with Mary Newsom or the professional outside retail consultant assessment that was done? In either case I don't believe I've seen an argument made for Uptown to focus on "off the beaten path" retail.

I disagree in part with Newsom's article- which talks about "charmless national chains" that'll have to come before locally-owned ones do, and which refers to "unique, local shops and restaurants people always say they want."

I've lived and worked in both uptown Charlotte and NYC and other large cities, and spend significant time in both now.

Once the economy picks back up, lure a small Saks and a Brooks Brothers and maybe a J. Crew. Charlotte won't attract a Mast General Store uptown; nor will it attract much more than national chains and clones of national chains, due to the people who live and work there.

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I agree ^ I would personally prefer locally owned shops with a more eclectic feel but it seems like those only survive in small doses among the inner ring older neighborhoods. Much of the demo that lives in Uptown would seem to gravitate to chain retail.

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Cosign on that. You're just not going to get those funky local businesses in newer commercial/residential buildings, and that's fine. Let's let SouthEnd, Elizabeth, NoDa, Plaza-Midwood, Dilworth, etc. expand the presence of those businesses there and Uptown can focus on some chain anchors to get the ball rolling.

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<br />

I have had some lengthy arguments related to this. The state of American free enterprise is such that the value of the quick buck far exceeds the long term investment. It takes a social action (ie, the government) to basically "force" free enterprise into being a little more socially valuable over the long haul.

I disagree. Why does government have to force it? Why not put up some economic incentives to make it more financially feasible to retrofit existing buildings for street-fronting retail? Council could very easily do that and let the private sector do its thing.

I agree ^ I would personally prefer locally owned shops with a more eclectic feel but it seems like those only survive in small doses among the inner ring older neighborhoods. Much of the demo that lives in Uptown would seem to gravitate to chain retail.

Everyone focuses in on this 'eclectic' retail like its the primary objective, but how about basic retail and services for uptown residents? How about a normal store where uptown residents can buy regular priced clothing? Or how about a place where I can buy an air filter for my HVAC? Is it really too much to ask?

Perhaps some of this comes with the so-called "critical mass" of population within center city, but I hope that these kinds of stores can open up sooner than later.

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Once the economy picks back up, lure a small Saks and a Brooks Brothers and maybe a J. Crew.

I'm highly doubtful of a Saks, but the Brothers and J. Crew are the kind of stores that assessment talks about.

Cosign on that. You're just not going to get those funky local businesses in newer commercial/residential buildings, and that's fine. Let's let SouthEnd, Elizabeth, NoDa, Plaza-Midwood, Dilworth, etc. expand the presence of those businesses there and Uptown can focus on some chain anchors to get the ball rolling.

I think this is the point that a few people may be missing. This is what I saw Mary Newsom saying as well as the retail assessment survey.

Everyone focuses in on this 'eclectic' retail like its the primary objective, but how about basic retail and services for uptown residents? How about a normal store where uptown residents can buy regular priced clothing? Or how about a place where I can buy an air filter for my HVAC? Is it really too much to ask?

I think it depends on your definition of "regular priced" clothing? If you mean GAP, Brooks Brothers, Banana Republic, etc: That I think is what they are trying to recruit. If you mean Target type prices - the survey already mentioned that Uptown isn't a fit due to rent prices and abundance of similar options outside of Uptown.

I know I already linked it, but I really urge everyone to read the retail assessment study.

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I realize that this is fairly specific and I have no idea if any wheels are turning to get this done, but an Apple store downtown would be a great store to drive other retail around it. Apple is known for placing many of their stores in downtown locations and Charlotte is in great need of a second location. The current store at Southpark is always packed and is one of their smaller stores. The Raleigh/Durham area has two locations and Greensboro now has one, which happens to be the largest location in both NC/SC (Charleston also has a location downtown).

Apple has said they're opening between 40-50 stores in 2010 with half of those being US locations. It's not out of the question to think that one of those locations may be a second location in some of the larger cities that have a smaller store as their only store.

The customers that are attracted to an Apple store are those willing to pull out their credit cards for the most part which is what we need to jump start retail downtown.

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The customers that are attracted to an Apple store are those willing to pull out their credit cards for the most part which is what we need to jump start retail downtown.

You're spot on with this. I bought my wife an Apple last year. Along with the purchase they offer some free instruction. We live in The Trademark, and frankly, never took them up on the offer since she'd have to drive all the way out to SP.

With all the professionals downtown, it's hard imagining not a single computer store down there. The permanant residents are one market, but think of all the bankers, etc coming and going down there with their private laptops who might have forgotten a charger or need another thumbdrive...

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I think an Apple store would be a great catalyst for uptown retail as well... My question would be, where would it go? Hopefully not in any of the parking deck retail spots (not sure any of those are big enough, except of the one on the Catalyst site).

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I would expect Apple would probably build out their own building. The only existing space I could seem them occupying is the Mint, and that's being given to the Foundation for the Carolinas.

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Apple would have really fit into the bottom floor of the Founders Hall. Or if they were to blow out the ground level College St side of Omni.

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Would love to see an Apple store in Uptown. Frankly I think it would do very well.

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There is an interesting article about a 3 block development in downtown Salt Lake City that will add close to 300,000 sq of retail (along with apartments and businesses.)

While there are a lot of things that are happening unique to SLC such as this massive $1b project being financed by the Mormon Church, I think it is fascinating that they apparently lined up a 150k sq ft Macy's and a 124k sq ft Nordstrum as anchor tenants with (what I believe) is over a 100K sq ft available for boutique stores in the space of roughly three city blocks.

I don't necessarily like the actual development (it feels too mall-ish to me) I do think it's noteworthy of their ability to attract retailers to their downtown which is smaller than Charlotte's.

It also offers an idea of how drastically we could change the retail feel of Uptown in the space of a few blocks.

Article: http://www.nytimes.c...08saltlake.html

City Creek site w/conceptual tour http://www.downtownr...com/city_creek/

Edited by Urbanity

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