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spenser1058

Question For Our Boston Posters

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First I have heard of it. Although, to be honest, I never go to that far south of Boston. Chelsea is a close suburb of the city, but I don't remember it being that much of a city, per se. It would seem to me more like a development project than really a total redo of a downtown.

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Chelsea is on the brink of a redevelopment boom. It's relatively short distance to the financial district has always made it ripe for investment.

Re: Quincy

I'm not sure how I feel about this development. As it currently stands, Quincy Center is already a thriving area with a restaurant row and shopping district. Granted, like cloudship, I really find no reason to go to Quincy, or South Boston in general aside from the occasional stint in Southie or Dorchester (technically still in Boston). I liken this development to CityPlace in West Palm Beach or the proposed Miami WorldCenter -- an end all be all development that is designed to entirely remake a somewhat downtrodden district in one fell swoop. I think these types of developments have varying levels of success (CityPlace is fabulous, SoDo Orlando could have been better, etc), and for Quincy, it would be a wiser investment to focus on improving transit connections and development that centers around multi-modal transit centers.

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Thanks guys for the responses. I'm particularly interested in how to blend big boxes into downtowns - particularly something as traditional as I assume someplace like Quincy is. Like them or not, big boxes of one sort or another are how America shops now. And "big boxes" really aren't new to downtowns - downtown department stores were the "big boxes" in downtowns for decades, they just were "big' vertically more than horizontally. That only changed when they all decamped for the suburbs in the '60's and '70's and the chains all followed them to the malls. As many mom and pop retailers downtown have told me, we need more chains to serve as the "wienies" (as Walt called them) to provide the base the local boutiques can then build from.

Unfortunately, unlike the northeast, we don't have many local "titans" left that could serve that purpose for us, like Louis' in Boston or even Boscov's in the mid-Atlantic states. So, however it has to happen, a renaissance of retail downtown, if it's to occur, will probably need to start with a chain. How can we configure such stores to work? Thinking of how Walmart now often includes lease space at the front of the store, could we do the same thing downtown but with the small stores accessed from the exterior instead of inside? And, to attract national retailers, will we have to designate a currently empty space to build fresh or could we have someone market the myriad empty spaces we have in all the newer buildings as a "retail district?" These are questions I've asked but no one at the City ever seems to have the answers for yet- the attempts all seem to be hit and miss so far. I hope that's a function of the economy but I often wonder if we have folks of the wrong background spearheading the effort.

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I'm particularly interested in how to blend big boxes into downtowns - particularly something as traditional as I assume someplace like Quincy is. Like them or not, big boxes of one sort or another are how America shops now. And "big boxes" really aren't new to downtowns - downtown department stores were the "big boxes" in downtowns for decades, they just were "big' vertically more than horizontally.

I agree, big name brands definitely have a certain draw to them. They get a bad reputation for upsetting local markets (a la Walmart), but sometimes they work out well I think. SoDo filled up almost instantly with both big brands and independent stores/restaurants.

As far as putting big box stores in urban areas, three examples come to mind that should inspire other businesses:

1. The Publix at Paramount has been very successful with underground parking and loading areas, so no back lots or parking lots required. Plus, they seem to be doing well while relying a lot on pedestrian visitors.

2. The Target at SoDo has two levels or parking on top, which goes along with being vertically "big" like you said (at least in parking).

3. I saw a sign at the old Mini Cooper dealership (?) at Orange & Jefferson that Fiat is moving in. A car dealership can have an urban presence without taking up acres and acres of land close to cities.

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I read that article a little more. Somehow I am thinking it might have been an April fools joke or something. I would think we would have heard more about it by now. More importantly, it just makes no sense to me.

Like I said before, I really haven't been down that way in a long time. But to my knowledge it is not completely dead. How are they going to buy up all that property so that the developer can raise it all anyways? Conceptually, it makes little sense too. Big "downtown-like" developments work in rural areas or areas where there is little else to draw people. It provides the active downtown lifestyle in suburbia. While technically a different city, Chelsea is closer to downtown Boston than many other "near-downtown" districts of the same city. It fills no need other than as a shopping mall, and I don't see them being able to support another one of those. You are dealing with in Chelsea an urban type of resident anyways, these are not families looking for safe neighborhoods - they are more than comfortable bringing their kids downtown with them. Most importantly, this is developer unfriendly Boston Metro. I cant foresee anyone letting something like this pass based on principal alone. Big box retail is a lot harder to survive up here - there is a more independent mindset, and it is not that hard for people to get to the big box stores nearby. And no way any politician would have that kind of power to override the people.

Now, if you are asking how this would work for some place like, say Orlando...

I am not sure a development like this could even support big box retail. Those types of stores don't like that kind of setting - they want their audience captive. And able to cart home large quantities of goods. But that may not be what they are talking about. They may be talking about smaller chains - I am thinking Market Street the Woodlands in Texas, or Weston down near Ft. Lauderdale. I don't think that kind of development would work in most urban areas, but downtown Orlando might be different. In reality downtown is really just another suburb with more, higher buildings and more government services. There is no urban district to compete with in it's current form, outside of Winter Park. Assuming they made it easily accessible, and had free or very cheap parking, I think they could get away with it. I am not sure I would want them to, though. I think it would otherwise stifle independent businesses that would grown the city long term, and as soon as new competition opened up, there goes your downtown. If you can find a way to blend the two, perhaps that would be more successful.

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