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There's a Hole Where Ground-Floor Retail Should Be

Mixed-use developments still often operate better in theory than in reality.
June 7, 2018, 7am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Oran Viriyincy

Rachel Quednau writes on the subject of empty ground-floor retail spaces in the wave of mixed-use development that is being added at a increasingly rapid pace in communities around the country.

As cities and towns have rewritten zoning codes and plans to allow for mixed-use development, some "lovely" new developments have remade areas previously lacking in streetlife, according to Quednau. "But here’s the more common picture: a cookie-cutter five story apartment building over a vacant commercial space."

Given the popularity of the mixed-use building type, and the obvious appeal of a state-of-the-art facility to new business onwners, why aren't these ground-floor retails spaces filled with willing tenants? That's the question Quednau explores, finding a number of answers:

  • "A problem of scale" – New commercial spaces are both two large and too expensive for mom and pop stores. Many developers are designing with chains in mind, in fact.
  • Big banks, which finance mixed-use development projects, aren't exactly leading urbanists.

According to Quednau, there's also reasons for optimism, as more developers are "finding creative ways to return to the traditional way of building, which happened at a smaller, more incremental scale."

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Published on Wednesday, June 6, 2018 in Strong Towns
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