The State of Commercial Corridors (And Hot to Protect Them During the Pandemic)

The pandemic is accelerating recent trends in commercial real estate with potentially catastrophic consequences for the commercial corridors that play such a fundamental role in the urban fabric.

November 25, 2020, 7:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Stay-at-Home Orders

Bjorn Bakstad / Shutterstock

An article by Jorge González and Jein Park checks in with the state of commercial corridors, which the article calls the "backbone of neighborhoods."

Despite their centrality to so many neighborhoods commercial corridors are dealing with major destabilizing forces, and according to the article that destabilization reaches far beyond the businesses owners effected by the economic effects of the pandemic. " Increased storefront vacancies not only indicate economic hardship for property owners, businesses, and local governments (through reduced fiscal revenues), but they also affect the surrounding communities," write González and Park.

The article identifies one critical trend: The pandemic is accelerating a decade-long trend of rising retail vacancies.

Today, Yelp data show permanent business closures have increased steadily since the pandemic began, and as of September, 60 percent of the 160,000 closures registered in the platform were permanent. The hardest-hit businesses are restaurants, retail stores, beauty stores and spas, bars and nightlife venues, and fitness venues—key components of commercial corridors.

The negative effects of vacancies (e.g., reduce property values, fire risk, crime, and negative health effects) can be mitigated by local governments, according to the article, even if the federal government never puts together a second round of economic stimulus. Among the suggested prescriptions for the economic downturn for commercial corridors during the pandemic, the article suggests grants and loans, repurposing of public spaces previously devoted to automobiles, relaxed zoning and permitting, and public art programs, vacancy taxes, and more.

Each recommendation includes more detail in the source article.

Thursday, November 19, 2020 in Urban Institute

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