Retail: Walkable urban primer with southwest inspiration

A couple weeks ago, I had the great pleasure of working with Bob Gibbs in Las Cruces, New Mexico, looking at ways to help downtown outperform the suburbs, helping Main Street be more profitable than strip malls. The top lessons were to nurture unique historic character in walkable formats and don’t build leasable space that you can’t lease. For downtown to have a critical mass, the goal is to capture 20% of the retail market share. That’s 10 times the current average of the 2% that most downtowns in the U.S. capture today.

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Black Friday: Get your gorilla on

We’re happy when we go for a run. We’re even more happy when we go for a run in a gorilla suit — at least according to Roko Belic, director of the award-winning documentary, HAPPY. That’s because some change is gonna do ya good. Which is one of the many reasons that we placemakers advocate for immersive urban environments, and not the monoculture of suburbia. And why we go as far as to argue that these sorts of diverse, character-rich neighbourhoods actually make us happier.

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Lessons Learned from Berlin Shopfronts

Like many European cities, Berlin teaches us myriad lessons in building successful shopfronts. While the exclusive international shops along Kurfürstendamm and Friedrichstrasse are elegant and effective, the more creative successes are found in neighborhoods and courtyards. Kaid Benfield’s People Habitat describes in detail the reasons Hackeschen Höfe is so successful at the holistic level, and last week Hazel Borys discussed the diversity of uses, so here we’ll just explore the interesting shopfront contributions. There are some very successful shopfront examples in the Prenzlaur Berg neighborhood as well.

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Why Placemaking Matters: What’s in it for me?

When a mayoral candidate from my city wrote me to ask me to repeat in writing what I’d said the night before, I realize I need to de-wonk and make my elevator speech more memorable. Why does city planning matter to people who aren’t urban designer types? If I could take an extra five minutes of your time, I’m interested in hearing each of your pitches, in the comments below. Here’s mine, thanks in part to countless conversations with many of you: Continue Reading

More Lessons from Albuquerque: Nob Hill and ABQ Uptown

Being back in Albuquerque for a charrette this week, I’m reminded that I still owe you a promised discussion from my last trip to New Mexico, back in December. This time around, I was thinking about my two favorite places to shop in the city — the historic Nob Hill and the ABQ Uptown lifestyle center — and what the two might be able to learn from each other.

Much of what ABQ Uptown can learn from Nob Hill is inherent in these Smart Growth principles:

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Resolved for 2014: Obstacle reduction

New year’s resolutions? Bah. Do what you love. With clarity. Only about 8% of people keep their resolutions for 365 days anyway. So what about if instead, we set out to remove the obstacles to doing the really healthy things we love? Both as individuals and as communities.

This line of thinking started the other morning at breakfast, when my husband asked me if going to my new dance class is one of my new year’s resolutions. My immediate response was, “Definitely not! It’s not a resolution; it’s a certainty. I love it!”

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Paris: What People Want

As an urbanist, writing about Paris is both delectable and daunting. Tempering that is the fact that we visited in June, when the strain to both infrastructure and pricing makes my memories of past trips look more lovable. Still, the timelessness of the City, as shown so compellingly in this 1914 to 2013 series of comparisons, is still delightful and satisfying.

You say the word “Paris” and anyone who’s ever been there immediately has some good memory to share. The grandeur of its urbanism and romance of its streets is without peer. However, the city seems to be bulging at the seams.

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Get Your Shops into a Walkable Town Center!

Shops: Everybody Wants ‘Em
Last week we started this series off with Hotels, a sometimes overlooked, value-adding addition to a walkable town center. This week we are looking at one of the essential ingredients of a town center: the retail shops. The retail component of a town center is the most visible component, often defining the character and pedigree of a place. It is also the biggest generator of traffic, an attractor of street life and pedestrian activity, and value-adding convenience for neighboring office workers and residents. But where it gets into trouble is the fact that successful retail spells m-o-n-e-y. It makes bucks for the developers and operators, it is often a key line item on municipal tax roles, and it can bring great value to surrounding neighborhoods. But the problem is that while everybody wants ‘em, there is only so much to go around.

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Retail on My Mind

Seems I’ve got retail on my mind. It all started in December, with Bob Gibb’s Placemaking@Work webinar, whose tweetchat sparked a Neighbourhood Retail BlogOff led by Steve Mouzon. Then last week Victor Dover’s PM@W webinar followed up with ideas about tactical retail, where he talked about the next version of mixed use being smaller, quicker, and more organic.

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Retail: When it bends the rules and breaks the law.

Getting ready for a TEDx talk in a few weeks, I’ve once again been noticing how the places that I love the most usually break the law. The contemporary development codes and bylaws, that is, which are geared to the car, not to the pedestrian and cyclist.

Then last week’s urban retail SmartCode tweetchat with Bob Gibbs sparked a debate about the rules of thumb that govern the success or failure of the most risky development of all: retail. And when those rules might be bent by certain special circumstances.

Ready to geek out with me for a moment?

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