By N. David Milder

We Need More Than Pollyannaish or Wishful Thinking for Our Downtowns to Recover and Thrive  

We are in the midst of what many observers have called the deepest crisis this nation has faced in many decades. It has been especially injurious to our downtowns because it has necessitated massive social distancing that makes it impossible for so many downtown entities, — e.g., shops, eateries, offices, movie theaters – to function properly or profitably. In this situation, it is understandable if downtown leaders and stakeholders look for signs that their future will be considerably better. Hope is perhaps the most underestimated, yet essential ingredient of any downtown revitalization or recovery. Still, if our downtowns are to recover, we must face realities and overcome some exceptionally strong challenges, while taking advantage of any new opportunities that this terrible crisis either creates or reveals.

In recent weeks a number of articles have appeared that have been quite pollyannaish about the recovery of our downtowns based on either wishful thinking or sloppy analysis. These puff pieces may be good for instilling hope, and perhaps are even needed. However, they are no substitutes for the kind of critical thinking and contingent planning that we need to start doing now if we are to robustly recover as quickly as possible.

Will Entrepreneurial Gold Dust Really Fall to Spark Our Economic Recovery? 

The Wishful Trend. One retail expert  has recently written:

“When all the dust settles, the post-lockdown era should provide a boost to downtown areas, in part due to newly unemployed but highly skilled restaurant and retail workers opening new businesses in downtowns where rent prices will trend downward.

The pandemic has left millions of highly skilled workers from the retail and food and beverage industries unemployed and eager to work. Many of these people are highly motivated to start their own businesses, creating an unparalleled pool of talent and potential entrepreneurial interest.

In a recent Forbes article, Bernhard Schroeder wrote: ‘27 million working-age Americans, nearly 14 percent, are starting or running new businesses. And Millennials and Gen-Z are driving higher interest in entrepreneurship as 51 percent of the working population now believes that there are actually good opportunities to start companies.’”1

A Reality Check. However, Schroeder was citing data from the “Global Entrepreneurship Monitor United States Report 2017” published by Babson College in 2018.  It must be noted that:

  • The GEM data are from before the swift and powerful economic decline the Covid19 crisis caused. There is no telling yet of precisely how the crisis has diminished the number of nascent firms  or killed off the young firms under 42 months old that the GEM studies look at. A reliable picture of the situation may not be possible until the CARES subventions time out.
  • Although the 2017 Gem study found that the Wholesale/Retail sector accounted  for the highest proportion of the nascent and young firms in the United States, 21% , it had not grown from the previous year and was “dramatically lower than the average of the 23 innovation-driven economies, 31%.” 2 Just a year later the Gem study found that the finance, real estate and business services accounted for 27% of the new and nascent firms, while retail, at 26%, still considerably trailed the other high income economies at 36% (see chart below from the 2018 Gem study.) 3
  • Retail has long been a downtown storefront space use, but in pre-crisis years many downtown leaders were worried about their ability to attract and maintain retail tenants. The Gem study showed that we were not generating as many retail startups as other innovation driven economies. And that was in relatively good economic times.
  • The fastest growing sectors for entrepreneurship were those that involved technology and knowledge – possibly good for generating office demand , but not exactly the types of firms noted for tenanting lots of downtown storefronts. 
  • The Millennials and Gen-Zers are among the two most economically screwed generations in living memory, so while many of them may have had an interest in entrepreneurship in 2017, even then raising  capital for such a venture was probably a frequent barrier to actual entry. Many of them are so strapped for income that they are still living with their parents, and Covid19 has increased their numbers. Raising capital was probably less of a challenge for those with gig or freelance sole proprietorship, but those “firms” also don’t fill many downtown storefronts.
  • Most importantly, and more precisely, we don’t know how startup rates will be impacted in the sectors that are most likely to produce tenant prospects for downtown storefronts – or which sectors they might be. How the continued growth of online retail sales and their integration into omnichannel operations will play out in terms of the amount, kind and location of physical commercial spaces remains to be seen. While most pamper niche operations have low initial capital costs and relatively low operating costs so they can be reconstituted with comparative ease and speed during a recovery, there is a real question about the availability of the types of consumer discretionary spending dollars they depend on.
  • Nor do we know how the Covid crisis’s economic impacts will influence current and future levels of interest and intent in becoming an entrepreneur. Most importantly, we don’t know how interest and intent will be impacted in the sectors that are most likely to produce tenant prospects for downtown storefronts. The blue line in the above chart from the 2018 GEM study shows the level of people aged 18-64 who intended to become an entrepreneur within a few months. The path is upward, though it shows much fluctuation, a Great Recession climb, and a bumpy 2016-2018 ride. The red line shows the percentage of the 18-64 population who are either a nascent entrepreneur or owner-manager of a new business, e.g., between 3 and 42 months old. It dived through the start of the Great Recession and then had a mostly upward path since. Obviously, these firms benefited from a recovering economy. Unfortunately, GEM does not provide a sector breakdown. Given that the constructive destruction in the retail industry and serious problems in several parts of the restaurant industry had already appeared, there is reason to suspect that nascent and young firms in those industries were not doing as well as those in other industries.  
  • Recent losses of retail jobs have been huge, and industry reports indicate  it will continue to grow through this year, as record numbers of retail stores are closed (perhaps over 20,000), and many chains enter bankruptcy. Are more retail workers, past or present, likely to find appealing startup opportunities in this kind of retail industry than in pre-crisis years? Will other entrepreneurs find the opportunities in the retail sector more potentially rewarding and less risky as those to be found in other sectors?
  • The attempt to see unemployed retail workers as an asset that will convert into an above average level of new retail startups as we recover may carry with it the implication that unemployment creates a high level of job need to which heightened entrepreneurship is a response. The 2018 GEM study presents data on the number of nascent and young firms (the total TEA) that were “necessity driven (see blue line in chart below). The necessity driven firms over all the years studied steadily account for a relatively small portion of all TEA firms. While the Great Recession did increase their number for  some years, overall their number did not change all that much, and never reached levels where they might spearhead startup led downtown recoveries.
  • B&M retail stores are taking on new functions and that may mean the skill sets of former retail employees are increasingly outdated and provide no advantage for starting up new types of retail and restaurant operations. For example, a new type of department store is appearing, — e.g., Neighborhood Goods, Showfields, b8ta – that sells curated collections of merchandise created by online birthed merchants.4 Also, the growing number of “ghost kitchens” can reduce the relevance of kitchen skills in the restaurant industry.  
  • Restaurants, another major source of downtown tenants, also have been clobbered.  Prior to the crisis many parts of this sector, e.g. casual dining, were already showing stress. The current need for social distancing and the apparent current danger of indoor dining, makes it very hard for restaurants to make needed profits. Until models for restaurants operating profitably under these conditions emerge, or the crisis significantly abates, will the sector be able to maintain the interest of entrepreneurs and its skilled workforce?
  • Here again the competitiveness of the opportunities the restaurant industry offers in terms of potential rewards and risks is very relevant. Restaurants have long had a very high failure rate compared to other industries – and Covid19 has certainly not done anything to diminish that fact. Also, external financing for restaurants has long been relatively hard to get, and their startup costs, if a full kitchen is involved, can be high. Self-financing during a recession and in its recovery years is also likely to be difficult.
  • Much is being made about the costs of store space. They typically amount to about 10% of the total sales of restaurants and various studies over the years have found that they are between 8% to 12% for most downtown merchants.5 Rents may indeed be important, but these firms have many other costs such as labor, inventory, insurance., etc., to factor in and be concerned about.
  • The Kauffman Foundation’s  2017 State Report on Early-Stage Entrepreneurship found that “the rate of new entrepreneurs ranged from a low of 0.16 percent in Delaware to a high of 0.47 percent in Wyoming, with a median of 0.30 percent. This considerable geographic variation certainly might also characterize the emergence of new entrepreneurs as we recover economically from the Covid crisis. It certainly suggests that entrepreneurship levels are dependent on a set on conditions, not just the cost of space, and will vary geographically with their strengths and weaknesses.

This is not to say that the recovery will not see either new downtown firms appearing or the full reopening of downtown firms that had suspended their operations. The question is how many of these startups and recovering firms can fill downtown storefronts with well activated and magnetic uses? Will they bring downtown vacancies back to acceptable levels? Will they bring customer traffic back to or above prior levels? Or will they just fill a few vacancies with drab uses that attract weak flows of customer traffic? Right now the difficulty of answering those questions is compounded by the fact that we probably won’t know the full extent and dimensions of our downtown vacancy problems until after the CARES subsidies time out, when the downtown operations then have to support themselves from “normal” type operations.

Is There a Real and Strong Startup Trend That Downtowns Can Ride to Recovery? If one goes back to some Kauffman Foundation studies about entrepreneurship in the decade or so prior to Covid19, one sees that there was not any steady trend of growing entrepreneurship. Indeed, there were ups and downs, with some concerns about it stalling or even seriously declining. 6 Covid19 may be sparking a number of startups in industries that help individuals and firms cope with the crisis, but I have not observed, or heard from professional friends,  or seen any published reports that claim it is causing lots of new downtown storefront-filling firms to open. There is no data-proven strong startup trend for downtowns, especially in smaller cities,  to ride to their economic recovery.

In sharp contrast, there are loads of data to show that remote work increased enormously in response to the crisis and lots of surveys that show that significant numbers of both workers and employers now think their remote work arrangements will continue on into the post crisis era. These are signs that remote work is a trend that has a good chance of lasting. There are no comparable data signals for resurgent entrepreneurship in the sectors that might occupy downtown storefronts, such as retail and restaurants.

Do We Just Sit on Our Hands? The settling of the crisis’s dust may or may not occur anytime soon. Whether it happens quickly or slowly can be pivotal. As John Maynard Keyes famously wrote “In the long run we are all dead.” The full impacts of other trend breezes such as remote work, changes in commuting patterns, and e-shopping may well take a decade or more to play out. They in turn may have big impacts on the demand for downtown storefront spaces, space uses, and occupancy rates.

What will happen to our downtowns during those years? Should downtown stakeholders and management organizations then just wait for the dust to settle and hope that new startup merchants will appear? If not, then what should/can they do?

Contingent Planning

Since it is far from certain that entrepreneurial gold dust will fall from heaven as the Covid crisis ebbs, perhaps it is valuable for downtown leaders to do some contingent development planning about what they can and will do to cultivate the types of small businesses that can tenant their district’s storefronts. Here, again, the variation in local conditions will probably mean a corresponding variation in responses. And prudence suggests anticipating a process of trials, errors, learning and adapting.

Community Supported Enterprises. For many years prior to the Covid crisis, in downtowns and Main Streets that were suffering storefront vacancies, severely weakened retail, and even food deserts, some local leaders created successful solution paths to these challenges. In our Covid economic recovery period, many other downtowns of all sizes may find these solution paths worthy of consideration. These solutions were most apt to succeed in situations where profitable operations were possible, but investors considered the rewards of entering these  downtowns or Main Streets lower and riskier than the opportunities they were being offered elsewhere. Some of these solution paths are:

  • Using crowdfunding to help open and/or maintain businesses strongly wanted by the local community
  • Using Community Owned Enterprises to save and operate key commercial operations
  • Using local social assets, such as social clubs, to leverage business development 7
  • Towns buying and operating failing essential retail operations, such as groceries.

Using such business models, and any riffs upon them, may help many downtowns and Main Streets recover their vibrancy over the next few years. They may be essential components of a New Deal program to revive retail. For more information about many of these business models see The Spotlight group of articles in the forthcoming Fall Issue of the American Downtown Revitalization Review at https://theadrr.com/ that will appear in September 2020.

Creating Supportive Small Town Entrepreneurial Environments.8 While much attention has been given to the creation of Innovation Districts, this concept is so large scale and complicated that it is only really applicable to big city downtowns and neighborhoods that are present in about 349 of our cities. Our remaining approximately 19,000 incorporated places also need a supportive startup culture and environment, but one that is simpler, less expensive to create and operate, and appropriately aspirant in its growth objectives. That is especially true at a time when many, if not most,  downtowns will probably be striving to cultivate their own startups to occupy their storefronts.  Such a Small Town Entrepreneurial Environment (STEE) might include: social places for new and small business operators to meet and network; access to viable funding sources; effective technical assistance; joint marketing programs, and affordable spaces in reasonable condition. It basically can take many existing downtown assets, such as libraries, bars, coffeeshops, makers places, community colleges, a downtown organization that invests in businesses and has niche marketing programs, etc., to create an informal district-wide business incubator and accelerator, Libraries in particular, are emerging as critically valuable STEE assets. Unfortunately, most downtown organizations do not yet see being actively engaged in small business development and expansion as a proper role for them to play. Nor do they exhibit any comfort or skills in playing that role when they do. A contingent planning effort could focus on how downtown leaders would foster the emergence of STEEs, should the need for it arise. This will likely entail a reappraisal of the roles the downtown organization should and can play.

Small Merchant Training.  The Covid crisis has reinforced the growth of two important nascent merchant trends:

  • Small and micro firms were weaving increased online activities with the operations of their brick and mortar stores. Customers ordering online and then picking their orders at the curb or at the storefront is one example of this.
  • More small merchants were tapping customers in distant market areas via their online storefronts and attending distant trade shows and fairs.

A contingent planning effort also could focus on how downtown leaders could encourage and train more of our smaller downtown merchants to use an omnichannel marketing operation that would help them to capture more sales dollars from both local and seldom before penetrated distant markets.

However, even prior to the Covid19 crisis, small merchant training has long been a challenge. In my experience, merchant training programs are often advocated, but seldom effectively implemented. The vast majority of them underperform because they ignore basic merchant needs and behavior patterns. Far too often, they want to EDUCATE the small merchants, and make them, for example, marketing savvy or bookkeepers. That can take a lot of merchant time and effort while providing them with more information than they have any need for near-term or even probably well into the future. Instead, what the merchants want is not to be taken to school, but actual solutions to their specific immediate problems. They want action steps that are credibly viable, affordable and easy to do. They don’t really want courses, workshops, or seminars. And they prefer not leaving their places of business. 

Also, in my experience, many small merchants are resistant to any suggestion that they are not doing things as well as they could be done, while others find it hard to ask for help even when they badly need it. Small merchants are often small merchants because of their need for independence and a strong sense of their own efficacy.  

Merchant training programs would probably be more effective if they:

  • Consider small merchants behaviors and attitudes as much as they do the information the program’s experts believe the merchants should learn
  • Give merchants access to training that is closely tied to their immediate needs, and less into making them better, more knowledgeable  entrepreneurs. Blasphemously, feed them fish, don’t try to teach them how to fish. Small merchants play too many roles to be experts in all of them, and they lack the dollars to hire others to take on some of them.
  • When possible, facilitate merchants learning from their peers whom they know, like and respect. In turn, that means it’s very productive to identify in a downtown those merchants who can be models and mentors for other merchants, and then to leverage them.
  • Start off by identifying the low lying fruit that can produce the  quick wins that will enable the training program to swiftly show other nearby merchants what it might do for them.

Perhaps some of national organizations such as IDA, IEDC, and National Main Street can develop such improved small merchant programs that can then be easily tailored to local conditions. Leaving their development solely to organizations such as SCORE or the SBDCs is a massive mistake. A strong need for such programs existed well before the Covid19 crisis, and will very likely far out last it.


1) Robert Gibbs. “After Lockdown, New Opportunities for Downtown Shopping Districts” at https://dirt.asla.org/2020/05/13/the-pandemic-will-lead-to-a-revitalization-of-main-street-retail/   Matthew Wagner wrote an interesting article on the Main Street Blog that also extolled our penchant to be entrepreneurs as a path to recovery, but most of the piece usefully went into the need for various things that I would associate with creating  what I called above a STEE. See: Matthew Wagner,” Main Street America. Main Spotlight: COVID-19 Likely to Result in Increased Entrepreneurship Rates” June 9, 2020. https://www.mainstreet.org/blogs/national-main-street-center/2020/06/09/covid-19-likely-to-result-in-increased-entrepreneu

2) Julian E. Lange, Abdul Ali, Candida G. Brush, Andrew C. Corbett, Donna J. Kelley, Phillip H. Kim, and Mahdi Majbouri. “Global Entrepreneurship Monitor United States Report 2017” published by Babson College in 2018, p. 27.  https://www.gemconsortium.org/economy-profiles/united-states

3) See: Julian E. Lange, Candida G. Brush, Andrew C. Corbett, Donna J. Kelley, Phillip H. Kim, Mahdi Majbouri, and Siddharth Vedula Global Entrepreneurship Monitor United States Report 2018” published by Babson College in 2019 https://www.gemconsortium.org/economy-profiles/united-states

4) I want to thank Mike Berne for bringing these stores to my attention.

5) See for example: Kate Paape and Bill Ryan, University of Wisconsin-Madison/Extension Division, and Errin Welty, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. “A Comparison of Rental Rates Charged for Downtown Commercial Space: A Market Snapshot of Wisconsin Communities”.  August 2019 https://economicdevelopment.extension.wisc.edu/files/2019/10/Downtown-Rent-Study-100119.pdf

6) See: “Victor Hwang Testimony Before U.S. House Committee on Small Business, Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax and Capital Access,”  February 15, 2017


7) See: Norman Walzer and Jessica Sandoval, “Emergence and Growth of Community Supported Enterprises.” Center for Governmental Studies at NIU. 2016. https://www.cgs.niu.edu/Reports/Emergence-and-Growth-of-Community-Supported-Enterprises.pdf

8) N. David Milder. “Toward an Effective Economic Development Strategy for Smaller Communities (under 35,000).”


These Downtown Emperors Too Often Are Not Wearing Any Clothes

As a child I was very taken by Hans Christian Anderson’s tale about The Emperor’s New Clothes, especially the part where every adult seems to go along with the new clothes until a child simply states that the Emperor is nude. Often in working on downtown revitalization I am reminded of that tale: lots of what appear to be basic axioms or essential parts of conventional wisdom about downtown revitalization are too often partially or entirely wrong. They are to me emperors with no clothes. Below I call some of them out and briefly explain why they are “nude.”

Emperor 1Urban Sprawl Is Killing Our Downtowns

Reality Check 1– This is a nice one. Thanks to the Great Recession, many recognized experts are now arguing that sprawl is ending. See, for example, John McIlwain at Brookings on the end of urban sprawl http://bit.ly/HA84Bq..

Let us rejoice that sprawl now has a stake in its heart! However, what are the policy implications? Are they really simple and apparent? I believe we definitely need to put our thinking caps on and properly think this through.

Emperor 2 – Retail Gap/Leakage Analyses

Reality Check 2 – Doing a retail leakage or gap analysis is appealing because comparing supply with demand sounds like such fundamentally good economic analysis. But, there are a number of data reliability and interpretive issues that cloud their validity (are they measuring what they say they are measuring?)  and their value in program and policy development. First of all, collecting data on business firms and their revenues is a lot more difficult than one might think. The census is out of date by the time it is published. Business data from market research firms such as ESRI and Nielsen Claritas are based on data from InfoUSA, which does large national telephone canvasses of businesses and claims to be 95% accurate on the national level. However, on the local level we have found their data to often have far lower accuracy, and we now try to confirm the accuracy of their data before using them.

Another issue: the basic data on firms’ revenues and consumers’ expenditures are collected by two different federal agencies and, of course, they use two different sets of categories to organize the data. To be able to match the supply and demand data requires statistical manipulation and to my knowledge there has never been any published empirical test that demonstrates the accuracy of the data those manipulations produce.

Interpreting the leakages data also raises issues. For example, a surplus, where store sales are more than consumer expenditures, is usually seen as a situation where there is little prospect for future growth. But, according to niche theory, such a surplus may indicate a powerful retail niche that can expand its trade area. Another issue is that leakage is often seen as an indicator of growth potential, as the presence of “unmet local demand” that might somehow be more easily recaptured by a merchant who does not have to be all that capable. If the merchant is very capable, then he or she could fight for market share and then the whole leakage issue would be irrelevant. From policy, program and business recruitment perspectives, a business operator who will fight for and win market share is far more preferable than an operator who is looking for a situation where there is putative weak competition. Of course, the leakage analysis, does not get into the causes of the leakage, which often is that the competition is so strong that recapturing leaked sales is extremely difficult.

Despite these issues, we continue to do leakage analyses, but with very great care and considerable caution. We’ve found that doing a leakage analysis for a supermarket, restaurant or a women’s apparel shop, where we can gain a firm grasp on the business data gives us greater confidence than doing an analysis for all the downtown’s retail businesses. We also will use them when our prior research experience has given us an in depth knowledge about the local businesses or when the study area is small enough that we can readily confirm the accuracy of the firm-level data.

Emperor 3Street and Façade Improvements Will Attract New Customers and New Businesses

Reality Check 3 – Too many downtowns have followed this strategy and only succeeded in creating “decorated coffins.” Yes, these downtowns are more attractive, but after much effort and expense they are still deader than a doornail, with low customer traffic, little vibrancy and few, if any, strong new shops. Such physical improvements can be effective, but this is much more likely to happen when they are part of a comprehensive revitalization program that includes successful business recruitment, marketing, redevelopment and place-making elements.

The attractions of these programs are that they mostly require money, not innovative “rocket scientists”, can be done in a fairly predictable time frame, and provide visible proof of an organization’s ability to get things done. These should not be confused with economic impacts.

Emperor 4Nearby Strong Pedestrian Traffic Is Critical to a Good Downtown Retail Location

Reality Check 4 –This is a basic axiom of many downtown revitalization strategies and the cornerstone on which our understanding of “location, location, location” rests. Yet, there is pitiful research on it. Behind this axiom are three suppositions. The first is that there are a lot of pedestrians, though no metric has been presented that signifies when “a lot” has been attained. Second is that among the multitude of pedestrians many will be browsing and window shopping and incidentally discovering reasons to enter shops and make purchases. Finally, is the assumption that the more pedestrians passing by, the greater the likelihood that a store’s destination shoppers will pass through its doors.

My experience suggests that the impact of pedestrian traffic is most likely to be felt in large downtowns where pedestrian flows of thousands of people/hour are easily found, and 100,000+/day are sometimes reached. But, even here, because of e-commerce, surgical shoppers have emerged who are more focused, going to fewer shops and doing far less browsing and window shopping. The Internet also is guiding more shoppers directly to downtown destinations identified in their searches. Additionally, the Internet has changed a lot of these destinations into showrooms for shoppers who see and evaluate the merchandise first-hand, but then buy online.

Smaller downtowns – defined at some unknown cutoff point – with total daily pedestrian flows only in the 100s or perhaps even a few thousand, have never really benefited much from the browsing and window shopping customer. These downtowns frequently just do not have that many retailers that pedestrians are motivated to do much browsing. Moreover, the retailers in these towns usually do not often refresh their selections or windows, so the browsing is even less rewarding. Unless in a tourist area, the merchants in these smaller downtowns have been made or broken by their ability to be a destination for task-oriented shoppers. Strong destinations survived and weak ones disappeared – except when the weak ones endured, because there was no competition nearby.

I know of neither a simple metric nor a complicated formula that indicates how many pedestrians/shoppers are needed to support X square feet of a particular type of retail store.

Emperor 5Hair and Nail Salons, Spas, Gyms Are Bad for Downtown Retailing.

Reality Check 5 – Back in 2005, I wrote a column in the Downtown Idea Exchange on this subject. My argument then was that these firms are part of a “pamper niche” that are not only found in abundance in some of the world’s most famed downtowns, e.g., Beverly Hills, Midtown Manhattan, Paris, etc., but also in many smaller districts where they bring in a lot of women with demonstrated disposable income, who also like to lunch and shop. Downtown retail merchants are crazy if they do not develop cross-marketing programs with the operators of pamper niche shops.

I also argued back then, that because they did not have significant investments in stocking merchandise, pamper niche operators could afford to pay higher rents than retailers. That is why they often supplant retailers in many storefronts.

Today, my arguments all appear to be holding true, but due to the Great Recession, pamper niche operators are taking over even more storefronts as they are vacated by weakened retailers. In some districts, pamper niche shops account for most new commercial rentals.

Downtown leaders who attack pamper niche shops are really off base. Instead of criticizing them, these “leaders” should recognize the customer traffic they generate and help their retailers create cross-marketing programs with them.

Emperor 6 – The Multifunctional Character of Downtowns Gives Their Retailers A Unique Competitive Advantage

Reality Check 6 – The multifunctional character of downtowns and the traffic it generates supposedly means that downtown retailers need less power as a destination to be successful. The downtown, in a sense, generates a lot of traffic for them. But, far too often, the ability of downtown retailers to benefit from their district’s multifunctionality breaks down because of two factors: a) the downtown is too dispersed, so office workers, hotel guests and students are too far away to walk to district retailers, and b) the ability of retailers to captures sales from various “captured” daytime markets is inhibited by operational factors such as:

  • Companies trying to keep their employees in the building by providing cafeterias and subsidized meals
  • Retailers are closing their doors when hotel convention guests are ready to browse and window shop
  • Commuting students needing to quickly return to jobs, children, etc.

Although solutions are available, too many downtown organizations have given up on overcoming the dispersion and operational problems, giving up, in effect, on helping their retailers tap critical close-in market segments.

Other Often Naked Downtown Emperors

Here are some other “Naked Downtown Emperors” that I do not have enough space here to detail:

  • Attracting tenant prospects is the biggest challenge in retail recruitment – it’s more often a lack of appropriate locations with appropriate spaces
  • Increasing capacity will solve parking problems – easily finding existing spaces is usually the real problem
  • High crime rates hurt downtowns – crime rates are often comparatively low, it is the fear of crime that does the damage
  • Nobody will use the upper levels of a parking garage – they will if the garages are properly designed, e.g. see the garage at The Grove in L.A.

Are there others you would add to this list? Please let me know.

Now I feel like a proper curmudgeon!