Chip Kaufman Guest Post - Neighborhood Retail

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curtained pavilion on Seaside, Florida's Central Square with Sundog Books in background

Seaside, Florida's Central Square


   You refer to the '1,000 rooftop' minimum for neighbourhood retail. I expect, by the way, that you were just wanting to position that rule of thumb as a rule which, in isolation, might risk limiting of 'hope' and the will to risk and build. And you've used Seaside as a case study, and so will I. By the way, anything I say here should pass a self-evident common sense test by any of you reading this.

   Seaside manifests four additional 'rules of thumb', which in my opinion should generally be included with the first about minimum rooftops within a neighbourhood. (By the way, the minimum perceived in Oz here is 800 or so, but in combination with what I'm about to say.)

First Additional Rule of Thumb: Through Traffic

Highway 30-A running through Seaside, Florida

Seaside has 'through traffic' as well as 'to traffic' passing right beside its retail centre. This obviously increases passing retail activity beyond the number of rooftops within its walking catchment (which is only about half what it could be because half its catchment is the sea).

Second Additional Rule of Thumb: Destination

Seaside, Florida obelisk

An urban centre will flourish better from a retail standpoint when it is a destination for visitors beyond its own retail walking catchment of rooftops. Obviously, Seaside is a destination because of the beach and because of its architecture and urbanism (not to mention all the publicity).

Third Additional Rule of Thumb: Focused Urban Structure

retail buildings on Seaside, Florida's Central Square includes Modica Market

Seaside obviously is well structured to focus its retail right at the focus of all its passing trade and destination.

Fourth Additional Rule of Thumb: Co-location of Retail with Other Destinations/Uses

Seaside, Florida post office

   Retail will flourish better if it co-locates with other destinations, so that patrons with other errands will happen by the retail and use it. For a neighbourhood, that might include a childcare centre, post office (maybe within the corner store), neighbourhood park or other natural amenity, perhaps a 'Third Place', and a concentration of home-based businesses nearby. So "hope" might and should always participate in town-making, but being well-informed should be in there, too.

   ~Chip Kaufman

   Note: This post is part of an extended BlogOff on the viability of neighborhood retail. The most recent posts from BlogOff participants are as follows:

   12/21 - The Necessity of Hope, Steve Mouzon

   12/23 - Retail: When it bends the rules and breaks the law, Hazel Borys

   12/28 - BlogOff: Neighborhood Retail, Sandy Sorlien

   1/5 - Retail BlogOff, Patrick Kennedy

   1/11 - When shops and services are within walking distance, we walk more and drive less, Kaid Benfield

   1/29 - Neighborhood Retail Dynamics, John Olson

Legacy Comments

Steve Mouzon · Board Member at Sky Institute for the Future

Aussie Chip Kaufman adds the latest post to the Neighborhood Retail BlogOff... have a look, and post your thoughts!

Feb 1, 2012 10:43am

Paul Westhelle · Urban Designer and Landscape Architect at Self

American strip mall developers focus on rule 1 with a stubborn bias towards automotive traffic. Our DOTs provide them with the actionable "intelligence" they require for free... they count cars, but not pedestrians. In America, rule 1 must be handled with kid gloves. Encourage through traffic, but don't let it get so unruly and out of hand that it undermines rules 2, 3, and 4.

Feb 1, 2012 11:52am

Chris Bradshaw · Oberlin College

The challenge of newer neighbourhood shopping is their location along streets that are themselves not crossable, a very important facet of walkability. Even older ones that have been rejuvenated depend on car traffic from further away (beyond walking distances) to thrive commercially. In their case, the retention of the narrower (crossable) street is diluted by the heavy traffic and parking problems.

Feb 4, 2012 11:22pm


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