Friday, January 13, 2012

Retail Trade as a Route to Neighborhood Revitalization

by karen chapple and rick jacobus

At the end of World War II, most American neighborhoods were serviced by neighborhood commercial districts populated with stores selling food, clothing, household goods, jewelry, and other items. The strongest of these districts successfully competed with downtowns as locations for major department stores. But rapid suburbanization and the development of automobile-oriented shopping centers led to the decline of most of these historic commercial districts. In low-income and minority neighborhoods, the decline of neighborhood retail coincided with dramatic shifts in residential housing patterns as middle-income minorities and white families of all income levels moved out of urban neighborhoods, leaving behind increasingly concentrated poverty and racially segregated neighborhoods. By the 1980s, growing income inequality was contributing to a “spiral of decay” in which declining incomes and population losses led to declining retail and other neighborhood conditions, which, in turn, caused further outmigration. This was especially true in communities of color. While the 1990s saw the return of some more affluent and white residents to the inner city, neighborhood commercial strips have been slower to revitalize. By 2000, half as many central city neighborhoods had a middleincome profile as in 1970, suggesting that these areas epitomize national patterns of growing income inequality. Disinvestment has remained so pervasive that policymakers (urged on by Michael Porter) paradoxically consider these older neighborhoods to be “new” or “emerging” markets.
Neighborhood commercial disinvestment stems not only from population shifts but also from shifting consumption patterns. Most obvious, the rise of big box retail, now commonly called the Wal-Martization of retail, has vastly increased the type and quantity of goods available to consumers, for the most part at lower prices. “Big box” means larger market areas and stores, but rarely in the traditional commercial corridor locations. The need for larger sites and freeway access means that this type of retail generally must locate in industrial or commercial areas distant from residential neighborhoods, most often requiring the use of an automobile. Moreover, as consumers increasingly purchase goods in bulk from discounters, the car has become essential to the shopping trip. Though the debate is ongoing about whether big box outlets cannibalize or complement small local stores, this overall shift in retailing has undoubtedly discouraged retailers from locating in neighborhood retail strips.

Neighborhood shops and retail, Berlin, photo by La Citta Vita

Neighborhood shops and retail, Berlin, photo by La Citta Vita

Neighborhood shops and retail, Berlin, photo by La Citta Vita

more about revitalization:

Detroit’s Renewal from a Funder’s Perspective

Manhattan’s Master Plan: Why NYC Looks the Way it Does

Hopeful Footsteps in Mexico City’s Centro Histórico

Waterwalk Sustainable Urban Regeneration Project for Green Brussels Capital

Developing sustain ability: sustainability policy and gentrification on Toronto's waterfront

Implications of an Urban Renewal Based State-Led Gentrification Process in a Roma Neighborhood in Istanbul


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