When our team visits commercial districts, one of the first things we look for is the convenience of access. Sometimes, the challenge in not related to the obvious – like parking – but instead comes in the form of a busy street that is hard to cross. So while the district may have a 40-60k sf of retail offerings, it is instead bifurcated and functions like two 20-30k sf shopping centers. The issue is that 30k of retail can only go so far in its ability to draw from a larger trade area. Shopping center developers can tell you, the more retail you offer, the more viable and attractive your retail center will be to customers. So a busy street that is very difficult to cross undermines sales for the entire district by preventing shoppers from patronizing multiple stores – and spending more money – per visit.
In a small New Jersey town where we are currently working, two sides of a single block face this exact problem. Instead of functioning as a cohesive unit, the each side functions as an independent node of retail. Patrons park on one side and then avoid crossing to the other because the busy street divides the district. If they do want to cross the street safely, they must walk to the end of the block, cross the street, and then walk back to the store they want to patronize. In this community, where the average age is creeping upwards, doing that is simply isn’t an option.