We are on a tremendous high after spending three days in San Antonio last week exploring that amazing City and meeting so many inspirational peers doing great work in downtowns and neighborhoods nationwide.

Let’s just say it started with a bang! LOA Principal Larisa Ortiz gave one of the keynote master talks, sharing a stage with Colorado Governor Hickenlooper (a potential presidential candidate?) and shared her retail philosophy which is rooted in the subject of ecology, known as “microclimates”. Larisa coined the term “retail microclimates”, a concept that is now fundamental to our work at LOA.  It was truly a thrill to see our ideas resonate so strongly with an audience of over 1,000 conference attendees!

We were also excited that LOA projects were extremely well represented at the Downtown Achievement Awards through our partners, who were recognized with Excellence Awards in Planning, including:

The City of Cambridge Retail Strategic Plan, which was developed by LOA. Utilizing the Commercial DNA approach, the strategic plan was rooted in an analysis of the physical environment, the business environment, market demand and administrative capacity.

The plan helped jumpstart a previously dormant BID formation effort in Central Square and has helped the City realign and reprioritize its resources towards policies that enhance the administrative capacity of local merchant associations, advocate for changes in zoning policy that allow for new retail concepts, and programs that embrace the thriving experiential and dining sector.

The City of New York’s Neighborhood 360 Program, which has at its center the Commercial District Needs Assessment tool, is based on a methodology developed by LOA with the support of the Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC). To date, the City has selected ten neighborhoods to test the Commercial District Needs Assessments (Read them here). The Commercial DNA methodology – as we now call it – will be the subject of an upcoming publication by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation. This publication will be available free of charge and will give commercial district planning entities across the nation a chance to gain a deeper understanding of how to conduct more comprehensive district diagnosis. Stay tuned for updates on the publication – due out this Winter!

We’d like to also extend our congratulations to Stantec for its winning plan for the Oswego Downtown Revitalization Initiative. LOA served as retail consultant on the project team in 2016. The New York State Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) is now in its third year, and LOA has worked in eight of the thirty DRI communities as sub-consultants to larger planning firms. In fact, Larisa’s master talk was peppered with examples from various DRI Communities. Stay tuned for the video of her talk, which received rave reviews!

And let’s not forget our breakout sessions!

LOA Associate, Nur Asri, led a packed session on downtown marketing and Engaging Millennials and Shoppers in the Digital Age. With panelists Aongus Burke (Facebook), Jim Blakeslee (Geocentric), and Brian Carr (Midtown Atlanta), the session covered a range of tools to get digitally-native customers shopping downtown and especially at small local businesses. From downtown websites and apps to Facebook pages and events, there are numerous ways that BIDs and their local merchants can market products and services online. As omni-channel shopping becomes the reality, digital marketing will be fundamental to the overall downtown experience.

Larisa also sat on a panel on Zoning for Retail and participated in a robust discussion about gentrification and neighborhood change.  To continue to keep abreast of these very important topics, don’t forget to subscribe to our quarterly CDAdvisor newsletter and follow our blog!