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Online Retailers Opening Physical Stores

November 27, 2015 Featured, Retail Comments Off on Online Retailers Opening Physical Stores
Target in Chicago's former Carson Pirie Scott department store, is a traditional brick & mortar retailer still trying to expand online sales.  February 2014 image
Target in Chicago’s former Carson Pirie Scott department store, is a traditional brick & mortar retailer still trying to expand online sales. February 2014 image

Increasingly online retailers are opening brick & mortar stores. But don’t expect big boxes filled with merchandise, purchases will still be shipped:

For instance, New York-based Bonobos offers four styles of men’s pants , 20 color options and about 30 sizes in its clothing mix. That’s over 2,400 different possibilities.

“If you were actually to stock that in inventory, the amount of space you would need would be exorbitant,” said Erin Ersenkal, the New York-based company’s chief revenue officer.

Customers leaving its stores “walk out hands-free” as the Bonobos website says, their order shipped directly to their home or office.

By only stocking clothes that customers can try on for fit, and then shipping them, “we’re able to take all the energy that would have been focused on inventory management and shift it to our customers,” he said. (USA Today)

Retailing is continually changing. It’s nothing like I remember from the 70s when I’d go to Sears, TG&Y, & OTASCO with my mom. Or even the 80s when I worked at Toys “R” Us and Dillard’s.

For online retailers, a physical store or two lets them study what customers want. Today I won’t be anywhere near a physical store.  However, tomorrow is Small Business Saturday — put in your zip code to see local small businesses.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Cleveland’s Healthline Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), Part 4

This is my final part on Cleveland’s Healthline Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). However, donations to offset the cost are still accepted here.

Earlier posts:

One of the articles that got me seriously looking at BRT was from Forbes in September 2013: Bus Rapid Transit Spurs Development Better Than Light Rail Or Streetcars: Study. Two parts stood out:

“Per dollar of transit investment, and under similar conditions, BRT can leverage more (development) investment than LRT or streetcars.”

For example, Cleveland’s Healthline, a BRT project completed on Cleveland’s Euclid Avenue in 2008, has generated $5.8 billion in development —$114 for each transit dollar invested. Portland’s Blue Line, a light rail project completed in 1986, generated $3.74 per dollar invested.

and…

The U.S. has seven authentic BRT lines in Cleveland, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Eugene Ore., and several in Pittsburgh. None achieve the internationally recognized “gold standard” of BRT like Bogota’s TransMilenio line. But one planned for Chicago’s Ashland Avenue might.

“There’s no gold standard BRT in the U.S. yet,” Weinstock said, “but if we continue with the Ashland project on the current trajectory, Ashland could be the first gold in the U.S.”

I’ll address Chicago’s Ashland Ave in a future post. BRT — more development return than LRT or streetcars?

Long-time readers know I love rail — especially streetcars. Public transit was often about real estate development, to get people to a new project, developers would build a streetcar line to get them there. Cities would lease part of the public right-of-way (PROW) so they could operate. Cities, including St. Louis, would have multiple private companies providing public transit. Eventually cities would increase the fees for the track & overhead wires in the PROW or even require the operators to repave roads where they operated. This quickly made streetcar operations unprofitable. One solution, of course, was to abandon the track and use rubber tire vehicles — the bus.

Eventually governments bought up all the private systems — remaining streetcar lines and those that had been converted to bus. Remember, their origin was rooted in the development of real estate. With land developed these lines became strictly about moving people to/from. We need to retuning to the days of the connection between transit and development!

Which brings me back to Cleveland’s Healthline, it had an amazing $114.54 dollars of development for every dollar spent on the BRT line. Below is page 9 from More Development for Your Transit Dollar: An Analysis of 21 North American Transit Corridors.

Click to open larger version
Click to open larger version

As you can see from the BRT, LRT, and streetcar limes above the return on investment is all over the board. In the top section (Strong TOD Impacts) we see the LRT cost more than the BRT or streetcar lines, but had significantly less development.  A return of $3,74 on every dollar looks good until compared to $41.68 or more. Kansas City’s MAX bus line doesn’t even meet the basics to be BRT — yet it has had a return of $101.96 per dollar!

The report begins talking about the Metro subway system in Washington D.C. — a long & costly undertaking:

A growing number of US cities are finding, however, that metro or subway systems are simply too expensive and take too long to implement to effect significant changes in ongoing trends toward suburban sprawl. As such, cities are turning to lower-cost mass transit options such as LRT, BRT, and streetcars. These systems, which frequently use surface streets, are much less expensive and can be built more quickly than heavy-rail subways or metro systems. Over the past decade, some evidence has emerged that some LRT systems in the US have had positive development impacts. Outside of the US, in cities like Curitiba, Brazil, and Guangzhou, China, there is copious evidence that BRT systems have successfully stimulated development. Curitiba’s early silver-standard BRT corridors, completed in the 1970s, were developed together with a master plan that concentrated development along them. The population growth along the corridor rate was 98% between 1980 and 1985, compared to an average citywide population growth rate of only 9.5%. However, because bronze-, silver-, or gold-standard BRT is still relatively new to the US, evidence of the impact of good-quality BRT on domestic development is only now beginning to emerge and has been largely undocumented. (p14)

A detailed look at the Corridors with Strong TOD Impacts begins on page 110:

The analysis shows that all of the corridors in the Strong TOD Impacts category had Strong government TOD support and either Emerging or Strong land potential.

The only two transit corridors in our study that rate above bronze — the Cleveland HealthLine BRT and the Blue Line LRT — both fell into the Strong TOD Impacts category and were in Emerging
land markets. The Blue Line LRT leveraged $6.6 billion in new TOD investments, and the Cleveland HealthLine BRT leveraged $5.8 billion, making them the two most successful transit investments in the country from a TOD perspective. Portland achieved this over a much longer time period and in a stronger economy than Cleveland did.

In the Strong TOD Impacts category, three corridors with below-basic-quality transit had Strong land development potential and Strong government TOD support: the Portland Streetcar, the Seattle SLU Streetcar, and the Kansas City Main Street MAX.

In each of these cases, local developers and development authorities did not feel that the transit investment was all that critical to the TOD impacts. Thus, we can conclude that if the land market is strong enough, and the government TOD efforts strong enough, a below-basic transit investment might suffice; but a higher-quality transit investment could have even greater impacts.

Not all of the investment along Cleveland’s Healthline is urban. We visited this CVS  — built right after the line opened. The building is set back behind a fenced parking lot.

A typical suburban CVS is among the new development along Cleveland's Healthline
A typical suburban CVS is among the new development along Cleveland’s Healthline. Click image to view in Google Maps.
Like most newer CVS stores, it has an ADA accessible route out to the public sidewalk.
Like most newer CVS stores, it has an ADA accessible route out to the public sidewalk. In this view from the entry pedestrians must go left to the intersection to reach the EB & WB stations. If the entry were at the corner less walking would be required.

As I noted previously. a lot of the new development was on college & hospital campuses — it would’ve happened anyway — but it faces the street rather than looking internal (like SLU, BJC, etc).

I’ve got to read the full report a few more times so absorb it all — while recognizing it was written with a pro-BRT viewpoint.

Any TOD effort is most successful when land-use planning and urban development efforts are concentrated around a high-quality mass transit corridor that serves land with inherent development potential. Assistance from regional and city-level agencies, community development corporations, and local stakeholders can help create more targeted policies to direct development to such transit corridors. Local foundations can be critical to the process of funding redevelopment and providing capital and equity for projects. Local NGOs, which can communicate the projects to the public to help broaden support, are also important.

Although cities in the US are still far from fully transforming their declined urban neighborhoods into high-quality, mixed-use urban developments, they are well on their way. Gold-, silver-, or bronze-standard BRT, when combined with institutional, financial, and planning support for TOD, is proving to be a cost-effective way of rebuilding our cities into more livable, transit-oriented communities.

Regardless of their bias, the above is true — we’ve invested hundreds of millions in light rail and have little TOD to show for it because of poor land-use planning.

Like streetcars & LRT, I think BRT is a great option to consider in the St. Louis region, We can argue about the mode, but we need to take action to have land-use planning that will strongly support transit-oriented development!

— Steve Patterson

 

An Urban Home Depot

The following post first appeared on UrbanReview | CHICAGO

Big box retailers long had a standard formula: cheap building surrounded by acres of surface parking. More than a decade ago they began to experiment with new designs as they entered urban locations where land prices & population density meant acres of surface parking wasn’t possible. I recall seeing the Home Depot on N. Halsted under construction — I just can’t recall when. I do know it was open by March 2005:

The company has eight stores in the city, including a unique two-story, storefront-style location at 2665 N. Halsted St.

Like Target, Home Depot knows the value of a flexible footprint. That gives it more options in working its way closer to the urbanite customers it craves. The Halsted store doesn’t sell much lumber; it focuses on the tools and interior design products that North Side condo owners shop for.

A lot of city neighborhoods fit Home Depot’s demographic, which is neither wealthy nor poor. The main thing: plenty of homeowners. “Home Depot is looking for bungalow city,” says Mr. Kirsch of Baum Realty. (Crain’s Chicago Business)

Though I’d been past it numerous times since it opened, I never went inside. Last month my husband and I needed something from a hardware store. He called a couple of local places near the Streeterville condo where we stay while in Chicago but they didn’t have what we needed. Looking at transit to the various locations we decided the N. Halsted location would be the easiest.

The Home Depot on N. Halsted in Lincoln Park was built more than a decade ago.
The Home Depot on N. Halsted in Lincoln Park was built more than a decade ago.
The garage entry/exit is recessed from the sidewalk
The garage entry/exit is recessed from the sidewalk
The store has two interior levels
The store has two interior levels
Rooftop garden on 4
Rooftop garden on 4
The front of the 2-story store is mostly glass, the is on the 2nd floor
The front of the 2-story store is mostly glass, the is on the 2nd floor
The rooftop garden on 4. Parking is on 3 and the balance of 4
The rooftop garden on 4. Parking is on 3 and the balance of 4

The question is how do we get urban retail to take more urban form in areas where land isn’t so expensive? Can a city, like St. Louis, through zoning or incentives, create an atmosphere where retailers are willing to invest in more expensive buildings with structured parking?

— Steve Patterson

 

Restaurant & Patio May Be Coming To Tucker & Washington Ave

October 15, 2015 Downtown, Featured, Planning & Design, Retail Comments Off on Restaurant & Patio May Be Coming To Tucker & Washington Ave

Earlier this month I posted an image of the micro-park, located at Washington Ave & Tucker Blvd, to Twitter & Facebook.  My caption was “Construction fencing up around pocket park Tucker & Washington Ave, plants & retaining walls removed.”

The image shared on social media on October 4th
The image shared on social media on October 4th
Another image I took on October 4th
Another image I took on October 4th

To fresh your memory, let’s go back a few months. My subject was the Arch from the 2009 All-Star game looking very shabby, thankfully it’s now gone.

July 2015
July 2015
Similar angle on October 5th
Similar angle on October 5th

Some thought the building owner wanted to extend their private parking lot toward Washington Ave. A building resident said the owner wants to build a patio for a future restaurant tenant.

You’ll recall five years ago the ground floor was occupied by a nightclub:

No restaurant has been named, but this could be very good for the area.  This land is privately owned, though some may say an easement was created over the years.

— Steve Patterson

 

Developing Vandeventer & Forest Park: IKEA — Exception Or New Rule?

Big box stores with surface parking lots don’t fit in urban contexts — they’re sub-urban. For example, the Menard’s in O’Fallon IL I drove past on Saturday, a MetroBus stop is right out front but there’s no accessible pedestrian route to get to the entrance. See it on Google Street View here.

Decades ago the big boxes were the downtown department stores, but those days are long gone. However, a few big box retailers have taken over some of the vacant space left behind by shuttered department stores.

Taget in Chicago's former Carson Pirie Scott department store designed by Louis Sullivan. February 2014. Click image to view the Wikipedia entry on the building
Taget in Chicago’s former Carson Pirie Scott department store designed by Louis Sullivan. February 2014. Click image to view the Wikipedia entry on the building

More often, big boxes have been trying to fit into walkable urban neighborhoods; they’ve been concealed by smaller liner storefronts, stacked, etc. The Target at Hampton & Chippewa is built over parking, but it still has surface parking facing Hampton & Bancroft, with docks & garage facing Chippewa. Inevitably someone says “it’s better than what was there” or “It’s better than the location in [insert any suburban municipality.”  Sorry, but new development will be around for 20+ years, so standards should be higher than simply doing marginally better than  awful suburban development or old derelict properties. Which brings me to IKEA St. Louis, located on the SW corner of Forest Park Ave & Vandeventer Ave.

IKEA's blue & yellow big box set behind a surface parking lot at Forest Park & Vandeventer. View from the point where the two public sidewalks meet.
IKEA’s blue & yellow big box set behind a surface parking lot at Forest Park & Vandeventer. View from the point where the two public sidewalks meet.

Opening day I ran into an acquaintance at IKEA — she also arrived via MetroBus — she hadn’t yet seen my post on the pedestrian access points. Upon arriving at the corner pictured above how would a pedestrian know where to find accessible routes to the entry? By big box standards, IKEA St. Louis did an excellent job providing pedestrian access routes from each go the three adjacent streets, but the massive setback from the sidewalks

The big question now is what will happen at development sites around IKEA St. Louis? Other buildings, old & new, within a block of the intersection are all urban — built up to the public sidewalk.

Two other corners contain urban buildings a historic firehouse and a new apartment complex built around a parking garage
Two other corners contain urban buildings a historic firehouse and a new apartment complex built around a parking garage
The 3-story building on the NW corner was razed 4+ years ago. At right you can see the South end of the historic Gerhart Block that I posted about on Friday.
The 3-story building on the NW corner was razed 4+ years ago. At right you can see the South end of the historic Gerhart Block that I posted about on Friday.

In July 2011 I posted about the building on this very same corner being razed. The Southeast corner, except for the firehouse, is to be retail.

The firehouse is supposed to remain, will help "hold" the corner. But how will everything else relate to the street & sidewalk?
The firehouse is supposed to remain, will help “hold” the corner. But how will everything else relate to the street & sidewalk?
Behind the firehouse is largely an old industrial site
Behind the firehouse is largely an old industrial site
But even the old industrial office is urban in form
But even the old industrial office is urban in form
The urban form continues across Spring Ave
The urban form continues across Spring Ave
nnn
And across Forest Park Ave more urban form. Will the new retail to the South respect the urban pattern?

One of the most critical development parcels is immediately to the West of IKEA, at 4052 Forest Park Ave.

Looking West from the IKEA property line. The other three sides are bounded by Forest Park Ave, Sarah Ave, and Duncan Ave
Looking West from the IKEA property line. The other three sides are bounded by Forest Park Ave, Sarah Ave, and Duncan Ave. The former Ford plant in the background is now lofts
Looking South across Forest Park. IKEA is to the left, just out of view. The development parcel straight ahead will ideally be of similar massing as the lofts on the right, with storefronts at sidewalk level.
Looking South across Forest Park. IKEA is to the left, just out of view. The development parcel straight ahead will ideally be of similar massing as the lofts on the right, with storefronts at sidewalk level.
Looking East on Duncan Ave, from Sarah Ave. The CORTEX master plan wants Duncan to be a pedestrian-friendly spine through the district. The form of new building(s) on the parcel on the left will matter greatly.
Looking East on Duncan Ave, from Sarah Ave. The CORTEX master plan wants Duncan to be a pedestrian-friendly spine through the district. The form of new building(s) on the parcel on the left will matter greatly.

This site could be developed similar to new apartments at Forest Park & Vandeventer — a parking garage concealed on all sides by habitable buildings. The difference here is it should have storefront spaces on the ground floor. A boutique hotel, like one of these chains, should occupy part of the upper floors.

Hopefully IKEA St. Louis will be the exception, not the rule.

— Steve Patterson

 

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