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Tag: Market Assessments

V.3.5 Recruiting Businesses

V.3.5 Recruiting Businesses

Action

Create a plan for recruiting businesses that considers community input and market trends and that communicates a clear “wish list” of desired businesses. 

Why

A recruiting plan will help everyone involved stay on track and work together to create a vibrant, diverse and intentional mix of businesses in your district. Maybe your Main Street is looking to stand out from the rest, provide certain types of entertainment or services, embrace and market a certain niche or business cluster. Developing this plan will help ensure success in accomplishing district goals. 

How

  • Initiate a community engagement workshop to review available market studies and community plans and understand the district’s assets and desires. Develop a “wish list” of businesses.
  • With input from property owners, real estate brokers and developers, develop and carry out a business recruiting plan. 
  • Hold stakeholder engagement sessions at least quarterly, ongoing. 
  • Review the plan and update market studies periodically to understand new trends and assets.

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Main Street Management Assessment Rubric

Scoring Standards

4
  • There is a “wish list” of desired businesses based on community input and market trends.
  • There is a plan in place to attract these businesses.
  • Property owners, real estate brokers, and developers are engaged and bought-in to the plan.
3
  • There is a “wish list” of desired businesses based on community input and market trends.
  • There is a plan in place to attract these businesses.
  • Property owners are aware of the plan.
2
  • There are efforts in place to recruit businesses but with no strategic direction.
1
  • There are no efforts or plans in place. Recruiting is passive.

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V.2.3 Inventory of Vacant Storefronts

V.2.3 Inventory of Vacant Storefronts

Action

Develop a plan for programming and filling vacant storefronts.

Why

Programming storefronts engages the community and drives foot traffic to the downtown and helps create a dynamic, positive environment, even when there are vacancies. Filling those vacant storefronts increases property values, increases foot traffic, builds local economic value, provides necessary and desired goods and services and ensures the vibrancy the community is looking for.

How

Developing an inventory of vacant storefronts, that includes notes about ownership, available space, and other pertinent information is a good first step. It may also be helpful to utilize real estate listings and do a walking tour to identify vacant properties. Working with the landlord and other nearby businesses, utilize the vacancy inventory to make a plan for programming and filling vacancies. Other natural partners are the local Arts Council, Economic Development Commission and Chamber of Commerce.

  1. Complete a Main Street Market Analysis
  2. Write down your “wish list” of businesses desired in vacant storefronts in line with the market analysis
  3. Create engaging window displays and/or are programmed with pop up events
  4. Encourage owners to prepare vacant space to “vanilla box” ready for future tenants
  5. Make incentives, such as local grants, available to property owners and businesses for facade and interior improvements or to cover other business start up costs

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Main Street Management Assessment Rubric

Scoring Standards

4
  • There is a “wish list” of businesses desired in vacant storefronts in line with market analysis.
  • In the meantime, vacant storefronts have engaging window displays and/or are programmed with pop up events.
  • Owners have prepared vacant space to “vanilla box” ready for future tenants.
3
  • There is a “wish list” of businesses desired in vacant storefronts in line with market analysis.
  • Vacant storefronts have engaging window displays and/or are programmed with pop up events.
2
  • Vacant storefronts have window displays or window coverings.
1
  • No action is taken on vacant storefronts.

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CSMC Webinar: How to Fill Vacant Storefronts

CMSC Webinar

How to Fill Vacant Storefronts

Webinar Summary

Every Main Street will face vacancies from time to time, and COVID only exacerbated this challenge across Connecticut and the country. Not only are persistent vacancies detrimental to creating and sustaining a vibrant downtown, but they also have a negative economic impact on the community. In this webinar, our presenter Ilana Preuss – international speaker, and fierce advocate for creating great places and small-scale manufacturing – shares:

  • Innovative approaches to filling vacant storefronts from around the country
  • Programmatic ideas to collaborate with property owners
  • Long-term solutions to keep storefronts full by supporting local small business ecosystems

Presentation Highlights

  • 5 Reasons why vacant storefronts exist

    1. Cost of renovation: The cost to renovate a vacant space is too high and the market does not support a lease rate that supports the cost of renovation.
    2. Tax benefits: Property owners gain a tax benefit on the loss of not leasing space.
    3. Devalue underwriting: For new, big development projects, the owner doesn’t want to lower the price of the storefronts to not devalue the whole project if they are looking to sell or refinance at some point.
    4. Guaranteed lease: This is common to see in malls or big box strip centers, where a major anchor tenant has a guaranteed lease for an extended period of time so no one else can come into the space.
    5. Mismatch of real estate sizes and small business needs: A lot of communities have a lot of storefronts that are 2,000-10,000 square feet when a lot of small businesses need 500-1,000 square feet.
  • Context & national trends that are influencing our downtowns:

    • Vacant storefronts reduce the value of nearby property by 20% or more. They reduce traffic to these areas and leads to a feeling of isolation in the community. The impact of vacancies are multi-fold and in many cases create a downward spiral in communities.
    • During COVID, a lot of businesses pivoted, some survived, and many did not.
    • Over 1 million COVID deaths impacted our householders, economy, and individuals. The psychological impact of the pandemic cannot be ignored.
    • A lot of people started businesses in recent years without a lot of business experience. They started small business because they lost their jobs or decided to pursue their passion or a different quality of life.
    • People are demanding higher wages and pay.
    • Before the pandemic we saw demographic shifts such as decline in working age population and growing income and wealth inequality – which have only been exacerbated during COVID.
    • A lot of major chains shrunk their footprint and are focusing on prime locations.
  • Strategies to fill vacant storefronts

    1. Support small business

    Specifically focus on small-scale manufacturing (businesses that make consumer products). These businesses have opportunities for different sources of revenue making them more resilient – retail, wholesale, online, pop-ups, etc. They are a draw for foot traffic in your downtown and bring people together.

    • Provide financing to support these businesses
      • Provide incubators, accelerators, or other support programs to help them gain business skills and/or how they can move into storefronts particularly when paired with market opportunities and financing
      • Examples of training programs for getting home-based businesses into storefronts: Baltimore Home Run Accelerator, 37 Oaks

    2. Commercial Vacancy Tax Ordinance

    3. Tax Increment Finance (TIF) or other funding vehicle with matching grants

    4. Financing for local business to buy real estate

    • Keep real estate ownership local by providing support and financing options for local small business owners who have the interest and capacity to purchase property.
    • Examples: Pittsburgh

    5.Commercial Land Trust


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Other Resources

About Ilana Preuss

Ilana Preuss is the Founder and CEO of Recast City and the author of the new book “Recast Your City: How to Save Your Downtown with Small-Scale Manufacturing.”

Preuss’ passion for great places grew out of her experience working with small and large cities all over the country when she led the technical assistance program at the U.S. EPA Smart Growth Program, and as the Vice President & Chief of Staff at Smart Growth America. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Urban and Regional Studies from Cornell University and a Masters of City Planning from the University of Maryland.

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