Many land use and zoning policies address retail and commercial development, but often fall short of creating and sustaining a thriving retail district that fits the needs of the surrounding population. Through the Strategies for Older Suburbs work program of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, staff compiled information about 71 suburban downtown retail districts in an effort to learn what elements were common among successful older suburban retail districts. Short- and long -term strategies were then developed to help local officials revive these districts and further their economic development goals.
It is imperative that older communities understand how retail fits into the overall quality of life for a community. Understanding why retailers choose particular locations and what factors local officials may be able to influence, are critical to maintaining a competitive edge in the retail market. Recent retail development trends include building a retail district to meet the demands of the baby boomers, increased ethnic diversity, and affluent households. Communities strive to incorporate these trends and create a shopping experience that has a mix of uses and serves all modes of transportation.
This report is organized into five chapters. The first chapter discusses the importanceof downtown retail districts, focusing on retail trends and typologies. Chapter two outlines the result of the field work and evaluates common elements found in the region that contribute to a retail district's success. Outlined for local governments are seven highly relevant factors to consider when revitalizing any retail district. Chapter three discusses applying the building blocks of a retail district to begin the revitalization process. Chapter four provides specific, retail-ready actions that municipal officials can influence such as regulatory compliance, zoning regulations, incentives to attract new retail, and working with partners. Chapter five provides local officials simple calculations on how to determine retail supply and demand. This chapter takes the reader through each step and explains where to find critical data. The report is intended for local governments to begin to think about their retail districts in the larger context of the community's economic development goals and quality of life.