Second Street services in High Street storefronts.

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A little while back, in a meticulously photographed post on the blog Urban Indy, I noted many emergent urban main street corridors that fall short of their full potential for a single simple reason: they can’t secure the optimal types of tenants. It was a challenging post, because I felt like I was taking two …Read more…

Urban artistry comes in all forms.

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Maybe it was the bohemian misfits converging in a once-floundering SoHo that prompted this approach. Perhaps it was the rediscovery of Classical values in 15th century Florence that spurred a continent toward unprecedented economic growth after centuries of stagnance. More likely it was neither. Quite simply, people operated on an hunch (mostly unconscious) that something …Read more…

Helping downtowns meet demand and save face.

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The façadectomy fan club hasn’t earned a lot of love over the years. Historic preservationists deride it because it cynically assumes that the only true value to a historic structure is the often three-foot-thick façade, while the remaining 99% of the building (not to mention everything that took place within it) is left to the …Read more…

Turning up the heat by removing the kitchen.

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How do you know when a commercial area is—to use a phrase I hate—“going downhill”? Take a good look at who the tenants are. Sometimes it’s merely a matter of rising vacancy levels, but if the occupancy levels are high while those tenants are radically different from just two years prior, something’s afoot. It’s usually …Read more…

Tossing historic accuracy out the window.

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Don’t let the naysayers sway you. Historic preservation aspirations can harmonize with the private sector. In fact, it’s happening now more than ever, and it’s depending far less on pubic sector intervention than ever before. With increasing frequency, entrepreneurs are mobilizing to salvage buildings or prominent features deemed under threat, either from redevelopment or decay …Read more…

A colorful patch on a faded pair of slacks.

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At a primary intersection in the weather-beaten downtown of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, I came across this little row of storefronts.Truth be told, the photo is deceptive. I positioned the camera so that the street rests in the center, only to conceal what is going on at the periphery.   Perhaps the reader/viewer can already tell, but …Read more…

Hustling all the antiques under one roof.  

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Even metros with the most resilient of economies couldn’t salvage many of their historic buildings downtown during the 1970s, the virtually undisputed nadir of urban America. The imbroglio facing most cities wasn’t just a lack of investment—there simply wasn’t even any psychological interest. (Not surprisingly, “interest” and “investment” go hand in hand…in more ways than …Read more…

Historic substance or hardware store?

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“Heritage tourism” has slowly—in some respects, glacially slowly—crept into the mainstream as a viable part of the economic development lexicon. It can serve as a legitimate lure to outside visitors seeking something that they perceive as old, historically significant, authentic or distinctive. As a definition of heritage tourism, the previous sentence contains several key adjectives …Read more…