More times than I can count, I’ve explored the country’s mismatch between the supply of retail-oriented real estate and the broader public’s demand. We just have too many shopping centers. And it’s always been that way. Even in the best of times—the peak of the suburban mall during the 1970s and 80s—our historic downtown storefronts
The streetscape of downtown Martinsburg, the largest municipality (population 17,500) in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle, doesn’t exactly boast an occupancy level one would rate as thriving. But it’s hardly plagued by persistent plywood in the windows of the commercial buildings, and the majority of them look like they benefit from regular maintenance and upkeep. I
In these economically fraught times, it’s not always easy to find an urbanized restaurant/retail district where one can comfortably kick back a burger and a brew and feel safe, either from crime, civil unrest, or inconsistent enforcement of COVID precautions (depending on what you perceive is the greatest threat). In 2021, the suburbs of large
Mixed-use town center as the new “organic” downtown: how distinct can they be if they become as commonplace as malls?
The mixed-use town center is a novelty across much of the county. A metropolitan area of one million people is unlikely to have more than one or two of these newfangled nodes, which typically combine housing, retail, offices, hotels, garage parking, and maybe even an institutional use like a school, a library, or a municipal
McConnellsburg, PA: population barely above the triple digits, and parking meters on the main street.
McConnellsburg, a borough in south-central Pennsylvania with a population noted as not much over 1,000, has managed to find a way to monetize parking in its downtown—that is, the three blocks that comprise its main street (Lincoln Way). Do you see them there in the distance, next to the sidewalk? The village hosts a tidy
When green means stop: the impact of classic neon lighting in the wireless era, from West Virginia with love.
If a good sign is worth more than its weight in canvas, plastic, fiberglass, cardboard, or whatever material helped birth it, a good old sign earns even more accolades, as multiplied by the number of years it has done its job. (Weight of the material multiplied by its age?) The perseverance of a good sign
Breezewood. It sounds like it could be the name of a stereotypical suburb to a major Midwest city (Chicago definitely comes to mind); it also sounds sufficiently generic that one might expect a dozen towns scattered across the country with the name. Negative on both counts. There’s only one Breezewood, and it’s not a suburb
Chipotle bucks the struggling restaurant trend, by predicting the future. What’s so tricky about that?!
A year ago, the prevailing wisdom among urban analysts was that restaurants would serve as the lodestar for any further downtown revitalization. I shared this sentiment, particularly in recognizing the recent, fashionable emergence of the food hall–a smattering of diverse small-kitchen eateries under one roof. The reality seemed, then as now, that most other retail—certainly
Am I the only one who has noticed the growing presence, particularly in the last few years, of restored advertising banners on the sides of brick buildings, like we used to see in days of yore? Most people know what I’m talking about; here’s an example in a well-preserved historic district a few blocks east
Cause-and-response urbanism in Alexandria: when grafting a storefront is like pulling Nectar from a flower.
I rarely devote an entire blog article to just one small business—it always comes across that I’m singling it out, even if (as is the case here) it’s for a positive reason. But when it comes to this one, it’s the allegiance between a business and the structure that houses it that really merits attention.