The ABC's of Site Selection: Finding the Perfect Downtown Retail Site
Review by: Davon Barbour, Director, City of Hollywood, Department of Community & Economic Development
Effective retail recruitment requires tenacity, perseverance, and a strong understanding of the fundamentals of retail site selection. As downtown practitioners, we very well recognize the fierce competition that exists from suburban retail locations. In The A B C’s of Site Selection: How to Pick Winners and Avoid Losers, author Frank Raeon educates the reader on the “art and science” of site selection. Raeon, a former public sector development official turned commercial real estate professional, provides a reader friendly resource for understanding the basics of retail site selection.
In The A B C’s of Site Selection, Raeon shares what he believes are the six keys that every retail real estate professional should consider when evaluating a potential retail location: Access, Activity, Parking, Signing, Traffic, and Visibility. In addition to a broad discussion of these “keys”, the author provides simple definitions of retail real estate terminology along with real world explanations. This format is a valuable asset for influencing decision makers in other supportive professional disciplines. It is also beneficial in influencing public policy that is critical to ensuring the viability of the downtown retail destination. For example, zoning ordinances, which are often crafted by a municipality’s Planning Department, regulate the type, amount, and quality of signage in a given area. Signage is critical to the success of any retailer. Our role as the downtown advocate is to achieve a careful balance of regulations that neither deter retail attraction nor distract from the aesthetics of a visually pleasing downtown that we work so hard to maintain. Anyone involved in the site plan review process equally benefits from reading this book.
An additional source of education in the guidebook is the Site Selection Scorecard, which is a systematic evaluation tool for assessing whether a location is a viable site. If you are like me, I am certain that you have been approached by stakeholders or elected officials for requests to recruit a specific retailer to a location/area that fails to meet the prerequisite site location requirements such as populations, income levels, or appropriate real estate. Using a five-step approach, the author illustrates the consideration of primary and secondary site specific criteria such as curb appeal, street activity, lighting levels, and capital improvements. The scoring system defined by the author helps the reader to qualify the viability of a site in a “scientific” manner. As Raeon states, “This Five Step Approach is often overlooked by start-up and small businesspeople. Too many of them mistakenly think that finding a highly desirable area (location) is all that matters, Somehow they are convinced that it is no longer essential to find and secure the absolute best site within the desired area. WRONG! The truth is that you need to not only find a good area but you need to secure either an outstanding or a good site if you are going to be in a position to not only compete but succeed.”
A successful retail site must meet market demand, must satisfy tenant requirements, must satisfy lending conditions, must satisfy regulatory requirements and must accommodate the consumer. Whether along the waterfront, within the central business district, or along a commercial corridor, downtowns offer a diversity of locations. The A B C’s of Site Selection will not only equip you for successfully shaping your retail recruitment strategy but it also serves as a unique resource for educating the many downtown allies on whom we depend to cultivate our vibrant retail and entertainment areas.
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