#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
#
A
Z
Retail innovation beyond the shop door: Lessons from the USA (part 1)
Current
list Article list

Retail innovation beyond the shop door: Lessons from the USA (part 1)

Posted 16.09.2019
By Grigor Grigorov

Introduction

Retail is changing. While the quest for innovation and attention has produced some fun spaces, the influence of retail on surrounding neighbourhoods, cities and the globalised world in general is far more intriguing than individual shops.

This three-part blog series focuses on places which are simultaneously creating commercial value for their owners and developers, but are also, in some way, contributing to the prosperity and wellbeing of the people using them. Investigating retail’s “halo effect”, our aim is to show why good retail places which respond to their time and place still matter even in an increasingly digital world.

Highlighting various retail outlets that were part of this year’s Revo International Study Tour, the first instalment in this series focuses on retail as a catalyst for growth, the second part will look at the public face of corporations and the third part: the greater good.

1. Catalyst for growth

Retail is often a part of mixed-use developments. While frequently its role and scope are fixed from early inception of a project, below are two instances where gradual introduction of interesting retailers has shaped later phases of development while creating and reinforcing a community. The value this retail brings is connecting people and enabling growth.

Growing a neighbourhood

Union Market in Washington DC, a neighbourhood which has been defined by wholesale operations for 200 years was falling in decline when developer Edens purchased the main market and several other buildings. Today the market is becoming the heart of the local community and bringing change in three inter-related ways.

#
Union Market hosts a collection of various independent producers combining food court-style eating with a boutique supermarket

Firstly, by employing a former creative director with background in theatre and drama, the developer has supported and evolved the vendors, gradually creating better leases, bringing in better merchandise and independent brands. Edens has created the “Retail +” concept, under which every vendor at the market must be making something which can be tried in place. To create genuine connections, Edens also reached out to the local diverse community – for example by hosting a Latin market and finding chefs and retailers through foreign embassies.

The success of the market has in turn attracted a host of new retailers to the area – an independent jewellery designer’s workshop, boutique apothecary and salon Veer&Wander, and a slick sushi restaurant. Many creative companies have moved into the affordable workplaces around the market. This approach to development is one of collecting retail concepts with stories and supporting their growth.

What’s coming next? Apartment blocks are steadily rising from one of the plots with more coming soon. The ownership of the buildings above the ground floor is separate to what happens at the street level. Edens offsets the costs of the land and the financial risks of small independent retailers by selling the air rights for construction above the ground floor. The retail rents can be kept affordable, attracting innovative new uses, which in turn increases the desirability of the area and the value of the residential buildings above.

Five years from now, the neighbourhood is likely to look very different, grown around the market.

#
Union Market developer, Edens, retains control over the ground-floor tenants, while others develop the residential and commercial buildings above

New industry, old city

Brooklyn’s Industry city is a regenerated district of 19th-century warehouse and factory blocks, reinvented as a workplace in 2013 and positioned as “an innovation ecosystem that serves to benefit its tenants and the wider community”.

#
Industry City – the spaces between former factory blocks in Brooklyn are utilised for various leisure activities

Because of the existing buildings’ flexibility and affordability, the district has attracted various businesses – creative studios, small manufacturing plants and craft workshops, alongside more traditional offices. Naturally, the units on the ground floor double up as retail spaces – for example, a Li-Lac chocolate factory and a Teressa Foglia hat workshop.

Introduced as key community-building spaces, there are many bars and restaurants, a food court and indoor and outdoor event spaces. The retail has turned the place into a weekend, family-friendly destination, with events such as film screenings and coding courses, and has brought visitors beyond its normal working population.

#
Common areas in Industry City lead to a diverse offering of shops and services, connecting to the outside spaces as well

The director of SandenWolff Productions, a small video content company in the area, told me that the attractiveness of the place is its affordability and the opportunity for expansion within the same building. While he likes the amenities, the growth of the common areas has also increased his service charge and rent. If this growth continues then small companies like his, which give the place its character, may not be able to afford the costs.

The adaptation of historic buildings and their initial affordability has attracted a diversity of people and activities, giving the place a distinct character. While retail has amplified and enhanced this character, it is also increasing values and driving future growth. Those aspects are usually regarded as beneficial, but evidently, they also threaten the affordability and the character of the place.

#
Teressa Foglia’s hat boutique and workshop on the ground floor of Industry City