Neighborhood Retail can be accomplished with the retrofit of existing shopping centers by opening the shell of the structures to connect the neighborhood. Image created by John Olson. Participants in the vision were John Olson, Dave Foster and Jim Houk.

The term “neighborhood retail” makes me a bit nervous. The idea of neighborhood retail is to provide accessible services to an adjacent neighborhood. The way that we define accessibility has changed since the automobile enabled people to access greater distances in less time. It is not as necessary today to be accessible by foot in communities where traffic congestion is a non-factor.
A few questions to ponder:

  1. When we provide “neighborhood retail” that is only accessible by automobile, does it really meet the intention of a neighborhood?
  2. Shouldn’t neighborhood retail be accessible from a neighborhood in the same way that a “neighbor” is accessed – by foot?
  3. Do we, as a general population, really “live” where we reside?

There are economic realities of scale that are needed to attract the appropriate uses for neighborhood retail. Developers and their investors do a tremendous job of identifying the uses. Generally, the uses are service-oriented to meet the daily needs of the neighborhood. Uses often include food, pharmacies, restaurants, barbershops, liquor stores, and convenience stores.
The form and accessibility are generally the problem. Usually, these uses are dependent to major anchor retail and follow like remora to the shark, as referenced in the post The Life and Death of the Big Box. It is the balance of incorporating these economic realities and appropriate form that planners, architects and landscape architects must meet to achieve true neighborhood retail in new development.
This post was developed a part of a BlogOff assembled by Steve Mouzon and others in the New Urban Network. For other related posts in the Neighborhood Retail series, see the following posts:

  1. Original Green: The Necessity of Hope
  2. PlaceShakers: Retail: When it bends the Rules and Breaks the Law
  3. Street Trip: BlogOff: Neighborhood Retail
  4. Walkable DFW: Retail BlogOff
  5. Kaid Benfield: When Shops and Services are Within Walking Distance, We Walk More and Drive Less