CONSULTING PLANNERS OF MASSACHUSETTS
Expertise for Communities
"Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy recently released an advisory addressing an “epidemic of loneliness and isolation” in the United States.
For reasons that are a little bit unclear—declining religiosity, the rise of social media, maybe—for a long time now, Americans have been reporting more time spent alone, smaller social networks, and fewer people they can confide in. Isolation is not a trivial thing, but a serious threat to survival, coming with increased stress, insomnia, suicide risk, and hypertension, the Surgeon General warns.
The report describes loneliness and disconnection as a national health concern comparable to obesity, diabetes, and smoking. People in poor health or with disabilities, LGBTQ people, and single parents are particularly susceptible, as are young people (who seem to be uniquely struggling right now).
Unfortunately, all these factors were worsened by the pandemic. There are probably few Americans who weren’t affected by loneliness at some point during this period.
“...the social infrastructure of the community” is what we need to strengthen and rebuild."
By CPM member, Carol Todreas
The Gap is laying off hundreds of employees, Bed Bath &Beyond is finished and many others are ailing and failing. Retail is in a wild state of flux. Nothing is certain; yet consumers are still buying goods and most interestingly it has been predicted that brick and mortar is in a period of growth despite the other fact that e-commerce is also predicted to gain more of the consumer spending pie. The point is that even though banks may be toppling and there is talk of recession, consumers are still consuming.
With such a vibrant retail scene, there is much to talk about. However, leases and tenants still are fundamental, and they are evolving. Here is a glance at what is now transpiring.
Leases and Related:
• Demand for good locations is greater than supply; much competition for space exists in established malls and shopping streets.
(According to Cushman and Wakefield, the national retail vacancy rate fell to 5.7% at the end of the year, its lowest level since 2007.)
• Lease negotiations continue in the trend that started before the pandemic: they are more individualized and creative with landlords being flexible and working to help each tenant.
• Newer brick and mortar tenants may want only 6-24 months to test the market; other more experienced tenants may want more typical 20-year term leases.
• Leases are tending to have annual increases to keep up with inflation, instead of at pre-scheduled times which was the convention before the pandemic.
• Rents in high-demand suburban locations are now almost the same or the same as in dense urban locations; rents have been increasing as populations migrate and drive demand.
Tenants and Related:
• E-commerce retailers continue to open physical stores.
• Tenants now want creative store design to attract customers.
• Tenants want stores to be sized and configured for ease of circulating and entry/exit.
• Store design needs to accommodate multi-channel selling; the success of tenants depends on being able to coordinate merchandise between Internet and physical store.
• Stores touting a low carbon footprint either because of design and construction or merchandise selection (or both) are noted and preferred by Millennials and Generation Z customers.
• Pop-up tenants remain an important element of any mall or shopping street. It does not matter the retail category, from food to clothes to jewelry, consumers gravitate to something new and different.
• Mixed-use projects can be risky for retail tenants; each project should be evaluated for its retail market potential.
To date pre-owned, resale and second-hand stores are big attractions for consumers. They are exactly on point for those who want to save money, hunt for treasures, and save the environment which happens to be most of us.
In this category look for RaaS or resale as a service. This niche concept began on the Internet but has been far more profitable in physical stores. Specifically it is a partnership between brands and resale platforms. The brand sells its oversupply of merchandise to a third party brick and mortar store. As such the resale store becomes the sales service for the left over merchandise and eliminates the middle man.
The two most recognized national chains in this category are ThredUP and Trove; however, several similar concepts are in the pipeline, and local retailers will be finding some innovative way to add their own twist to the concept. There will be various adaptations of the concept, mixing and matching new merchandise with edited pre-owned, second hand goods in one brick and mortar store.
The take a way: Retail brick and mortar lives and breathes and shoppers buy…….when it is right.
Carol Todreas is retail consultant for Todreas Hanley Associates, Cambridge, Mass.
"In Massachusetts, the car is still king...By these standards, the Boston area is in many waystrending in the wrong direction. Instead of increasing rapid transit service to entice people away from cars, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority cut subway frequency by more than 20 percent last June and still has not restored pre-pandemic service levels. Similarly, the state agency has cut bus service repeatedly over the last year and a half and continues to routinely cancel scheduled trips because it doesn’t have enough drivers, falling behind similar large US transit agencies."
"Long before contemporary urbanist catchphrases like “gentle density” and “missing middle” housing were invoked to promote modestly scaled multifamily construction, triple-deckers embodied the idea. The original threeplex. Packed tightly onto narrow lots, sometimes in semi-detached pairs known as “perfect sixes,” the boxy structures — close to workplaces or linked to public transit— offered an attainable alternative to more expensive single-family homes, all in service to a healthy local economy. This was state-of-the-art workforce housing, New England-style."
"No car? What if you need to make a Costco trip?"
One development in LA's answering that: by building apartments over a planned Costco.
The chain's business model of bulk purchases provides the biggest example of challenges in adapting sprawling development patterns to be more walkable, but the broader principle could lead to more urban grocery stores with less parking required.
These AI-inspired images of cities are created using NightCafe and MidJourney, two popular services that use artificial intelligence (AI) to create images from text descriptions.
An AI image generation service creates images using a machine learning technique called Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs). To create images of cities, the AI is trained on images of cities, and then it can generate new images of a future city based on a prompt — a set of words or phrases provided by the image creator. The AI algorithm uses a feedback loop to improve the images it produces, making them increasingly realistic.
Big dreams of an audacious 225mph bullet train from Boston to NYC were first introduced in 2021, and the time-saving idea is still in motion.
Millions of people currently commute between Boston and New York City via Amtrak. The fastest train at the moment is the Acela Express which is usually about a 210-minute ride,providing the fastest possible ground transport between Boston and New York to this day. The bullet train from Boston to NYC proposes speeds of 225 miles per hour that would slash that commute in half to about 90 minutes!
“The 15-minute city principle suggests you should have your daily needs—work, food, healthcare, education, culture, and leisure—within a 15-minute walk or bike ride from where you live. It sounds pleasant enough, but in the minds of libertarian fanatics and the bedroom commentators of TikTok, it represents an unprecedented assault on personal freedoms.” — The Guardian
If you’re worried about the government confining citizens to life inside a walkable 15-minute box, then we invite you to the 15-Hour City: a metropolis so sprawling and convoluted to navigate only by car, you’ll need over half the day to accomplish the basic necessities of living.
In the 15-Hour City, the most important tenet is freedom of movement. Here, you can travel anywhere you want, as long as it’s on the handful of roads we afford to maintain with a gas-guzzling car that costs half your paycheck.
The Massachusetts Planning community will be coming together to for the Inaugural Massachusetts Distinguished Planner Annual Lecture. Practitioners, educators, and students from across the Commonwealth are welcome to attend the lecture and a reception to follow. The Lecture recognizes and celebrates a retiring practitioner. For this first year, Peter C. Lowitt, FAICP, will deliver the lecture. This event is sponsored by the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA-MA), in collaboration with the state’s planning schools. No registration required.
When: March 29, 2023, at 4:00 pm
Where: Alumnae Lounge, 40 Talbot Avenue
Tufts University, Medford, MA 02155
The event is walking distance to the new Medford/Tufts stop (Green Line) and the Davis Square (Red Line) stop on the MBTA. Parking is available at the Dowling Hall Garage, 419 Boston Avenue.
In order to make this Lecture a permanent part of the planning community in Massachusetts, we are seeking donations to create an endowment that would fund the Lecture indefinitely. Please consider making a donation here: http://go.tufts.edu/MassPlannerLecture.
Questions? Please email Justin Hollander, PhD, FAICP: at email@example.com
Long time CPM member, Carol Todreas, presents an update on the state of retail.