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The skinny on retail corridors

Injecting new life into languishing retail strips can spark good things for low-income communities: more, livelier businesses offer much-needed goods and services, and create new jobs and a more positive sense of place. An article from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, drawing on the experiences of LISC's corridor program, MetroEdge, shares high-impact, low-cost revitalization strategies from neighborhoods across the country.

The excerpt below isĀ from:
"Revitalizing Commercial Corridors: Lessons from LISC MetroEdge"
by Helen Dunlap & Carl Vogel, LISC MetroEdge Consultants

In many low- and moderate-income communities, existing retail strips are underutilized or a shadow of their former selves, with vacant storefronts and a limited range of goods. Coordinated efforts by community-based organizations, local business owners, and municipal partners can create conditions to revitalize these strips and to spur economic growth by upgrading the physical surroundings, supporting existing businesses, attracting new stores, and improving the reputation of the community as a place to shop. As businesses grow, they provide a wider array of retail options to residents, add jobs in the community, and serve as well-maintained physical anchors, improving the use of public space in the neighborhood. Equally important, the process of working to improve the commercial corridor contributes to an overall increase in civic participation and strengthens the sense of community.

MetroEdge, a program of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), strives to develop such commercial corridors and stimulate economic growth. MetroEdge was started nearly 20 years ago by the former ShoreBank in Chicago to gather and analyze local economic data to illustrate unmet commercial demand in low-income neighborhoods and to serve as a tool to attract retail investment. MetroEdge uses national and local data from sources such as Nielsen, Esri, and PolicyMap to help communities craft strategies for commercial corridor revitalization, often as part of larger community revitalization efforts.

In LISC MetroEdge's Corridors of Retail Excellence (CORE) program, one or more members of MetroEdge's experienced team of national economic development consultants work with local LISC offices and their community partners to cultivate viable commercial corridor development strategies in local low- and moderate-income neighborhoods. The consultants collect and analyze the data and provide expertise and advice on commercial corridor strategies and programs, including framing the information and engaging in an interactive dialogue with the local stakeholders to find collective, practical strategies. The CORE program identifies early action projects and helps launch development initiatives. The program has helped communities attract new businesses, boost sales for existing local retail stores and restaurants, bring in new resources, exercise more control over their economic futures, and integrate these efforts with larger community development strategies.

Since MetroEdge became part of LISC in 2006, the program has operated in 50 communities in 16 cities across the country. LISC MetroEdge analysis of CORE projects has identified lessons for increasing retail sales, improving tenant mix and occupancy rates, building a corridor organization's administrative capacity for ongoing success, and improving the physical environment of both public space and private property. Following are five key insights from the CORE program. Continued[+]...