Pratt Center Project

Democratizing Planning

Planning for Neighborhood Retail

Diverse commercial corridors with thriving locally-owned businesses lead to prosperous and vibrant neighborhoods.

Local shopping districts with a range of retail and community-responsive services are integral to socially and economically healthy neighborhoods. But many of New York City’s low- and moderate-income communities are without thriving commercial areas.

Dilapidated commercial space, big box store development, poorly planned corridors, and rising storefront rents are but a few examples of the everyday challenges facing local merchants – from new entrepreneurs to small businesses that have been around for decades.

As part of our broader work in sustainable community planning, Pratt Center partners with community development corporations, Business Improvement Districts, merchants' associations and other community partners to strengthen local commercial areas so that they better respond to community needs. By providing technical assistance, engaging local stakeholders, and recommending various public and private interventions to improve neighborhood retail, Pratt Center’s work helps local groups to:

1) Expand retail offerings in underserved neighborhoods

Many neighborhoods experience severe retail leakage, whereby local households are forced to go far afield for such basic necessities as fresh groceries. Pratt Center helps local groups identify and implement strategies to fill vacant storefronts and attract needed businesses to expand neighborhood-serving retail in places that lack it.

2) Ensure affordable shopping and retail in neighborhoods with low and moderate-income households

As some neighborhoods undergo significant commercial gentrification, longtime residents may no longer be able to afford shopping in their own communities. Pratt Center’s approach to enhancing local retail recognizes that many neighborhoods need a diversity of retail price points to effectively serve areas that are socio-economically diverse.

3) Create opportunities for independent retail to thrive

Many neighborhoods are experiencing an influx of large national chain outlets, from banks to drug stores. These establishments can threaten the future of independent outlets while changing the character of local and largely “Mom and Pop” shopping districts. Pratt Center’s retail work aims to help communities strike an appropriate balance between independent and chain stores.

To achieve these goals, we utilize a range of community planning approaches including:

  • Creating and implementing needs assessment surveys of local shoppers and business owners
  • Conducting field surveys and documenting the findings to create inventories of existing conditions and retail/service inventories
  • Engaging local stakeholders in visioning sessions
  • Analyzing development potential of soft/underdeveloped retail sites
  • Identifying opportunities for improving public transportation, streetscape conditions, and placemaking

Learn about specific neighborhood retail projects above in righthand column.