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March 29, 2012

Mayor Vincent C. Gray Releases Vibrant Retail Streets Toolkit 

Office of Planning Study Highlights Innovative Approaches to Successful Commercial Districts

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(WASHINGTON, DC) – Mayor Vincent C. Gray announced today the release of the Vibrant Retail Streets Toolkit, which evaluates the essential elements of outstanding retail areas and offers a customizable toolbox of strategies and implementation steps to improve retail streets. Developed by the DC Office of Planning (OP) and its consultant partner, Streetsense, the Toolkit provides a framework for retail streets in the District to thrive by supporting a dynamic retail experience, retail entrepreneurs and greater collaboration between public and private stakeholders.

Enhancing the city’s retail sector is also critical to achieving Mayor Gray’s job-creation and economic-development goals for the District. “The District’s retail economy is an opportunity for the city to grow its tax base and become more fiscally sound,” he said. “Retail can create jobs, provide convenient access to goods and services for residents, generate millions of dollars in new tax revenue and reduce the number of residents leaving the city to buy what they need or want.”

The Toolkit follows up on OP’s Retail Action Strategy and Retail Action Roadmap, both released in 2010, which assessed opportunities in established and emerging retail areas in the District and offered strategies for matching retail opportunities with neighborhood needs and expanding opportunities for small and local retailers. The Toolkit builds on this by taking into account that, as the District’s retail economy continues to evolve and grow, retail streets in DC’s neighborhoods face a variety of challenges. The Toolkit is designed to build on retailers’ renewed interest in urban markets as well as the District’s growing population – including the growing percentage of residents who choose walkable, bikeable, transit-rich neighborhoods for shopping, entertainment and other services.

“Our Retail Action Strategy helped put retail opportunities squarely out there as an invitation for retailers to come to DC to serve our residents,” said Harriet Tregoning, Director of the Office of Planning. “Our vision of livable, walkable neighborhoods relies on having vibrant retail streets in lots of neighborhoods throughout the city.”

The Toolkit incorporates research on best practices and innovative approaches to managing successful commercial districts and uses metrics that assess the level of retail demand, accessibility, location, mix and format. The study offers guidance on key issues, such as retailers’ site-location considerations and decision-making processes, as well as how neighborhoods can measure, gauge and spark retail vibrancy through a diagnostic assessment.

“We are thrilled to be working with the Office of Planning on such an innovative new concept for invigorating the local economy,” said Heather Arnold, Director of Research and Analysis for Streetsense. “The Toolkit is the culmination of careful consideration and research, and we are very excited to equip residents and retailers with the information needed for DC’s neighborhood commercial districts to reach their highest potential.”

Highlights from the Vibrant Retail Streets Toolkit include:

• Retailers seeking urban locations are increasingly relying on transit and pedestrian counts as a measure of how accessible and visible a potential location is to customers.
• The presence of a civic or cultural use (e.g., a post office, park, house of worship or school) makes a significant contribution, as it creates a “non-commercial” reason to participate in the activity of a vibrant street.
• Vibrant streets project an atmosphere of safety through pedestrian-oriented lighting, residential units on the upper floors, continuous storefronts and sidewalks that are litter- and graffiti-free.

“The District has all the ingredients to be an extraordinary retail city” said Victor Hoskins, Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development. “The Vibrant Retail Streets Toolkit provides the framework to achieve this vision. We expect it to stimulate greater and more innovative collaboration among retail stakeholders to ensure our retail entrepreneurs are supported, our shoppers have a greater selection of products and services and our retail streets thrive.”

The Vibrant Retail Streets Toolkit is available here on the DC Office of Planning’s website.