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Cleveland faces a number of challenges in the area of Retail Development that must be addressed. Several are identified here, along with some possible solutions:

  • Retail Land Assembly: One of the major challenges facing developers seeking to construct new retail opportunities in Cleveland is the difficulty in assembling sites of sufficient scale. This is because the city has been fully developed or “built out” for many years. In areas where land is plentiful, it is often owned by a number of individual owners and/or may be contaminated due to past uses. Gaining title and securing a clean site can be a long, laborious and expensive proposition. The City-presently lacks a formal retail land assembly program that could be a useful tool for overcoming this often daunting challenge.

  • Lack of Conveniently Located Parking: One major limitation affecting the growth and success of Cleveland’s traditional strip-style retail is the shortage of inexpensive, conveniently-located parking. This is because much of the city’s inventory of retail space was developed during the streetcar era on shallow lots that front on major arterials. Parking was either not considered at all or was at best an afterthought. This situation greatly limits the development potential of available retail space that is otherwise advantageously located in the midst of Cleveland’s densely populated neighborhoods. The establishment of a City-sponsored Commercial Parking development strategy centered on identifying opportunity areas and coordinating the assembly and development of these sites into commercially viable parking lots could go a long way toward restoring the vitality of many of these commercial areas.

  • Creating Neighborhood Wealth: For reasons explained above, the wealth created by Clevelanders shopping in local stores all too often finds its way to the bank accounts of people living in other parts of the region and in other parts of the country. Although significant outside ownership is inevitable in today’s retail economy, there is real potential to increase the concentration of wealth in city neighborhoods by expanding opportunities for Clevelanders to own the stores in which they shop. The Connecting Cleveland 2020 Plan, through its commitment to promoting small-scale, urban retail districts, will significantly increase prospects for local ownership, which is typically absent in larger-scale and “big box” retail developments. This commitment to an “urban form” that is conducive to local ownership must be supplemented by initiatives to provide the capital, financing and technical assistance required to facilitate successful entrepreneurship.

  • Understanding Market Opportunities: A close examination of many Cleveland retail districts a disturbing discrepancy between the buying power of the surrounding neighborhoods and the goods and services offered them in their own back yard. In many cases, this buying power rivals that of nearby suburban communities; the local retail offering, quite simply, doesn’t. In addition, the physical appearance of many city retail districts leaves much to be desired when compared with the orderliness and cleanliness of their suburban competition. So what would it take to get retailers and retail developers to appreciate the considerable, but too often hidden strengths offered by these city retail districts, such as ready access to densely populated markets with substantial collective buying power? Market studies are needed; and then, armed with these facts and insights, the city and community development corporations need to develop strategies incorporating everything from types of retail needed to parking solutions and streetscape designs that will better position the city’s retail districts vis-à-vis their suburban competitors.

  • The Re-Invention of Local Retail: Once astute retailers recognize that they need to compete with larger marketers, they must then examine the strengths and weaknesses of their own operations. While most can’t compete on price, there are other ways they can create a more formidable—and successful—operation. For example, by providing a higher level of personal service such as home delivery of goods, more convenient store hours, a wider assortment of various types of products, and the cleanliness and appearance of their store.

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