It’s comforting to know that when it comes to downtown retail, Tacoma is not alone. Milwaukee, a city of nearly 600,000 people has blocks of vacant store fronts and towers of vacant office space just like us. However, Milwaukee is taking bold steps to combat their downtown vacancy rate and rejuvenate their street life. In addition to a city branding campaign and functional wayfinding system, Milwaukee has hired retail consultants, CivicVisions not to just revitalize downtown retail, but to transform downtown through strategic retail recruitment.
We all know that amenities attract people, but it’s attracting the right mix of amenities to downtown that’s tricky. To do this, Milwaukee’s consultant CivicVisions suggests:
· There is not quick fix to retail recruitment. A downtown retail strategy is a long-term plan that is implemented over three to five years or more.
· Define a distinct geographic area of downtown to attract retail to. Do not try to attract new retail everywhere at once.
· Hire a trained retail recruiter who is familiar with our community and committed to it, has plenty of retail and merchandising experience, and is good at both building relationships and selling the community’s vision.
· Identify the type and quality of businesses you want and be discerning about the ones you go after. Businesses attract other like-businesses, but the wrong business can inhibit recruitment of the ones you want.
· Property owners must be part of the solution and help to develop a strategy that incentivizes the right mix of retail services and amenities.
· Façade updates that modernize buildings and improve merchandise displays will likely need to be part of the strategy.
This makes sense to me. Maybe it’s time for Tacoma to try out a retail recruiter again…