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August 29, 2014

Millennials shop for groceries much more often than their parents' generation - almost every day, according to a new report from the Food Marketing Institute. And they're shopping for fresher food, from smaller stores.

It's tough times for older national chains. Staples recently announced that it plans to close 140 outlets this year, and Sears is considering selling off some of its assets to cover losses and raise working capital.

Lowering the barriers to open pop-up stores -- and lowering vacancy rates. (Hat tip to Alexander Balloon and Historic Tacony Revitalization.)

Urban greengrocers are back.

How outdated parking laws price families out of the city.

Yep - independently owned bookstores are making a comeback.

Some parklets are coming to downtown Ventura.

Want to generate more traffic in your main street shop? Become the post office. Really.

Libraries: The original coworking spaces.

Sbarro, the ubiquitous shopping mall food court pizza/pasta quick service restaurant, is looking downtown. According to CEO James Greco, mall traffic is dropping - but rents are rising. "Going forward, our focus is going to be on traditional street-front locations, because we are concerned about the dynamics of the mall venue", he says.

A cool new microlending partnership between Kiva, Capital One, and Washington, DC's Latino Economic Development Corporation has made loans to six small businesses - and they're gearing up for more.

This is just dotty! The 2010 Census made visual, as 341,000,000 dots.

Downtown Eldorado, Arkansas has converted its phone booths to book exchanges.

The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (yes, that's the "fiscal cliff" legislation) will extend the federal New Markets Tax Credit program for two more years, providing tax credits for up to $3.5 billion in business development projects in underserved Census tracts.

Is the handwriting on the wall for Business Improvement Districts?

With the US Postal Service on the fiscal ropes, it is thinking about selling some (well, lots) of its post offices - including some of its most historic.

Have shopping malls finally run the course?

Looks like the number of building retrofits (which we're interpreting to mean 'rehabilitations) awarded LEED certification surpassed the number of newly built buildings with LEED certification in 2011, for the first time.

So, small businesses are those with fewer than 500 employees? 500? Really?

Design guidelines, reduced to two pages.

Old cities, poor cities, and university cities have the lowest rates of car ownership, observes transit blogger Jarrett Walker. Where do you live?

Retooling the family hardware store.

Finally - a nice, solid article about why two-way streets work better than one-way streets downtown.

Graffiti artists take note: New York's city council has spoken on the issue of storefront grates. No more solid grates after July 2011. Even existing solid grates will require replacement -- but not until 2026.

Lots of articles about pop-up shops popping up these days, like this one in BusinessWeek and this one in The Baltimore Sun.

Bartering: It's older than currency, but it's making a comeback. And now you can do it with a barter debit card.

When Google Maps misplaces a business, volunteer cartographers fix it.

Walmart plans to shrink its new-store footprints by 8%, possibly as part of a strategy to enter urban markets.

Ready to play a shopping game? A new online retailing oddity, Subports, turns finding for that special object into a puzzle that's part cryptogram, part scavenger hunt.

If you're 20-something, want to own a franchise?

A San Francisco fashion designer is recycling Goodwill clothes into chic handbags. Her company, ReMadeUSA, now sells its rags-to-satchels products to the likes of Barneys.

Local businesses blossom into chains in Brooklyn - a trend that's been percolating up in small towns for a decade or more.

[murmur], an international web-based project that connects first-person stories with places in cities, has its first US participant - Orange, New Jersey.'s first list of the top 100 urban thinkers includes our very own Kennedy Smith!

Toys R Us plans to open 350 temporary stores this holiday season - some in vacant mall spaces, some inside the company's Babies R Us locations.

The ins and outs of store-within-a-store retailing.

This doesn't have anything to do with downtown development, but it's nonetheless interesting to know.

Danville, Virginia has landed a major new downtown sportswear company.

Concerned that their favorite hangout was closing, ten policemen in Clare, Michigan pooled their money, bought it, and reopened it as... Cops & Donuts.

Starbucks goes incognito as your unbranded neighborhood coffee shop.

Vancouver, BC, is experimenting with "granny suites", by allowing developers to build homes-within-homes in new condo projects. The goal is to build flexible space for owners as families expand or contract, while increasing the supply of affordable rental units in the city.

Sorry, but that coffee shop no longer serves electricity with its lattes.

The next Census is at the printer -- and it's the shortest Census since the first one, in 1790. Here's a preview of what you'll receive in mid-March. At CLUE Group, we can hardly wait to see what the data will say about American cities and towns. You might be eager for the results, too, since the Census is critical in determining distribution of some $400 billion in federal funds to local, state, and tribal governments.

For an itinerant crème brûlée cart in San Francisco (and some other micro businesses), Twitter is more effective than a website.

The UK is losing 52 pubs a week!

The next big thing in community swimming pools is a Dumpster. And, speaking of trash, note to pedestrians: If you text while walking, you could unexpectedly find yourself in a sewer.

Who knows where the first cellphone call was completed? Andrew Carroll knows.

Any pop-up shops in your downtown yet?

Four ways to raise cash for a small business quickly.

The last Virgin Megastore has finally closed its doors, one of 3,000 record stores that have closed in the US since 2003. But apparently there are still at least 2,000 independent stores out there still selling vinyl. At least that's the word from market research firm the Almighty Institute of Music Retail.

You know those Sister Cities partnerships? Apparently they don't always work out so well.

Making the transition from computer engineer to cycle store/coffee shop owner.

Facebook is leaving its downtown location for a research park.

With the economy in the doldrums, people are repairing things, rather than replacing them - and repair shops are on the rise.

Once the retailers of last resort, dollar stores are on the ascent - and they are eager to eat some of Wal-Mart's lunch.

If your community is under 50,000 and not part of a metropolitan area, there's still time to apply for a Rural Business Enterprise Grant from the US Department of Agriculture - the deadline has been extended to the end of April 2009. The federal stimulus package has boosted the amount being awarded by $20 million. Grants can be used for a variety of activities that encourage business development, from retail market analyses and business development strategies to workshops and training for business owners.

Reverand Billy, that crazy guy.

Messing with Google's Street View.

I'll have an iced latte - oh, and also a tube of burnt umbre, and a #0 brush, please.

Is hot bread ready to come out of your downtown bakery's oven? Just hit the button on the BakerTweet and it sends a Twitter alert to your shop's followers to let them know.

With shopping center vacancies increasing, it's probably inevitable that the number of haunted shopping center entries in the Haunted Real Estate Blog would increase, too. Check out the haunted Toys R Us in Sunnyvale California.

100 abandoned houses (thanks for the link, Shelby).

101 uses for a deserted shopping mall.

Speaking of deserted shopping malls, UBS Securities has released a report predicting that specialty store retail space will shrink by 10 percent in the next few years (in shopping centers, anyway).

Some Baltimore-area malls are shortening their hours.

Are you ready to take Aunt Selma's special sauce national? Now, for $12 an hour, you can rent a commercial kitchen. Shared commercial kitchens are popping up in several cities as a low-cost way for foodie entrepreneurs to transition from home-based businesses to wholesale or retail businesses. Austin's Kitchen Space launched in 2008 and Philly Kitchen Share launched in February 2009.

Moody's, one of the leading credit rating companies, includes almost 50 chain retail businesses and restaurants in its list of "bottom rung" performers that the company thinks are at risk of default. The list includes Arby's, Barney's New York, Blockbuster, Bon-Ton Stores, Brookstone, Burlington Coat Factory, Claire's Stores, Eddie Bauer, El Pollo Loco, Harry & David, Krispy Kreme, Loehmann's, Michaels Stores, Oriental Trading Company, Perkins & Marie Callender's, Quiksilver, Rite Aid, and Sbarro.

Two stories from Italy share a loose thread of authenticity: In the northern Italian town of Rovereto, an inventor is marketing a vending machine that makes fresh pizza -- from scratch. At the same time, the town of Lucca, in Tuscany, has outlawed non-Italian ethnic restaurants in the city's historic walled center, as a wave of inexpensive kabob shops has opened to cater to tough economic times.

Downtown Waterville, Maine is starting its own indoor, year-round community market.

Sales at chain pizza restaurants are down, victims of consumers' taste for something a little healthier and less expensive.

In the March 2009 issue of The Atlantic, Richard Florida predicts the recession will profoundly reshape America's economic geography. He thinks America will become more urban and less car-dependent, and more a home-renter society than home-owner society. He believes that New York City will ultimately benefit from the loss of financial-services jobs (by developing a more diverse economy), while Rust Belt cities will never recover.

According to the Institute for Local Self Reliance, independent retailers are outperforming chains during the economic slump.

The Washington Times, a conservative daily newspaper in Washington, DC, has followed downtown Kilmarnock, Virginia for one year after the new local Wal-Mart opened. The results: no change in sales tax revenues, and a few less businesses.

A store with Windows? Microsoft is planning to follow in Apple's footsteps and open its first retail stores.

When an iPod screen just won't do, there's always Upload Cinema.

It's getting a little dicey out there... and there ... and there ....

And now for a group exerise: Let's open a restaurant! Really. A group of vegetarians in Washington, DC is "crowdsourcing" a new restaurant. It already has 386 customers, and it hasn't even been built yet.

Sprawl swallows the apricot (and the garlic and the artichoke, too), but the festivals live on in California towns.

In New Jersey, a community organizes to save the town's only Starbucks.

First it became the largest retailer of new goods and services in the world. Now Wal-Mart is moving into classified ads.

Not your everyday downtown graffitist (move the window slider all the way over...).

US shopping malls are cutting back on the amount of space they lease to mom and pop businesses. According to officials with Regency Centers Corporation, Regency is reducing the percentage of space leased to independents from 28 percent to 20 percent for projects now in the pipeline and to 14 percent for projects in the early stages of development.

Astronauts' pictures of US cities.

The last company in the US to produce washboards (with four employees - all women - in a historic building in Logan, Ohio) is seeing an uptick in sales to soldiers overseas.

Retailing Today has launched a weekly newsletter about Wal-Mart.

A classroom path to entrepreneurship.

"I'll take two furballs with that latte, please."

IKEA has installed a "nap hotel" for weary shoppers in a downtown Stockholm shopping center.

Las Vegas' next downtown? In a radical move to revive its historic downtown, Las Vegas is about to build a new downtown - right next to the old one. It's gonna cost billions, but finding the money hasn't been a problem.

"If Sharon Ferraro could persuade her husband, they'd live above one of the businesses on Michigan Avenue between Portage and Pitcher Streets."

Trouble for some big national chains will spell trouble for many malls and main streets.

The National Federation of Independent Businesses is offering a $5,000 prize, plus a trip to the Small Business Summit in Washington, for the winner of its YouTube video contest. Videos should creatively address the question, "Why small business works for America?"

The challenges for restaurants of supplying the nation's growing appetite for locally grown food.

We've been talking about this emerging trend (and great hope for reviving downtown movie theatres) for a long time. And now the New York Times has written an article about it: At cineplexes, sports, opera, maybe a movie.

Coming soon to a parking lot near you ... mechanized parking.

Have you been having trouble finding real sassafras root beer? Rose petal or cucumber soda? Or Fentiman’s Curiosity Cola? Try Galco’s Soda Pop Stop in Los Angeles. They carry more than 500 varieties.

Are the manicured subdivisions of today going to become the slums of… today?

Sidewalks might threaten suburban tranquility. So some residents of Montgomery County, Maryland, are protesting their construction.

Where do old neon signs go? The American Sign Museum, of course.

Starbucks wants to recapture the romance of the coffee experience it pioneered. On February 26th, it closed all 7,100 of its U.S. stores so employees could relearn the arts of grinding, brewing and steaming.

With profits slipping, The Gap plans to do some retooling - including reducing the size of its US stores.

L.L. Bean is set to open its first retail store in the Midwest, in a Chicago suburb. With apparently unintended irony, the "green" building will be in a new 600,000 square-foot shopping center called "The Arboretum."

Having surpassed Target and Best Buy already, Apple's iTunes is expected to outpace Wal-Mart this year, the nation's largest retailer of music.

"What these signs are doing is treating the driver as if they were an idiot": an introduction to Shared Space.

Three-by-four-foot plot of green space rejuvenates neighborhood!

Annapolis, Maryland, may sell its 325-year old public market to a private developer.

Attention: meter feeders!

A typical Apple Store moves an extraordinary $4,000 of merchandise per square foot, per year. (That compares to, say, $930 at Best Buy.) Apple employees don't sell; they make friends by trying to understand each customer's needs. Advice to other retailers: Pay attention to how the Apple Store does it.

Starbucks plans to close 100 US stores and slow down its expansion plans this year (it plans to open ONLY 1175 new stores, versus the 1600 it had previously planned to open).

The History Channel is offering grants of up to $10,000 to nonprofits that partner with schools on projects that involve preserving and interpreting local history. Deadline: June 6, 2008.

What’s it like to run a business in downtown Juneau, Alaska, in winter?

Wal-Mart is planning to begin opening small grocery stores (like, 15,000 square foot) to compete with the new, small Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets that Tesco is now opening in the US.

A new taxicab company in Arlington County, Virginia is the world's first carbon-negative taxi fleet.

Cool diagram of the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System. And an even cooler transit map of the world's transit systems.

It looks like local coffee shops are giving Starbucks a run for its money.

Potbelly’s, the rapidly expanding Chicago-based sandwich shop, wants to carve out a deli niche with an environment where people want to hang out. Does that sound a little like Starbucks?

EBay is changing its fee structure to favor “power sellers” (including many independent downtown retailers) who sell items at fixed prices through eBay stores.

As times get tougher, some retailers are employing more human “sign walkers”. A major provider of the service claims these walking billboards increase sales 30-50 percent.

Will it be like a bricks-and-mortar Craigslist? In a new marketing twist on recycle and reuse, IKEA is organizing a furniture swap.

Sears is dividing itself into separate, autonomous business units.

Here's a new word for 2008: "Wholetailing" - the integration of retail and wholesale, online. Car dealers are forging this new path.

Karibu, one of the nation's largest Black-owned bookstores, is closing. It's not a victim of Amazon or big-boxes, but of internal discord about future expansion.

Mall of America's size status is ancient history. Nine of the world's 10 largest malls are in Asia, and most have been built since 2004. Together, they account for 27 million square feet of new retail space.

Terri Gross talks with reporter/author David Cay Johnston about his book "Free Lunch: how the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You With the Bill)" in January 3rd's installment of NPR's Fresh Air. Johnston's book includes extensive discussion of government subsidies to big-box discount stores, a theme also thoroughly explored by Greg LeRoy in his most recent book, "The Great American Jobs Scam" and by Stacy Mitchell in her most recent book, "Big Box Swindle".

Bucksport, Maine has a plan for attracting out-of-town customers: Offer them discounts on gas. "The more you buy, the bigger the discount", says the town's director of economic development.

They aren't ALL independents, and they aren't ALL in downtowns and neighborhoods, but lots of the shops at StoreAdore are.

The UK has lost almost 3,000 independent seafood shops and butcher shops over the past seven years, according to the central government's Revenue & Customs agency and The Telegraph. "It's like a habitat", said Ed Mayo, head of the National Consumer Council, about the loss of main street retailers in the UK. "When you lose certain species, the habitat itself dies out."

Lots of stories in the news recently about vacant commecial property like this one about a vacant shopping mall in Charlotte, North Carolina that might be turned into a new town center, this one about a dead mall in Memphis, and this one about how the growing number of national retailers closing is flooding the market with vacancies.

The University of Louisville has made a large collection of practice papers on brownfields development available online, including papers on historic preservation and grayfields (e.g., former shopping centers).

One of Walnut Creek's last independent book stores - the store voted "Best Indie Bookstore in the East Bay" for eight straight years - is closing at the end of March 2008.

The US House of Representatives passed HR 3524, a bill reauthorizing the federal HOPE VI program and increasing its funding to $800 million annually through 2015. HOPE VI includes a provision that provides funds for development of affordable housing in the downtowns of towns and cities under 50,000 in population and with fewer than 100 units of public housing and fewer than two public housing authorities. Although many thought that the HOPE VI Main Street provision might be removed from the bill, The Senate has not yet acted on its version of the bill.

Hoping to uncover a great new retailer, a UK mall is offering six months’ free rent in a competition for local entrepreneurs.

Downtown Myrtle Beach (SC) is sporting some new faces. Sand sculptors have finished a 20-foot high, 120-foot long “Mount Rushmore” of the Republican presidential candidates. Next in sand: the Democrats.

The History Channel has seeded professional design teams in Washington DC, San Francisco and Atlanta in a competition to envision their cities in the 22nd century. The winner in each city will walk away with a $10,000 prize.

According to the Beacon Hill Institute's 2007 State Competitiveness index, Utah is now the most competitive state economy in the US, followed by Massachusetts, Colorado, North Dakota and Idaho.

Several nonprofits whose work supports downtown and neighborhood commercial district revitalization have been named to Fast Company magazine's 2008 list of "Social Entrepreneurs Who Are Changing the World", including Civic Builders (promotes development of charter schools), the Community Reinvestment Fund (provides capital to nonprofit community development lenders), and Network For Good (helps nonprofits raise money online).

The City of Portland (OR) is painting “bike boxes” at busy intersections in an effort to reduce collisions with motorists. The boxes (the first in the country) demarcate an extra-wide waiting area for cyclists in front of stopped cars at traffic signals.

The Orton Family Foundation is looking for four communities (two in New England and two in "the Rocky Mountain West") with which to collaborate over the next two years on development-oriented visioning. Each community gets up to $100,000 and lots of planning assistance. The RFP is available at

It’s no Rose Bowl. Downtown Hustisford, Wis., is host to the annual Toilet Bowl Parade. (Watch out for flying Charmin.)

Visit as many Wal-Marts as possible in one day by following the rule: "Go to the nearest Wal-Mart from your present location."
It's all in A Day In the World of Wal-Mart.

A Puget Sound consumer group has surveyed and quantified the strategic advantages of shopping at a local hardware store versus shopping at Home Depot or Lowes. The Seattle Times published the results.

White River Junction, VT, used to be the place where rivers and railroads met. Now it’s the meeting place for printmakers, painters, photographers and sculptors – and home to the Center for Cartoon Studies in the old downtown department store.

The big-box music store chains – Tower Records, Virgin Megastore – have closed up shop in Boston and elsewhere. But regional chain Newbury Comics is growing in New England. Newbury Comics continually adapts its product mix to changing times (it’s not just music anymore) and hires lots of tattooed staff.

Independent toy stores beat their big-box competition by not competing.

When computers (and cash registers) went down at the Hartford (CT) Whole Foods, the store manager decided the only question for customers was "paper or plastic?" Shoppers in the store at the time were given their groceries free.

Speakng of groceries, here's a special report by Retailing Today on Tesco's rollout in the Southwest and the new neighborhood grocery stores that could change the grocery industry in the US.

The Festival of Maps.

“Déloyale!” The French high court in Versailles has told Amazon it must stop offering free shipping of books. The court says it’s unfair competition to independent booksellers.

Fansumers, viral videos, social computing, and crowdsourcing: today's marketing tools.

"Who's that? Who's there? ... It's not your imagination."

Carlsbad, California is painting the downtown red (and lots of other colors) for the holidays.

"The keynotes of tomorrow's highways". But, whatever happened to the color strips, radiant heat, radar windshields, and fog-dispelling devices?

Advocating for front porches and green roofs, Newark’s mayor says no more “Bayonne Boxes” will be built in his city. (And then he made a formal apology to the City of Bayonne.)

Huge collection of painted traffic signal boxes from Brisbane.

We've just wrapped up the first national survey of Black Friday - the day after Thanksgiving, when retailers traditionally have a very profitable day - in America's historic and older downtowns and neighborhood commercial corridors. Over 500 businesses, representing 140 towns and cities, participated in the survey. Major findings: (1) Most "main street" businesses' biggest day is sometime the week or two before Christmas, rather than on Black Friday, and (2) while many retailers assume that Black Friday is the territory of shopping malls and discount superstores, many of those who organized activities and offered something special to attract shoppers downtown were successful in doing so. Click here to download a copy of the press release (and please feel free to distribute to local news media). We'll conduct the Black Friday survey for the next few years, also, so that we can see if the patterns change over time.

Downtown movie theatres, Traverse City, and Michael Moore.

The Goodwill Store in Washington, DC, has a new vintage clothing shopper: it’s a Goodwill employee who scans the racks for gems. She moves the items from the rack to Goodwill DC’s eBay store, where a $12 1970s Yves Saint Laurent suit can fetch $165. An online fashion show last summer raised $100,000 for the charity.

In downtown Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, the Montag Fine Candle Co. opened its first retail store, right near its manufacturing plant. Now the family business is ready to franchise the retail prototype. “We see our stores as a combination Yankee Candle store and a Bath and Body Works store,” said co-founder Lori Montag.

Boston, San Francisco and Washington, DC, are the most walkable cities in the US, according to a new report by the Brookings Institution. That finding may not come as a surprise. But the authors also found that the suburban generation – twenty and thirtysomethings – most wants to live in walkable urban centers, and they’re willing to pay higher housing prices to do so.

Several months ago we noted De Pong - the classic Pong video game, but played on the facades of buildings. Now, there's the Dexia Tower: 38 floors and 150,000 LEDs.

Nice article about Paducah, Kentucky's artist relocation program on ABC News' website.

Los Angeles is the only major transit system in the US to operate on the honor system for fare collections. But its days without turnstiles may be numbered.

Everyone knows that small businesses are great incubators for new, innovative products and services. But sometimes one of them slips a little.

Heritage areas vs. property rights, reported by the Washington Post.

Yahoo's ecommerce system collapsed this week because of a surge of online holiday shopping. Yahoo's system is used by many independent main street businesses for selling products online.

YIKES. Dublin, Virginia, is trying to jumpstart downtown’s economy by demolishing some historic buildings. The first new development to arrive: a Walgreen’s is opening directly across the street from an existing CVS. “I kind of expected that I would hear some sentimentality about it, but the buildings had fallen into disrepair and really were going to require some investment,” said the town manager.

A new independent grocery store in Newtown, Kansas, is undercutting Wal-Mart and other grocery retailers by 50%. Their business model? Meridian Grocery sells “distressed” items – overstocks, damaged goods, out-of-date products, and discontinued items. Meridian’s first year of operation was strong, attracting a mix of low-income and anti-big-box shoppers.

Cork & Olive, a new Tampa (FL) based franchise offering affordable wines to the novice oenophile, is looking for franchisees and spaces 1,800 to 2,000 square feet.

Coming soon to a hotel, car dealer, or fast-food joint near you: advertising-supported wifi. If you’re a user, you may have to watch a video before you get free access to the Web. If you’re a business, you may be able to share in up to 50% of advertising revenues. Chains and mom & pops alike are jumping onboard AnchorFree’s service.

Minneapolis is launching a new facade improvement matching grant program for the city's business districts. The city will make matching funds available to neighborhood organizations, which will in turn give grants to business and property owners for exterior storefront improvements. The city offers several other financial assistance programs for building and business owners, including one in which it shares the cost of bike racks with business owners, reducing the cost to less than $100 per bike rack.

Some suggestions from the Wall Street Journal on using YouTube to promote small businesses.

Starbuck’s opened recently in Little Falls, New Jersey. The little guy downtown – The Fine Grind – responded with a big billboard a half block from Starbucks: “We may not be big… but we’re not bitter. We are your neighborhood coffee spot!” For the holidays, The Fine Grind offers a frozen hot chocolate, known as the Fro Ho Ho.

Here are ten reasons to shop in independently owned Main Street businesses this holiday season.

Costco is where Washington’s power elite apparently meet (and shop for dinner.)

Wondering where the 2008 presidential candidates on community economic development? Erik Pages at EntreWorks has combed through their policy papers and put together an overview.

Wal-Mart's report on its efforts to improve its environmental impact is out. While it has reduced some energy consumption and trimmed its carbon footprint, Forbes magazine, reports that a consultant who worked on the report believes Wal-Mart's business model isn't exactly environmentally sustainable. "...Shipping things all over the world is environmentally problematic", according to the consultant.

Early reactions to Tesco's new "Fresh and Easy" food markets in California: "It's not as good as Trader Joe's".

Toronto has approved new guidelines for environmentally-friendly parking lots. The guidelines aren't binding, but are expected to both improve storm water runoff and reduce heat islands (which the city council points out will cool down cars in hot summer weather).

The deadline for the 2008 round of Preserve America grants is December 12. Only communities designated as Preserve America Communities are eligible.

Riverdale Park, Maryland's historic town center is going green.

Carlsbad, California's city council has approved some great new downtown development regulations to encourage greater density, more housing, and less parking.

Oregon voters approved Measure 49 by a landslide this week, reversing the damage done by 2004's Measure 37. Measure 37 eroded Oregon's growth management laws. But, by reversing Measure 37 with Measure 49, Oregonians have proven they were sorry for their mistake. The new law will allow certain types of low-density residential development but will prohibit large-scale commercial, industrial and residential develpment that communities wish not to be developed.

Nice article on Culpeper, Virginia's downtown development successes, including an upcoming program in which it will give its downtown surface parking lots to developers who build parking structures with wrap-around retail and other uses.

Can a hardware store be designed for women? True Value thinks so.

Will music lovers of the iTunes generation start shopping at a record store for the experience? Two entrepreneurs in Lakeland, Florida think so.

The ideal city, at least as visualized in 1951. Funny - there don't seem to be any shopping malls or big-box stores.

Portland – where more people commute by bike than any other city – has built a bike economy: there are about 125 bike-related businesses employing more than 600 people.

As if there isn't already enough advertising in the world ... now there's this.

Women civilize public spaces, according to sociologist Dan Biederman, a protégé of famed urban sociologist William H. Whyte. "Go to any public space in the world", Biederman says in the September 3rd, 2007 issue of The New Yorker. "If it's skewing overwhelmingly male, get out as fast as you can."

Energy Star for Retail: Lots of information, diagnostics, and links from the US Department of Energy.

Activists are planning to picket the first of Tesco's new US Fresh and Easy food markets when it opens this week in California.

Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton (net worth: $16 billion) is trying to buy a 50 percent interest in Fisk University's Stiegletz Collection. Stiegletz's estate is suing.

Speaking of Wal-Mart, you can find links to Frontline's five-part series "Is Wal-Mart Good for America?" here.

Looking for a city to open your new bookstore? Try Miami. There’s not a single general-interest bookstore in the entire city.

Some really cool parking garages (and a few kind of weird ones).

Watch a green roof being installed on a building in downtown Portland, Maine.

A new crime-aversion idea from Japan: disguise yourself as a vending machine.

SAGE Publications has published two entries by CLUE Group principal Kennedy Smith in its new two-volume Encyclopedia of American Urban History - one on movie theatres and one on pedestrian malls.

More small businesses are adding franchises to their product lines. The Wall Street Journal reports on small businesses adding on medical screening services, holiday decorating services, and mobile screen installation services to augment sales.

The total acreage of land covered by Wal-Mart is now greater than the total acreage of Manhattan.

Strip shopping mall vacancies rates have hit their highest vacancy rate in 5+ years..

Wal-Mart's growth in the US, mapped.

'Fresh and Easy' neighborhood market checks out its greenhouse gases.

Is it a murder mystery, or just another architectural project?

"Alkie's Liquor Store", "Ooh-La-Lodge", "I Am A Print Shoppe", and a bunch of other interesting business names from America's downtowns and highways.

Ghost signs and other fading art.

CLUE Group principal Kennedy Smith comments on downtown grocery stores in The Des Moines Register.

September 21st is National Park(ing) Day, and all across the country people found some nice spaces in which to celebrate.

Private subdivision regulations and environmentalism clash: some people in Oregon who want to line-dry their laundry are being hung out to dry, metaphorically speaking.

The LibriVox recording of Sinclair Lewis's novel "Main Street" is online and available for free downloads or streaming at the fabulous Internet Archive.

Waterville, Maine's Main Street program has marked over 200 downtown parking spaces with white stars, designating them for downtown workers and other long-term parkers.

How Wal-Mart works. Now we know.

Taubman Centers, which operates some of the nation's highest-grossing-per-square-foot shopping malls, has created a back-to-school shopping website for teens: teens create talking avatars who tell their parents and others about their back-to-school wishlists.

Saving one cinema treasure at a time.

Now that Tesco is bringing smaller-format grocery stores to US neighborhoods, it seems like everyone is jumping on the bandwagon. Wal-Mart is already poised to do so, and now Safeway says it is thinking about introducing smaller stores.

How do you bring back a downtown? You develop retail businesses. Why retail businesses? According to Raleigh, North Carolina's assistant city manager, "Because they're the most reliable 'permanent, everyday activity generators.'"

Some scary thoughts in The Nation about how the bill for deferred maintenance on America's roads, bridges and other infrastructure might be coming due: "The neglect of our infrastructure is seen in collapsing bridges and exploding steam pipes, flooded subways, traffic-choked streets and clogged-up ports, electrical power brownouts, corroding drinking water systems, uneven broadband access, and an antiquated air traffic system."

Liberal, Kansas is changing.

Green roofs for beginners.

"When it comes to good design, what could be better than something that's more efficient than the alternatives, requires minimal maintenance, uses less energy, looks better and is not only safer, but more popular, too?"

Ojai, California's city council has rejected a ban on chain stores downtown - but it's the specific ordinance, not the concept, that the city doesn't like. The council has asked the city's planning commission to revise the ordinance and bring it back for consideration.

Wal-Mart - the musical - opens in New York on September 3rd, transporting audiences 30 years into the future and into a world dominated by the megacompany.

Lots of photos of theatres.

Chicago, along with several other large cities, is rethinking its plan to build a free public wi-fi network. One of the factors threatening public wi-fi is the proliferation of alternative free wi-fi access, thanks to cafes and other businesses.

Looking for a really, really tiny retail business incubator? Here it is.

Nice article on the revitalization of Cincinnati's Over-The-Rhine neighborhood.

A new study by the Nielsen Company groups grocery shoppers into one of four categories: Auto-pilot, Variety-seeking, Buzz, and Bargain-hunting.

McDonalds is going upscale in Europe, replacing plastic seats with leather chairs, offering internet access, and toning down its bright colors with more subdued hues. The new decor seems to be working: sales are up 15 percent this year (versus only a 6 percent increase in North America).

Roadside attractions in Canada, from the world's largest easter egg to the world's largest sunflower.

The Wall Street Journal on the ups and downs of small business blogging.

Britain's revered neighborhood pubs are disappearing at the alarming rate of 56 per month, according to BBC. The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), a neighborhood pub advocacy group, says the problem lies with a legal loophole making it possible for developers to demolish pubs and replace them with housing, a more profitable use, without permission from the local planning agency.

Wal-Mart is mulling over the idea of opening small, urban grocery stores in response to British megaretailer Tesco's plans to open a chain of 12,000-15,000 square foot downtown "Tesco Fresh and Easy" grocery stores in the US later this year.

If you ever wondered how your downtown's person-per-public-toilet ratio compares to, say, Venice's or Beijing's, now you know.

Coming soon to a downtown near you: Building Pong.

Do you GoLoco?

The bourgeois houseboat, in Amsterdam.

"All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain." Blade Runner's eloquent argument for preserving historic places.

Wal-Mart has set up a Facebook group targeting college students returning to school.

Whole Foods, Best Buy, Circuit City and Home Depot have all announced that they're planning to shrink the sizes of their new stores.

Johnny, of Johnny’s Pizza, is not happy about a proposed Papa John’s franchise opening next door. Johnny’s Brooklyn neighbors weren’t happy, either – so they started a petition.

Remember when drug stores had soda fountains? Walgreens does: the chain drug store is trying out cafes in about 100 of its stores.

Washington, DC seems to be quickly losing some of its oldest main street businesses. In recent weeks Yenching Palace, site of Cold War intrigue, closed (it's being replaced by a chain drugstore), as have AV Ristorante Italiano, with its jukebox full of opera 45s, a favorite of Capitol Hill politicians for 58 years, and Reeves Bakery, frequented by Lady Bird Johnson, J. Edgar Hoover, and Helen Hayes. Candey Hardware, which still has a framed dollar bill spent there by President Teddy Roosevelt hanging on the wall, is closing this fall. And now it's the Waffle Shop, in business more than 50 years and being razed for a new highrise.

Sort of like Europe's "Smart Streets" movement, "Complete Streets" is gaining traction in the US.

The birth of the parking meter, according to the Wall Street Journal.

A new research report by New York University concludes that business improvement districts increase commercial property values by an average of 15 percent.

Harry Potter and the Dark Lord Waldemart.

Cool new, um, rehabilitation project: the conversion of a cargo storage warehouse for the Elbe Philharmonic Hall, in Hamburg, Germany.

American Apparel, the first retailer to open a shop in Second Life, has closed its doors.

"Harry, isn't that Bill and Louise's car six highways above us?"

"Now that the excitement of the new Wal-Mart Supercenter opening has died down somewhat, the next question is what will happen to the city's original Wal-Mart building...?" That's a question people in 240 or so other communities are asking themselves right now about their 18.5 billion square feet of vacant Wal-Marts, also.

A shopping mall called Downtown.

How walkable is your house?

Feeling in the dark about new dining trends?

A history of grocery stores in the USA.

A growing number of communities are
implementing bike sharing programs, popularized by towns and cities in the Netherlands. But now a company in the Netherlands is raising the bar: boat sharing.

Arizona has banned tax breaks for big-box superstores and other retail development projects in Maricopa and Pinal counties. Spurred by a $240 million subsidy for a mall and big-box center and a $100 million subsidy for an upscale mixed-use center, the new law will reduce state revenue to local governments that subsidize retail development.

Now, HERE'S a sweet small business success story...

If you're in a town with fewer than 50,000 people and fewer than 100 units of public housing, and you'd like to develop some new downtown housing (kind of quickly), please take a look at the HOPE VI Main Street Program, a HUD program that will provide grants of up to $1 million for affordable downtown housing development. Here's the hitch: the application deadline is August 29th.

Shinders, a 91-year-old Minneapolis-based magazine and comic book store with eight stores in the Twin Cities area, is closing up shop.

The UK's National Trust is reinventing itself.

The founder of Staples is setting up a $300 million venture capital fund to invest in small-footprint retail chains.

The world's first eco-city.

Conservation vs. preservation: Will wind turbines pass muster with the design review board?

The perfect downtown: "a healthy mix of small and independent with the global and interesting." From Monocle.

Okay - They might have taken care of the public facilities, but how many parking spaces do you think they have?

Several weeks ago Maine passed the nation's first law requiring big-box developers to pay for an economic impact study (and for the study to demonstrarte that the proposed big-box will not harm the local economy or environment). Now, just a few weeks later, "Shopping Centers Today" is reporting that big boxes are getting smaller (well, at least some of them).

And you think YOUR downtown has some strange businesses?

The fate of old Wal-Marts (and some of their neighbors, sometimes).

Eisenhower's Interstate highways, kind of like a grid.

insights into a lively downtown.

The original Downtown, and the version with the tuxedos.

Why running a franchise is getting easier.

Online book sales will rise only 11 percent this year, compared to 40 percent growth last year, while online sales in other categories are slowing, too. A growing number of retailers are finding success in the hybrid “bricks and clicks” model, where customers order online, then pick up their merchandise in-store. Some analysts are saying online retailing has entered the Dot Calm era.

An environmental artist is drawing a blue line across streets and neighborhoods of New York City marking the expected flood zone in era of climate change.

Outwitting federal banking regulators who last year denied the company a bank charter, Wal-Mart has found a back-door entrance.

EBay sellers – some of whom unexpectedly find themselves running $250,000 businesses – go to school at “eBay Live” to learn how to run a small business.

Big news for communities in California: The state's Supreme Court has ruled that communities have the right to determine what type and size of retail development can locate in the community and where it can be developed within the community. The ruling gives new strength to local governments that want to protect small businesses and to encourage new small business development by banning or limiting the size of big box stores.

Rome reborn.

Wal-Mart plans to auction off land adjacent to 44 of its stores this week.

Talking walls. The pictures say it all.

If a developer walked into your office tomorrow and asked if your district offers TIF, would you know what she means?

Cool supermarkets of the world (although it looks like only a handful of them are downtown).

The good citizens of Chicago, spitting in the wind.

"Turn left, Harold. No, RIGHT... or, was it left?"

Subway fonts from here and there. And some subway statistics, too.

"Always low prices" might mean "always low quality" for Wal-Mart, according to a report prepared by GSD&M Advertising for Wal-Mart. The advertising firm believes Wal-Mart's low prices and store formats will work against the company as it tries to attract upscale shoppers.

Okay, 8500 square feet might be an unusually large shoe department ... but is it really big enough to get its own zipcode? Apparently Saks Fifth Avenue thinks so.

Get rid of that graffiti! Oh - and, here's some money to do so.

That's not a UFO hovering over Iowa ... it's just McDonalds.

From Baltimore to Ventura, solar-powered trash-compacting trash cans are gaining ground.

Epicenter Collection, a bricks-and-mortar store for online retailers, will be debuting - in shopping malls - soon. “In a multichannel world, consumers expect merchants to have retail stores,” according to the CEO of Convergent Retail, which will operate the centers.

Discovery Communications, which owns The Discovery Channel, plans to close its US-based Discovery Stores and shift towards wholesaling products to other retailers and towards selling things online.

Westerly, Rhode Island is hoping to enact a "dark store" ordinance, prohibiting big-box retailers from leaving empty stores behind when they move.

Spray-on solar power cells. Yes!

Wood River has enough paycheck-cashing businesses.

Who would’ve guessed that there are 58,000 nail salons in the United States? Most of them are independent businesses. Dashing Diva hopes to reinvent the typical nail salon by taking a different approach.

Wal-Mart's monthly same-store sales dipped 3.5 percent in April, its worst decline in same-store sales in 28 years.

Turning graffiti into 3-D.

Now you can let people all over the world know about your commercial district.

Target plans to open 500 new stores in the five years. Walgreens plans to open 500 new stores this year. Starbucks plans to open 10,000 stores over the next four years. JC Penney plans to open 250 new stores over the next five years. Kohl's is opening 110 new stores this coming year. Johnny Rockets has been sold, and its new owner plans to expand. Anyone else?

Luxottica, the world's biggest eyewear manufacturer, is planning to launch its own chain of high-end sunglass stores, to be called Ilori. Sales of $150-plus sunglasses in the US are growing by double-digits.

ANCIENT LIGHTS: "In effect, the owner of a building with windows that have received natural daylight for 20 years or more is entitled to forbid any construction or other obstruction that would deprive him of that illumination. Neighbors cannot build anything that woudl block the light without permission."

Today's news. From everywhere.

Tesco Direct - the online version of UK-based Tesco (and one of Wal-Mart's top global competitors) - has teamed up with to offer customers private online "portfolios" of things they purchase from Tesco Direct. The online portfolios offer instructions, warranty information and other information about items purchased.

A research Fellow at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy suggests land readjustment as an alternative to eminent domain for assembling land for redevelopment.

A bill that would require that developers of retail stores larger than 75,000 square feet pay for an independent economic impact study to help local government make decisions about whether to permit a store's development has cleared Maine's State and Local Government Commitee.

Is it ecologically irresponsible to shop online? in a mall?

Look at that sweet little traffic light, Edna! Let's knit it a sweater.

Another grocery store out of business because of Wal-Mart, and this one right in Wal-Mart's home state.

Yes, there really is a Virginia town that demolished its downtown and is replacing it with a Wal-Mart.

Behind the scenes at FedExKinkos.

The person who takes your drive-through fast-food order might just be in Delaware.

Have you seen your 5,000 ads today? They’re not just for billboards anymore: on your eggs, in bathroom stalls, on airline tray tables… “Got Milk” ads on bus stops in San Francisco emitted chocolate chip cookie odor. Until the public cried foul.

It’s the grocery store everyone wants: Auburn, California city council members recently donned Hawaiian shirts to grab the attention of Trader Joe’s execs.

Neotraditional downtown Santana Row is going downscale. "When we first opened the property, the idea had been to be very distinct, upscale, luxury only," [General Manager Fred] Walters said. "Over the last five years, we've been looking at what the consumers want. In San Jose, especially, we're business casual."

Some European cities are getting rid of their traffic signs.

There's no such thing as a free lunch.

American Public Media's "Marketplace" reports on the importance of the arts in community economic development.

Wal-Mart has gotten approval to open banks in Mexico. The retailing giant has been trying for a number of years to obtain permission to enter the banking business in the US.

The buildings are going up in Beijing for the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, including this one echoing the Chinese sign 'ren', meaning 'people'.

What do you see out your window?

Tiny cities!

Wal-Mart says it will build a neighborhood-friendly store in Atlanta, with hardwood floors, rooftop parking, and no guns. Take a look here.

See that story two paragraphs down about the pro-Wal-Mart blog that turns out to have been supported by Wal-Mart? Well, the PR firm that created it, Edelman, now admits that it also created two other pro-Wal-Mart blogs - Working Families for Wal-Mart and

Strange statues from around the world.

Turns out that Wal-Marting Across America, a popular blog written by a couple who do RV camping in Wal-Mart parking lots across the country and write about their Wal-Mart experiences, get financial support from Wal-Mart.

The town of St. Albans, Vermont has asked the state's environmental court to throw out permits issued for development of a new Wal-Mart, which will start the permitting process all over again. The town's decision came after the court found that two members of the town's development review board were biased towards Wal-Mart in earlier hearings.

The Institute for Local Self Reliance's Stacy Mitchell explains the Geoffrey Loophole in her new book, Big-Box Swindle, released this past week by Beacon Press: "The way it works is that a chain sets up a subsidiary in Delaware or Michigan, two states that do not tax profits earned from trademarks and other intangible corporate assets, or in Nevada, which does not have any corporate income. [...] The Multistate Tax Commission reports that the Geoffrey Loophole is one of several major corporate tax-sheltering schemes that together cost states and estimated $8.3 to $12.4 billion a year."

The Chicago Tribune reports that the number of hookah bars in the US is increasing, presumably as a way to avoid anti-smoking laws.

Check out the website for Heimie's Haberdashery, an amazing men's clothing store in downtown St. Paul - complete with early 20th century barber service, cigars, and custom tailoring.

Austin, Texas now has three Independent Business Investment Zones, providing support services from the city's Small Business Development Program and the Austin Independent Business Alliance to districts with large concentrations of independent businesses.

A small grocery store in St. Paul's St. Anthony Park neighborhood now sports advertising for neighboring small businesses on its cash register display screens. Customers who buy cheese, for example, at Tim and Tom's Speedy Mart might see an ad pop up for The Little Wine Shoppe, down the street.

Wal-Mart has withdrawn its application to build a new store in Lima, Ohio.

California legislators have sent Gov. Schwarzenegger a bill that would require economic impact reports before communities make decisions about proposed big-box stores larger than 100,000 square feet. The bill would also require big-box stores to cover local governments' legal fees if the big-box store challenges local zoning laws intended to prevent big-box development.

Montpelier, Vermont's new "One More Home" program provides financial incentives to home owners who convert unused basement, garage, and other space into accessory apartments.

The battle between conservation and development continues in Arizona with two new ballot initiatives.

Livonia, Michigan is tearing down a dead 74-acre shopping mall to build - get this - a new shopping center. The new center will be anchored by both Wal-Mart and Target.

Just what I always wanted: my own personal parking meter.

Orange County, China? Faux American suburbs (including one named after the southern California county) are popping up throughout China, complete with pool tables in the basements.

Wal-Mart will begin selling build-your-own computers through special computer counters in one third of its stores later this month.

Faneuil Hall's market buildings were saved from demolition in the 1970s when James Rouse developed them into one of the nation's first “festival marketplaces.” In its early years, the revitalized Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall exuded local character: 90% of its stores were local businesses. Today, only 50% of the businesses are local; the rest are chains and the place has started to resemble a mall – and sales have been dropping. Boston's Mayor Thomas Menino is set to exert pressure on mall-manager General Growth Properties to bring the Marketplace back to its local roots.

Could there be a silver lining in skyrocketing gasoline prices?

Frank Gehry unveils big plans for downtown Los Angeles.

JC Penney plans to open about 200 new stores over the next few years, beginning with 29 in 2006. Most of the new stores will be "off-mall" stores, meaning they'll be freestanding units, typically one level, and not part of shopping centers.

The Gap plans to increase the number of its new Forth & Towne stores. With sales in its traditional stores dropping off, the company hopes Forth & Towne - which targets women over 35 years old - will boost its bottom line.

The national retail dance continues, with Little Caesar's Pizza and Wet Seal (teen clothes) announcing plans to open hundreds of new stores over the next few years, while Radio Shack and The Gap announce they're shrinking. Meanwhile, Trans World Entertainment plans to buy 345 San Goody and Suncoast stores now owned by bankrupt Musicland Holding Corp.

Call your mother... or buy a sandwich... you may be using your next cell phone to do both.

Raleigh says goodbye to a pedestrian mall and hello to a downtown renaissance.

Be careful what you wish for: For decades, the South Bronx waited for economic development that never came. Now, with a major new shopping center planned, residents are welcoming the new development with mixed feelings as they fear its impact on longstanding independent neighborhood businesses.

Tijuana inspires a new type of new urbanism for architect Teddy Cruz.

What to do with a blank exterior wall? How about charcoal portraits that stay in place until the next rainfall?

Just what Atlanta needs...a 23 lane highway.

Massachusetts gets serious about smart growth, awarding $516.5 million for new initiatives.

A new study by the Wharton School of Business finds that businesses lose between 32-36 customers for every 100 customers with a bad experience in the store.

A new kind of vending machine is being tested in grocery stores throughout Colorado. Instead of candy bars and soda, the Zoom Shop sells things like iPods and PlayStations. (4/2006)

Chicago is offering incentives to encourage grocers to build in low-income neighborhoods. (4/2006)

A new report from the US Environmental Protection Agency recommends flexibility in developing parking requirements, pointing out that local parking regulations typically overestimate actual automobile use, forcing businesses and developers to create more parking than needed. (4/2006)

The nation's first-ring suburbs are in trouble, according to a new report by the Brookings Institute, "A Fifth of America". Among other things, the report finds that the number of Census tracts in these first-generation suburbs in which more than 20 percent of residents live below the poverty line has tripled since 1970, and 45 percent of Hispanic teens are dropping out of high school. (3/2006)

CVS, the nation's largest drug store chain, announced in January that it plans to acquire Osco and Sav-on stores in a $2.9 billion deal - and the fallout could affect traditional business districts, as the company will likely close stores in markets where CVS already has a presence. The Woonsocket , RI , based company plans to re-brand the Osco and Sav-on stores with the CVS name. Last year, CVS closed 160 Eckerd stores after acquiring the chain from JC Penney. (1/2006)

A deal to buy out grocery store chain Albertson's will make Supervalu the second largest supermarket operator in the country. (1/2006)

Starbucks' baristas may soon also play the role of personal DJ. The coffee king is brewing a plan to offer iPod refills with your next beverage. The new, low-calorie service will be an extension of Starbucks' existing music sales, which it currently offers in the form of CDs available for purchase. (1/2006)

1600 webcams, mapped and recorded over time. Wait for the zoom and pan (about 15 seconds). (1/2006)

A study by the University of Connecticut has found that many Connecticut towns have too much parking. According to the two-year study of six towns, the average town has 5.5 parking spaces per 1,000 square feet of retail space - and that's about two and a half times more parking spaces than are needed even during the winter holiday shopping season. (1/2006)

More than 54 million Americans - about one-sixth of the nation - now live in a condo or community managed or regulated by a homeowners' association, and some academicians are wondering about the implications of "private government". (12/2005)

What's wrong with focus groups? Ask Art Lebedev. (12/2005)

The winners of the Oklahoma City Bus Stop Competition have been announced.

The Chinese government has hired a British firm to design a series of ecologically self-supporting urban centers. The new communities will produce their own energy and emit no transportation-related greenhouse gases. The first community - near Shanghai - is expected to have 50,000 residents initially but to grow to three-quarters of the size of Manhattan by 2040.

Prada Marfa: It LOOKS like a store, but it's art. In the middle of the desert.

Upscale bowling alleys are beginning to appear in downtowns around the country. Splitsville, a Tampa-based bowling alley featuring sushi, plasma TVs and four retro bars, is one of a handful of upscale alleys looking for new locations. (10.4.2005)

Starbuck's has opened its 10,000th store ... and it's in the Great Wall of China. (10.4.2005)

Check out the wiki-like Design Encyclopedia, which tracks all sorts of design-related topics. (10.3.2005)

There's a nice report from the Michigan Land Use Institute on the small but slowly increasing number of big-box stores that are building smaller buildings, and often in downtowns. (9.15.2005)

An independent movie theatre owner in Palm Desert, California is suing Century Theatres for strong-arming movie distributors into making independent films available only at the 82-theatre chain, blocking independent theatres from access to first-run movies in the region. (9.13.2005)

Albertson's, one of the US's largest supermarket chains, is thinking about selling some or all of its 2,500 stores, another indication of big shifts in the retail grocery industry. Potential bidders include Target and the UK's Tesco. (9.9.2005)

Gross revenues for film developing businesses has dropped from $6.2 billion to $3.7 billion, according to the Photo Marketing Association. But many independent photo processing shops are surviving by installing digital photo printing machines, teaching classes in digital photography, and offering scrapbooking supplies, among other things. (9.6.2005)

Businesses in Oakland, California's Fruitvale neighborhood are fighting the proposed opening of a Mi Pueblo Food Center, concerned about the sales it woud likely displace from the neighborhood's existing businesses. (9.5.2005)

Zale Corp. plans to close about one-third of its Bailey Banks & Biddle jewelry stores at the end of the year and will turn its attention to more upscale markets. (9.5.2005)

Microsoft is looking for retail space in New York. (9.4.2005)

The future of outdoor advertising. (9.1.2005)

A new breed of consultants is popping up around the country to help minimize public outcry, streamline the site approval process, and smooth the way for controversial development projects. (8.31.2005)

Developers have broken ground on a 1.4 million-acre new town center project in Las Vegas. The $500 million project will include boutiques, restaurants, offices, a movie theatre, and a hotel. No mention of housing, government offices, places of worship, or any of those other things we think make a town center a town center.... (8.25.2005)

More sprawl coming to America's farm land and rural communities? An official with KB Home - one of the nation's largest home builders - tells the New York Times that people in Pasco County, Florida are willing to travel 15 minutes farther for every $12,000 drop in home prices. (8.24.2005)

Take a look at the very cool prototype website for a downtown or neighborhood commercial corridor put together by CoolTownStudios and Joint Concepts, with daily updates on everything happening on the street and in businesses - music, sidewalk dining, sales, festivals. The info can be easily updated whenever needed by both businesses and the district's manager. To learn more about it, email Neil Takemoto. (8.13.2005)

Business Week magazine reports that US retailers lost $16 billion in 2003 to bogus returns. The scams run the gamut from gift card fraud (e.g., someone buys a receipt from someone who has made a legitimate purchase, shoplifts those items from a store, returns them using the purchased receipt, and gets the refund in the form of a gift card. (8.8.2005)

In a bid for young customers, McDonald's is testing a new ATM-like machine that sells MP3s and cellphone ring tones. (8.8.2005)

Malls of America: A nostalgic look at the first places that nibbled away our downtowns. (8.7.2005)

According to a national survey of retailers by WebTrends, one out of five multichannel retailers expect to earn more than 50 percent of their annual revenues over the winter holidays. (8.3.2005)

Upscale retailer Tiffany & Co. has launched a new chain - Iridesse - that sells only pearls. (8.3.2005)

Weymouth, Massachusetts' town council has approved a developer's proposal to convert a 1,400-acre abandoned Naval air base into a mixed-use project with homes for 8,000 people. (8.2.2005)

First there were power centers ... now there are power-UP centers. A new five-story building in Tampa sandwiches three floors of parking between ground-floor retail (a Wild Oats grocery store, PetSmart, and Linens 'n Things) and a fifth-floor Target store. (8.2.2005)

A Virginia millionaire has bought an abandoned mining town in British Columbia and plans to turn it into an ecotourism center or an artists' colony. (7.31.2005)

BANANAs, DUDEs, CAVEmen... an urban planning lexicon. (7.29.2005)

Federated Department Stores, which recently bought the May Company, plans to rebrand over 300 May Co. stores with the Macy's name. The stores being renamed include Famous-Barr, Filene's, Hecht, Robinson-May, Meier & Frank, and Strawbridge's, among others. (7.29.2005) attributes its strong second-quarter revenue growth to sales by independent merchants who sell things through Amazon's website. Sales by independent merchants accounted for 28 percent of all Amazon unit sales in the second quarter. (7.27.2005)

A new Tesco superstore in Coventry, UK houses a public library. (7.27.2005)

State legislators in Delaware have introduced a bill - the "Sprawl Prevention Act" - that would encourage denser development and discourage development in environmentally sensitive areas, reducing the state's infrastructure expenses. (7.27.2005)

East Aurora, New York's town council has voted 5-1 to ban drive-through restaurants, encouraging pedestrian activity downtown. (7.27.2005)

Japan's FamilyMart convenience stores are coming to the US. The first Famima store opened yesterday in West Hollywood, California, with 200 more on the way by early 2009. FamilyMart operates 6,200 stores in Japan. (7.26.2005)

SLAPP suits - lawsuits initiated (usually) by developers and retail chains to silence opposition - nicely summarized in the Miami Herald today. (7.26.2005)

Kelo v. The City of New London: What the Supreme Court's eminent domain ruling means for America's downtowns.

The Kansas City Star reports on changes in the department store industry, as teens gravitate towards specialty stores, big boxes replace department stores as shopping mall anchors, and customers complain that department stores are too crowded with merchandise and too difficult to navigate. (7.14.2005)

Chicago's chain drug store wars continue. Pharmacists at Walgreens went on strike this past week, closing down a number of pharmacy counters. One of its competitors - Jewel-Osco - quickly jumped on the opportunity to advertise its readiness to serve inconvenienced Walgreen's customers. (7.9.2005)

Ever wonder why Starbuck's sometimes opens a new store across the street from another Starbuck's? So does BusinessWeek magazine. (7.7.2005)

British superstore Marks & Spencer has won a battle with a Welsh town council to have an English-language-only sign in front of its new Simply Food grocery superstore in Gwynedd. Like many Welsh towns interested in preserving Welsh language, Gwynedd generally requires store signs to be bilingual. (7.5.2005)

A new Arbitron study finds that many shoppers are susceptible to in-store radio or audio advertising. In the study, more than 40 percent of shoppers who remember hearing an ad while shopping reported making an unplanned purchase after hearing the ad. (7.5.2005)

For better or worse, parking meter manufacturers are using wireless and infrared technology to improve parking enforcement. The Wall Street Journal reports on some of the new developments - like parking meters in Montreal that send wireless messages to parking enforcers when a meter expires, meters in Pacific Grove, California that automatically reset to 'zero' when a car pulls out of a space, and meters in Coral Gables, Florida that parkers can call from their cellphones to purchase additional parking time. (7.4.2005)

The owner of a vacant Wal-Mart building in Onalaska, Wisconsin plans to demolish it and develop new retail space. The 115,000 square foot building has been vacant since Wal-Mart leap-frogged into a larger building elsewhere in town. "It doesn't meet the current needs of retailers," says Donn Davids, the owner's representative (7.2.2005).

The Census Bureau reports that many US cities that gained population in the 1990s are losing population to the suburbs in the 2000s (7.1.2005).

Marion, Virginia's main street is featured in June 23rd's installation of Independent America (6.23.2005).

In a 5-4 ruling on June 22, the US Supreme Court upheld local governments' powers of eminent domain for tax-generating economic development projects (6.22.2005).

Japan is now the world's most energy-efficient nation, tripling its industrial output in the past 30 years while using roughly the same amount of energy.

Sprawling Atlanta, which boasts the USA's longest and most expensive commute times, is finally experiencing an in-town housing boom.

Florence, Arizona plans to dedicate the development fees it earns on new home construction to downtown revitalization.

Ultramodern, single-wide trailers - 400 square feet for $45,000. But, at $76,000 for 2,000 square feet, these prefab houses made from shipping containers are a better bargain.

The nation's first public housing built exclusively for grandparents raising grandchildren opens in a few weeks. There are already more than 100 families on the waiting list.

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