Monday, November 26, 2007

"What we need is a Starbucks"

The New York Times writes about downtown New Rochelle, but the headline could apply to my own neighborhood in Malden: "A Faded Downtown Gets Luxury Housing, but Retailers Stay Away." Reporter Elsa Brenner offers grounds for optimism:

One glimmer of hope comes from the Gnarly Vine and several trendy restaurants that have opened in a five-block radius in the heart of the downtown. “Often bars, restaurants and small boutiques are the first to signal that a change is actually taking place,” Mr. Beyard said. [Michael Beyard is with the Urban Land Institute.]

I'm hope that's true, since Malden Center has several new trendy restaurants, but I'm not so confident. New retail businesses seem to have a much tougher time in the Internet Age. Significantly, the Times story is vague about precisely what kind of retail stores New Rochelle hopes to attract. Bookstores, music stores, and old-fashioned department stores are dying everywhere, and houseware and furniture stores prefer locations with huge parking lots. But let's worry about that later. For now, Craig King, New Rochelle’s commissioner of development, has an idea shared by many of my neighbors in Malden:

“What we need,” he said, “are upscale boutiques, a Starbucks and some other more interesting shops that will generate more sales tax dollars for the city and give our downtown some real style.”

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