Retail is taking off in Brooklyn because of its centralized urban core location, easy access to Interstates 95 and 10 and because the real market isn’t necessarily bounded by opinions expressed in reports. While downtown and Brooklyn may not have many residents, over 27,000 vehicles a day travel Riverside Avenue and 181,426 residents with an average household income of $53,293 live within a five mile radius. With this in mind, Brooklyn Station is not only supported by downtown but also residents living in Riverside, San Marco, Springfield and other urban core neighborhoods.


LaVilla’s Broad Street is a “historic” in-town retail corridor and former streetcar destination similar to Five Points. However, its storefronts sit vacant due to the 1990s urban renewal of LaVilla and no strategy to-date to encourage its redevelopment as a major pedestrian scale in-town retail center.

A December 3, 2018 working draft of the Downtown Investment Authority’s LaVilla Neighborhood Development Strategy suggests that the market for retail in downtown is limited for the following reasons:

  1. Significant retail will not locate in Downtown; prefers suburban locations with more concentrated buying power.

  2. In-town retail only found in “historic” centers like Five Points, San Marco, etc…

  3. Brooklyn experience: retail limited to what is supported by residential and office, but even that hasn’t performed as expected (lots vacant or on second or third users)

This is an assessment that doesn’t align with what’s currently taking place in Brooklyn. As illustrated above and on Regency Centers’ website, Brooklyn Station does not solely rely on office workers and residents in Brooklyn. The center is averaging sales numbers on par with Regency shopping centers in virtually every other submarket in city and the retail center’s trade area is much larger than downtown due to having direct highway access and maximum retail visibility. With this in mind, aligning the development of pedestrian scale retail corridors along streets with high vehicle traffic counts is a way to maximize the potential of market rate retail development in the central business district.

The one-way pair of State and Union streets has the highest traffic count in the urban core. However, instead of being viewed as a potential major retail thoroughfare to serve Downtown, Springfield, Durkeeville, New Town and the Eastside, the corridor is seen as no-man’s land.

“In densely populated traditional neighborhood developments (TNDs), a corner store can be economically sustainable within the neighborhood when sited on its primary street,” Gibbs advises. But it will typically need about 800 to 1,000 households — as many households as a typical 160-acre TND contains. Some factors can make the corner store viable with fewer households close by. A location on a road carrying 10,000 or more cars a day is one such factor. Specialization in niche products such as wines, liquors, or baked goods is another. Even so, the store will have to operate long hours, opening early and closing late, to offset its expenses.

Convenience centers — typically 10,000 to 30,000 square feet of gross leasable area, including a chief tenant such as a small specialty food market or pharmacy, plus others such as a bagel store, bakery, bank, coffee shop, deli, or dry cleaner — need about 2,000 households, the equivalent of two TNDs, Gibbs calculates.

Bob Gibbs of Michigan-based Gibbs Planning Group

The retail planning excerpt above highlights how a busy road to assist retail development in an area with few nearby households. Successful retail will need high visibility along streets with significant automobile traffic since Downtown does not have significant foot traffic. Luckily, according to Florida Department of Transportation’s Florida Traffic Online database, there are streets like Brooklyn’s Riverside Avenue that carry a high amount of traffic through the area that also serve more than just Downtown. For example, State and Union streets (58,500 AADT), Main and Ocean streets (19,300 AADT), and Jefferson and Broad streets (15,200 AADT) all tie Downtown with adjacent neighborhoods where more urban core residents reside. Because they serve more than just Downtown, the potential retail trade area is significantly larger than most believe. This is why retail is working and expanding on Riverside Avenue. Within a 10-minute drive of Brooklyn, the day time population is 269,341 and the residential population is 117,388. Catering to this larger trade area is also why retail can work on additional major arterials. The key is to plan, view and market the urban core as an integrated collection of urban neighborhoods as opposed to viewing Downtown as an independent animal of its own.

Editorial by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at edavis@moderncities.com