Utilizing economic theories of retail to revitalize inner-city neighborhood business districts : the case of Uphams Corner Main Street
Author(s)Waxman, Andy (Andy Phillip), 1971-
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning.
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Community development corporations, as well as other stakeholder organizations in inner-city areas, are increasingly taking on the tasks of economic development in general and commercial revitalization in particular. In order to improve the effectiveness of these interventions, this thesis has two purposes: 1) to provide a rigorous, widely applicable framework for approaching the task of revitalizing inner-city neighborhood business districts, and 2) to provide an example of how this framework can be used by applying it to the Uphams Corner neighborhood in Dorchester, Massachusetts. Four economic theories of retail provide the backbone of this framework. Economists use these theories to explain the success of malls and to describe what attracts people to one shopping area over another. This thesis also uses the theories to explore the strategy of orienting commercial districts around particular niches or clusters of stores. While many have recommended niche-based strategies, they do not explicitly connect this to the economic dynamics of retail areas. Therefore, this thesis seeks to explain: 1) what creates the connection between stores in various types of niches, 2) how the nature of competition between stores differs across various types of niches, 3) how these theories can be used to develop concrete strategies for working with existing stores and recruiting new ones, and 4) which types of new stores will be the most successful and add the most to the health of the area. In the process of developing this framework, the thesis describes a number of doubts as to whether the economic theories of retail are applicable to inner city areas. If these doubts can not be overcome, it does not make sense to use the theories in these districts. The first doubt concerns whether or not commercial revitalization in general, and the economic theories in particular, can be used to achieve the goals of community economic development. The second is that improving factors such as parking, cleanliness, and safety may be more important to neighborhood commercial revitalization than altering the economics of the area. The third is that malls may only be able to take advantage of these economic theories because they are owned by a single entity. Inner-city commercial districts have multiple property owners and under resourced store owners, making coordination more difficult. The fourth is that there may be something different about inner-city consumers such that they might not shop in the way that the theories predict. This thesis argues that each of these doubts can be overcome, and that the theories can be used effectively to revitalize inner-city neighborhood business districts. The thesis concludes with the argument that more emphasis should be placed on economically based strategies for revitalizing commercial areas. The current models, the Main Street approach, Business Improvement Districts, and others focus primarily on improving non-economic, physical factors of these areas. While these efforts are important, this thesis asserts that a greater understanding of the economic dynamics of these retail nodes should permeate all of the work of these organizations.
Thesis (M.C.P.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning, 1999.Includes bibliographical references (leaves 113-118).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Urban Studies and Planning.