Episode #9: Retail Planning

On the ninth episode of The UrbanCincy Podcast, Kathleen Norris of the Brandt Retail Group joins the UrbanCincy team to discuss retail in Cincinnati’s urban neighborhoods.

Kathleen was responsible for planning the first phase of retail in the Gateway Quarter of Over-the-Rhine, and made the decision to initially focus on destination shopping and restaurants over resident amenities. In the podcast, we discuss how far the area has come over just a few years. Kathleen explains some of the challenges that urban stores face compared to their suburban counterparts, and why Baby Boomers and Millennials are both becoming more interested in shopping at smaller retailers.

Keeping urban grocery stores open has been an important issue that has spawned initiatives like Buy 25 in Walnut Hills. We go depth on this topic, and debate what Kroger has gotten right and wrong in their approach to their Over-the-Rhine and Walnut Hills locations. We also discuss chains like Walgreens that are turning their focus to urban stores, and how convenience stores can be encouraged to carry more fresh grocery items.

Finally, we discuss the future of downtown’s Tower Place Mall, the growth of Restaurant Row, Short Vine, and the neighborhoods surrounding the University of Cincinnati. We discuss the unique opportunity the City of Cincinnati has to create a comprehensive retail plan for the Cincinnati Streetcar route, leveraging the different types of businesses that can be found at The Banks, the Central Business District, and in Over-the-Rhine.

Photo: Businesses along Vine Street in the Gateway Quarter.

  • Mark Christol

    to get the corner stores back into the neighborhoods you need to change some zoning.

    • Aaron Watkins

      Kroger should change it’s model to smaller more walkable stores in denser numbers.

    • Agree. Hard to find daily needs in most neighborhoods. OTR at least has Kroger, but good luck finding a corner store in Hyde Park or even the Banks. Have to go across river to Sunoco in Covington to get convenience items after Walgreen’s on 4th or CVS on Walnut close after commuters leave.

  • All should check out the newly-renovated Kroger in Grosse Pointe, MI, to see what a community can get with enough push back- http://www.grossepointecity.org/departments/kercheval.asp?DeptID=8

    • One example I wanted to mention, but we just didn’t have enough time to talk about on the show, is right across the river in Bellevue, KY. Everyone was expecting the small, dated Bellevue Kroger to close once the new Kroger Marketplace in Newport opened. Instead, Kroger found that the Bellevue store continued to do good business because it’s walkable for many Bellevue residents, and many probably prefer the smaller format. So now, Kroger has renovated and expanded the store, which is a few days away from reopening. Cincinnati’s urban neighborhoods should be pointing to the Bellevue example and saying, “do that for us, too.”

  • Mark Christol

    Is anybody discussing new gas stations in the downtown area?

    • Ben

      There is one at Liberty & Walnut and two at 7th & Linn. Why do we need more gas stations?

  • Zachary Schunn

    Great discussion. I’m working a lot of retail real estate deals now (hey!, where’s my interview? :-P)… and I have to agree with most of the points. Some thoughts:

    – Kroger WILL produce an urban model sooner rather than later, IMO. The pressure is building too much for them to ignore it.

    – In the endless “urban vs. suburban” debates I think a lot of urbanists fail to see how dramatically suburban development is changing. Traditional malls and big box centers are out; “lifestyle” centers like The Greene and Premium Outlets, with clusters of smaller upscale retail, are in. Even large strip centers (see Rookwood) are doing better as people are preferring shorter shopping trips over long weekend ventures to malls, and preferring a variety of retailers over one catch-all store. Look at all the New Urbanist developments in the works. This can only bode well for urban markets, as tastes are changing towards urban development patterns… no matter the location.

    – I disagree that Short Vine will become the new “independent” center near UC. That title has always belonged to Ludlow, and I think Kathleen is discounting Schimberg’s and others owners’ strong desires to attract national retailers to the Short Vine strip. Plus, the new Walgreens and Kroger, when they finally get built, should be further draws for national retailers. Franchises are already starting to move in with the recent announcement of a new Which Wich location on Vine. Vine St. owners are understandably VERY optimistic about Corryville’s future, and if they get the chance to get higher rents from national retailers I feel very few if any would turn it down.