By Downtown Arcadia Improvement Association Board of Directors
“Why can’t you guys just put a Trader Joe’s in?” “What about putting in some nice restaurants or coffee shops in the Downtown?” Comments and questions like these are often heard by members of the Downtown Arcadia Improvement Association (DAIA) when the topic of revitalization of the Downtown comes up. It is a common belief that great retailers are ready to move in, if only they are asked by a City or Business Association. The reality is that in this age of retraction and selectivity in the retail sector, getting great retailers and commercial operators to locate in a Downtown takes a number of willing participants.
Everyone loves the idea of a walkable, friendly Downtown where you can park once, or get off the Gold Line, and stroll to a nice restaurant, buy some groceries, maybe grab a coffee or have a glass of wine. That is the vision of Downtown Arcadia that the DAIA is trying to foster. Making this happen, however, takes a long term view and commitment from multiple parties.
First, it takes property owners who are engaged and present. The importance of property owners actively seeking great tenants for their buildings cannot be understated. Nothing hampers revitalization more than empty or dead buildings that do not engage shoppers or the street. Second is business owners invested in making their storefronts beautiful and attractive. Fostering pride in business ownership is critical to the success of a Downtown. Third, is a supportive and business friendly city. The City of Arcadia is going to great lengths to be business friendly, enacting a Development Code that makes it easier to re-use buildings, easing parking restrictions, and thinking outside the box to cut red tape. The goal is to make sure the process of opening or expanding a business is simple, straightforward and fair. Fourth, is willing tenants and retailers. Arcadia city staff is always working on finding spots for tenants, and trying to attract retailers. There is a constant dialogue going on with many retail representatives (including Trader Joes!) to find the right spot. But at the end of the day, a restaurant or retailer will only locate, and be successful, where the underlying economics and demographics make sense for them. Finally, a successful Downtown needs a critical mass of local residents who regularly shop, dine, and patronize the area. One key way to create this is by increasing the number of residents living in Downtown Arcadia through new mixed-use developments. Another method is marketing the area to locals as an option for their shopping, dining, and entertainment needs. So have a meal in Downtown Arcadia, grab that glass of wine or coffee, fill up your gas tank, and buy a Holiday present Downtown.
If these ingredients are all present, the recipe for great retail and commercial uses is set. So, the next time someone asks the question, “What about putting in some more nice restaurants or coffee shops in the Downtown?” Answer: Bring them on! We are ready.