“If you build it, they will come,” is an oft-quoted expression from the baseball movie “Field of Dreams”, but it holds true for business district revitalization as well. Our firm was asked to renovate two retail spaces in a large old building facing a frontage road that backs up to the busy Bayshore Freeway in Redwood City. One of the spaces had been vacant for many years. The two business owners located their businesses in this area despite the signs of blight because they were looking for a lot of space at an affordable price with easy access, and very importantly, adequate parking.
The new businesses were the “Wag Hotel”, a high class board-and-care facility for dogs and cats, and “La Petite Playhouse”, an underwater-themed play and party facility for children. Both of these businesses appeal to high-end customers, who may never have seen this part of town, but would be willing to come to patronize businesses that meet their needs.
By creating spaces that are very attractive, using quality materials, features, signage and design, these companies have opened to booming business, filling their available space and appointments within the first month. The abandoned vehicles and R.V.s on the street are gone, replaced by parking lots full of customers.
The signage facing the freeway allows the businesses to catch the attention of commuters and non-local potential customers. The Wag Hotel installed mural photos of adorable dogs on their walls facing the freeway replacing a weathered and out-of-date sign from a long-gone business. People smile as they drive by.
Seeing how this area has attracted a great deal of new drive-by traffic, the strip mall on the opposite side of the block has begun renovations. When that facelift is completed the entire city block will look new, helping existing retailers grow their sales.
While it is always tempting to locate a business in the best part of town, remodeling a space in a less desirable area can be a smart choice. In some cases, buildings can be purchased rather than leased, allowing the business owner to become a landlord rather than a lessee. As mentioned above, parking may be readily available in an outlying business district, instead of being restricted in the city core. With per square foot costs of the property reduced, the cost of architectural design and building construction becomes a reasonable investment as part of an overall business plan. Talk to your architect before making the leap, though, as he/she can alert you to the costs of bringing old buildings up to current codes, zoning restrictions, site concerns, and other considerations.
We are pleased to be part of the team that brought this old block back to vibrant use. We encourage other new businesses, or companies that are expanding, to look “outside the box” for areas with hidden potential.
— Lorianna Kastrop Vice President The Kastrop Group, Inc. Architects