Thursday, April 23, 2015

We're Good Enough, We're Smart Enough But Dammit, People Don't Like Us

Businesses choose neighborhoods just like real estate buyers do.  They look for location, safety, a place where they can grow and a place they will enjoy to spend their time.   It's not really that different.  

When we talk in North Bay Village about the lack of "quality" businesses - chains like Starbucks, independent businesses, banks, professional offices - we consistently get the same reply from the commission.  They've asked around but the demographics don't work for the retailers.  

That's a cop out.  In fact, North Bay Village is uniquely situated to be a retail and business dream.  It's set among an upscale urban mix, is convenient to all the major roads and public transit and uniquely is the only one of the four causeways between Miami and Miami Beach that has a commercial strip.  Neither the Julia Tuttle, the Venetian nor the MacArthur have what we have.  We funnel a lot of cars through the Village.  

Again, we have the demographics.  A relatively affluent population in short distance to the retail locations.  Retail geographers go well beyond the simple demographics though.  They also study how many loyal customers there are, the mix of car traffic, public transit traffic, and walk-in traffic, the availability of other retail destinations and how well the municipal government supports business development and the truth is, the only thing we have are the demographics.  

North Bay Village is not a pedestrian friendly environment.  For all the millions spent and to spend on the Causeway, not once has making the sidewalks walkable been considered.  Stores don't like to see their customers killed by vehicular traffic and know that people won't go where they are not safe.

North Bay Village has never executed on the many marketing plans to attract business.  We've allowed prime real estate to sit vacant while we ask nothing of developers to help create the business environment we need.  It's more important to get the campaign contributions impact fees that are in turn spent on repaying other campaign contributors never realized projects.

North Bay Village makes parking impossible where it is not merely difficult.  

And finally, we have a long reputation as a "pay to play" municipality.  Our business code is confusing, contradictory and our inspection process is designed to thwart honest businesses.  Ask anyone who has opened a business here. 

So the big stores, the Starbucks, the Publix, go where they can open with less risk and nobody else really moves in here.  It's not the people who live here, it's the people who govern here.  

Kevin Vericker
April 23, 2015

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