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Shopping Bags on Tryon

by Dennis Marsoun

January 4,2005

It wasn’t much, but it was something!

I actually saw shopping bags on Tryon Street over the Christmas Holiday. It struck me because of its oddity, but then again, it seemed perfectly appropriate. There was a chill in the air, and lights on the trees, and the storefronts that are here were all inviting.

All these sights invoked memories of a distant past of Christmas shopping on Public Square in Cleveland, Ohio. The major difference of course was the snow.

Critical mass, head count, roof tops, these are the things we hear all the time when it comes to bringing retail back into the Center City. And guess what, it’s happening. All the new construction that has been announced will hasten the activity. Over 1000 additional housing units have been announced this year, and I predict that will triple in 2005.

Watching Johnson & Wales open to their first year students this past September, I noticed an interesting phenomena occur. Though it was well known for a few years that this would take place, it seemed to catch everyone off guard. Property values in the Gateway area increased about 20% just over the summer! And this is with only one year’s worth of students.

My prediction is that retail will return in 2006, when all of a sudden, seemingly overnight, we will have 12,000 people living downtown, and another 60,000 coming down every day to work. Someone will say “When did THIS happen?”

The first and second pioneer retailer to come down will get the best locations, and I predict that will be the corner of Fourth and Tryon. My personal dream is for Saks to take over the CCB lobby for their location, and for Belk’s to tear down and rebuild a store on the old Charter Bank site across the street. That site will connect to the Overstreet Mall, and indirectly to the light rail line through the old convention center site.

I believe that retail will extend in both directions down Fourth, going to Caldwell to the east and Mint Street to the west. It won’t be a shopping mall, but it will be exciting, and profitable.

This move will spark the beginning of the reconstruction of the Second Ward, much as the Arena has sparked First Ward development, as well as that of the Third Ward.

This move will also encourage the major banks to reconsider the “best and highest” use of the land that their Uptown branches occupy. With the changes in banking to ATM usage and online banking, the grand large lobbies are becoming out of date. I would guess that the BoA branch in Founders Hall handles as many transactions as the main branch occupying the entire first floor of the BoA Plaza Building. With the connection to the Overstreet Mall and to the light rail system, it needs to change.

The Wachovia location at Second and College has a similar fate awaiting it.

Free market economics are the basic belief of America. Markets develop where the need exists. We all learned that in Economics 101. We watched as a residential market developed, and the current residential building boom is a reflection of the market calling out for supply. There is another market that is calling out, and that is the need for retail. What I have outlined is my vision. While my dreams are mine, and as many would argue, have no connection to reality, the signs are there of the beginning of the movement to retail. It will happen.

And when it does, there will be more shopping bags on Tryon Street.

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