"Walkability" is near the top of the list of attributes for residential housing these days. Everybody wants to be able to walk--to work, to restaurants, to public spaces, and to culture. Even towns now advertise when something is walking distance from whatever town center is closest. New Haven is enjoying a boom in high-rise living, with prices headed up and supply being absorbed ahead of anyone's predictions. What does that mean for our commercial sector?
In prior days, retail meant big box stores that could be accessed with little driving time, and abundant free parking on site. That's still true if you are big enough--IKEA comes to mind. For almost everyone else, retail now means the old-time corner store, the local market, the neighborhood bar or restaurant, and farmers' markets nearby. With all the new housing downtown, there are still services needed locally--in this case, hyperlocally. What about pets? Drugstores? Grocery stores? Even gift shops? We've got something for everyone, but there's room for more. Tenants and downtown homeowners expect to pay more for convenience, and they will. More boutiques and pop-up stores are in our future, as our more of the ever-expanding restaurant and bar scene, which already draws from around the state. It will continue to do so, and visitors will complement the city natives who patronize those places.
For investors or developers, there is money to be made. Property now seems reasonably priced for commercial, and it can easily be made into space for the uses that walkability-minded folks require. Think about it--but not for too long, or the window will close!