By: Marisa Herman Associate Editor
Many residents feel that Delray Beach has hit its peak when it comes to the amount of restaurants and shops downtown, but according to a new study, the downtown can sustain more.
The Downtown Development Authority hired Gibbs Planning Group, Inc. to conduct a Downtown Retail Market Study. Robert Gibbs of Gibbs Planning Group is considered a top urban retail planner in the country.
The results show that the downtown can support as much as an additional 434,100-square-feet of retail and restaurant development that could generate more than $221.3 million in new sales.
The report states that by 2022, growing retail demand and continued economic development could increase sales up to $232.8 million in new sales. In between 105-130 new restaurants and stores could possibly open.
“You could have somebody build a new Mizner Park or CityPlace right at the Expressway and Atlantic,” Gibbs said. “You will get pressure from large, leading retailers.”
Of course that doesn’t mean that much development will happen. Gibbs said it will be up to commissioners to plan for future development with city policy.
“If you would rather not have that occur, you could use this as a tool to forecast,” he said about future development.
Existing stores can increase sales to total that $221 million in new sales by either capturing more shoppers or extending their hours, Gibbs said. That means no new stores would have to open for the downtown to capture more money.
One way to achieve that, Gibbs said, is to attract more workers to shop downtown. He said many people who work in the area say the hassle of parking prevents them from shopping during their lunch break.
The study indicated that a majority of downtown stores are making more than double than similar businesses in other locations.
Stores that would be sustainable if they were to come to town include grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants, bars and home furnishing shops.
And if some new stores do open, they could have more of a national presence.
Part of the reason the DDA hired Gibbs was to take a look at the big box stores and national chains and ways to possible protect the type of stores that open downtown. Delray has seen several open downtown in recent years including Tommy Bahama, Urban Outfitters and Wings on Atlantic Ave.
Mayor Cary Glickstein said he gets calls regularly from national chains asking how they can open in the city.
“Those are hard calls to take,” he said.
The study is an update to the 2004 cluster study conducted by the authority. That study found national chain retailers are not necessary for the revitalization of downtown. But there is a correlation between additional spending and the presence of national retailers.
A second part of the study, a Shop Ability Study for the Downtown District, is expected to be completed this month. That study will include recommendations for building infill, parking, vehicular circulation, streetscape, signage, lighting, zoning and tenant mix.
It will be presented to commissioners on Feb. 20 at 6 p.m. in city hall.