Story & Concept by Garrick Brown
Vice President of Retail Research, Americas
Cushman & Wakefield Names North America’s Top 15 “Cool Streets”
A new breed of urban, experiential, and independent mid-market retailers catering to millennial consumers has led to the rise of 100 “Cool Streets” across the U.S. and Canada.
Cushman & Wakefield has published its first-ever Cool Streets of North America report (click here to download) It explores the phenomena behind the rise of dozens of new, edgy retail districts across the U.S. and Canada.
While some of these areas featured in the report are longstanding bohemian enclaves and focal points for local arts, music, or LGBT communities, the renaissance in nearly all of the Cool Streets has been driven by an explosion of unconventional new retail concepts.
Top 15 American Cool Streets
The report captures the top 15 Cool Streets as follows: Sunset Park in Brooklyn; Logan Square in Chicago; Over-the-Rhine in Cincinnati; RiNo in Denver; Silver Lake in Los Angeles; Wynwood in Miami; North Loop in Minneapolis; Roosevelt Row in Phoenix; Carytown in Richmond, Va.; East Village in San Diego; Jackson Square in San Francisco; West Queen West in Toronto; Mount Pleasant/Main in Vancouver; and Shaw in Washington, D.C.
Fashion, the Fickle Mistress
Retail lives and dies by cool. Concepts connect, build loyalty, and grow by being cool. They also disengage, wither, and die by not being cool. If nothing else, the history of fashion is the history of what is cool and what is desirable. But, as anyone in retail will tell you, fashion can be a fickle mistress.
Every generation has had its own definition of cool, but cool constantly evolves. In today’s media-saturated age some may argue that the issue of what is cool has never been more important to consumers, nor has it ever been as likely to change with lightning speed as it is now.
Cool Matters More Than Ever
If retailers live and die by cool, the same also holds true of retail properties, shopping centers and entire neighborhoods. Whenever we speak about real estate, the issue of location and a number of other factors come into play, but the reality is that cool matters.
In an age of frugal consumers, e-commerce encroachment, and vast gaps in performance between trophy malls and Class B and C shopping centers, cool matters now more than ever. San Francisco’s most famous redevelopment is the Mission District, where an influx of tech-industry millennials has transformed the neighborhood into the city’s hottest restaurant and bar scene. It certainly is a Cool Street, and probably more of an actual hipster haven than historic Jackson Square (most of the buildings here pre-date the 1906 earthquake). So why are we not focusing on the Mission District? Because it has nowhere near the retail upside of Jackson Square.
San Francisco’s restrictive “formula retail” code effectively locks out chains with more than 11 locations internationally unless they obtain a conditional use permit. Even when successful, this is a cumbersome process that takes retailers months to navigate and usually costs tens of thousands of dollars.
Supporters believe that by keeping larger chains out they are maintaining the character of San Francisco’s many neighborhood retail districts and also protecting mom-and-pop retailers. But by setting the definition of “formula retail” at just 11 units, the law basically makes it cost prohibitive for many smaller new retail concepts to expand in the City by the Bay.
Historic Flavor: San Francisco’s Coolest Square
Jackson Square is one of the few San Francisco districts where significant portions of the neighborhood are exempt from this code.
Jackson Square is only approximately 10 square blocks and is almost entirely a commercial district. Lodged between San Francisco’s booming Financial District and the tourism-rich enclaves of Chinatown and North Beach, Jackson Square’s official boundaries are Columbus Avenue to the west, Battery Street on the east, Washington Street to the south and Broadway on the north. While San Francisco’s mid-Market area is also undergoing a retail revival, the availability of large blocks of space there is proving most alluring to off-price big box users.
Meanwhile, Jackson Square is increasingly attracting hip, Cool Street concepts and upscale retailers alike due to its zoning advantages, historic flavor, and rents still averaging anywhere from half to a third of comparable Union Square rates.
“Jackson Square provides old world charm, tree-lined streets and beautiful old storefronts, all in a city where historically protected storefronts cannot be changed dramatically. Most of the tenants are new to market: such as Isabel Marant, A.P.C, Jake, Guideboat, Shinola and Filson. The rents in Jackson Square are a fraction of what the rents are on other popular neighborhood streets, and in Union Square, and are still manageable for tenants with realistic sales volume expectations. Jackson Square provides a one-of-a-kind visual experience and the most interesting neighborhood environment for the leaders in unique and emerging brands.”
Senior Managing Director, Cushman & Wakefield San Francisco