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Taking a Look at Boston’s “Cool Streets” for Retail

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“I don’t mind not being cool.” – Chris Martin

Cool is an incredibly tough thing to define. But it’s also incredibly important, particularly in the retail market.

Driven by the growing influence of the millennial generation, urban neighborhoods across the country are driving growth in fashion, restaurants and shopping with new hip concepts that will determine what will be “next”, and what will be left behind.
Cushman & Wakefield’s COOL STREETS Report found a number of common trends among cool areas, including a high number of restaurant businesses, nightlife and music venues. This is no surprise, since millennials spend more of their disposable income on experiences than any other generation.

With its incredibly dense young population, Boston is at the forefront of this movement in some ways, with hip neighborhoods quickly attracting more and more people looking for similar experiences.

“Artists thrive off each other, and when you see other people doing cool stuff, it inspires you to do cool stuff.” – Courtney Barnett

The hippest part of the city right now – unsurprisingly, is Davis Square in Somerville. It’s full of music, nightlife and great food options, and has great access to colleges. Its popularity has also translated into rent growth, with retail space ranging from $48.00/SF all the way up to $120.00/SF.

Allston-Brighton may be the next big thing as an up-and-coming neighborhood. It doesn’t have quite the arts scene as Somerville, but retail rents are also roughly half what tenants might pay for prime space in Davis. Allston is also more bike-friendly and has a greater density of college graduate, but its residential rents are a bit too high for many hipsters.

The next edgy cool spot in the city is Jamaica Plain. While it doesn’t have the same access to education as Davis and Allston, it’s very diverse and has a great developing balance of vintage shops, dining, nightlife, and music. Retail rents in JP tend to range from $40.00/SF to $80.00/SF.

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From a retail perspective, how these areas develop will hinge on a number of factors. As they become more and more popular, the independent retails which have thrived there may give way to newer, more “mainstream” tenants, looking at these areas as alternatives to traditional mall locations.

What neighborhoods become “cool” after that is anyone’s guess.

“Maybe the coolest people are the ones who don’t care about being cool.” – Steve Carell

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