Sunday, September 11, 2011
Uplands: Where's the Retail?
Where's the Retail? That's a simple question right? The problem with a simple question is that they don't always have a simple answer. Such is the case with the new Uplands Development and its relationship (or lack there of) with the Community and responding to requests Community Members whether they're prospective buyers or residents in adjacent Communities. I can't really answer the question of where the Retail is but what I can do is make a good case for adding to make ALL parties happy.Like I said at the beginning, Retail at Uplands will make all parties happy. And I never had an intention to renege on it.
Uplands has a very interesting history and hopefully a future that is equally interesting. Uplands grew up with the Edmondson Village Community as an all White Garden Apartment Complex that was meant to be a stepping ground for upwardly mobile World War II Veterans . In the early 1960s Uplands went from all White to all Black as did the greater Edmondson Village Community as a whole. I know in other rental Communities, to speed up the blockbusting process, evicted all White Residents and replaced them with Black Residents. Whether or not this was done with Uplands I don't know, I haven't found evidence to support either scenario.
The Greater Edmondson Village Area went into decline in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It was at this point that Uplands became a Public Housing Project that the City turned over to the residents as an attempted Co-Op. This did not work as the distressed Uplands grew more and more crime ridden and vacancy rates rose. Uplands was eventually turned over to HUD where the dilapidated were emptied out by the few remaining Residents and were boarded up.
In 2004 the City decided to turn Developer and they set their site on the vacant Uplands Complex. They acquired it from HUD either free of charge or an amount very small like $1. The City envisioned turning Uplands into a mixed income Community of more than 600 units featuring all housing types. The City then realized that if the property of New Psalmist Baptist Church were to be added, another 400+ plus units could be added to the redevelopment, the grand total of new housing units would be bumped up to 1100. The acquisition of New Psalmist was a success and the total number of units is now 1100.
In 2008 demolition began on the entire Uplands Neighborhood. Once demolition was complete work began on upgrading the infrastructure in preparation for the new development. The official groundbreaking was on October 1st, 2010 and Phase I is just now getting underway at Edmondson and Athol Avenues. Apartment and Condo Buildings will flank Edmondson Avenue in keeping with the philosophy that higher density housing should be near the busy streets.
Upon glancing at the Master Plan, I noticed that something was amiss; Retail! Where is it? Surely a development of this size would warrant it right? Well I think so. Apparently the City and the Developers don't. They seem to be promoting Edmondson Village Shopping Center as the "Premier Retail Destination" for the new Uplands Community.
Now don't get me wrong, I love Edmondson Village, it's one of my favorite Neighborhoods from a Researcher/Planner's stand point. The Shopping Center on the other hand, is not conducive to Uplands or Edmondson Village itself for that matter.
I think that the new Apartments along Edmondson Avenue in the new Uplands should include Ground Floor Retail that is more upscale because the new development as well as existing developments more than warrant it. I'm not suggesting a Ruth's Chris Steakhouse but I'm also not suggesting a Family Dollar.
Good Tenants should include but aren't limited to; Starbucks, Coldstone Creamery, Walgreens, Dry Cleaners, Wine& Spirits Shop, Five Guys, Mens Warehouse, Quiznos, Pier 1 imports, and a Bank.
I know that the relationship between the Developer and the Community is not optimal. The Community feels that the Developer is taking their money and running and that the Developer is not listening. Keeping that in mind, I would like to speak to the developer in their own language; money.
Uplands as is will be a big pay day for you, but selling privately owned homes will only be a one time payment. Allowing for Retail will be the gift that keeps on giving. Charging rent to Retail Tenants in what will be a prime location after the Red Line is built will literally take you to the Bank. Not only that, with a good selection of Retail Tenants, you can raise the home prices and the rents for the Market Rate Units.