The idea: Property developers with existing, vacant storefronts ask the neighbourhood what residents actually want and need in their community (rather than just stick them with another coffee chain).
Who’s doing it now: A handful of developers in the U.S., via a website called popularise.com, which was created by Washington, D.C. developers Ben and Dan Miller. Currently, the site is soliciting ideas for a former farmhouse in Oklahoma City, a retail space in a Seattle office building, and a suburban shopping centre in Baltimore, among others. Residents can submit ideas and vote on others’ suggestions. “The traditional community meeting doesn’t really give you a good cross-section of people,” says Tom Bartholomew, project manager for 400 Fairview, a 300,000 square-foot office building planned for a gentrifying area just north of downtown Seattle, which has been listed on Popularise since April. “We’re looking for something smaller. Craft-oriented maybe, or food service, something chef-driven. Something different.”
› How would it work here: With our ever-multiplying abundance of high-rises, it might serve a more specific purpose: Condo towers tend to house a dull mixture of convenience stores, franchise cafés, banks, and dry cleaners at street level. Developers are looking for reliable tenants, and while an upstart screen-printing shop might be worth a gamble in a small, century-old building, it’s too risky to anchor the street level of a costly, brand-new tower. But if a developer or property owner could solicit neighbourhood input to gauge the potential for success, they might be more inclined to provide condo-dominated communities with unique destinations. Just imagine a Rotate This satellite shop or a Grand Electric in the heart of City Place.