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Urban landscape changes as retail chains move in

Big box stores like Target and Walmart have been making headlines recently as new locations of the traditionally suburban warehouse stores are popping up in cities. The stores are smaller in size and designed differently and carry different merchandise that is packaged differently than suburban stores. Urban shoppers have previously been skeptical of these businesses opening in downtown areas, but recent efforts by the retailers to better suit the environment seem to be paying off.

Executives from the big box stores point out something that many small business owners in urban areas already know - every neighborhood has different needs. For commercial real estate developers and investors in urban areas, this means paying close attention to the limitations of the space and the demands of the neighborhood.

Big box retailers and national chains like Target and Walgreens can rely on databases full of information about shopping behaviors, but then also have to contend with space limitations and existing infrastructure in new store locations. Smaller business owners can adapt more quickly and rely on personal observations to figure out what the neighborhood demands are.

Zoning and land use laws also play into commercial land development in urban areas. While some companies may have the resources to lobby for a zoning change or a variance on a local land use statute, smaller businesses hoping to develop a space for a certain purpose may have to look elsewhere or work within the confines of existing laws.

Readers who are interested in more information and land use and zoning variances for Detroit commercial real estate owners, visit our law firm's website.

Source: New York Times, "Retailers' Idea: Think Smaller in Urban Push," Stephanie Clifford, July 25, 2012.

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