Section 2

The Brief / Challenge

By 2024, a quarter of all retail in the U.S. is projected to be e-commerce.1 The reality is that shoppers are using a variety of devices, platforms, and channels to browse and purchase products. Our commercial districts, therefore, may no longer simply be characterized by rows of retail storefronts and the sales transactions that occur in these spaces.

To differentiate in competitive markets such as New York City, commercial districts, or locations where clusters of business activity occur, must be multi-dimensional, experiential destinations that generate foot traffic and draw a diverse spectrum of users for businesses. Often, these memorable experiences that cannot be replicated digitally or at home begin in our public realm along commercial corridors, including on sidewalks, plazas, and streets (including curbside parking or parking spaces, traffic medians, and travel lanes).

Neighborhood Commons is focused on the most commonly found public spaces in New York City’s commercial districts — our streets, plazas, and sidewalks. These spaces often directly interface with small business storefronts offering opportunities for businesses to spill out into the public realm through programming, creative marketing and promotion tactics, and outdoor service expansion.
︎ Wide sidewalks allow for merchandise display/A-frame signs

︎ Street tree canopy, benches, awnings provide customer safety and comfort
︎ Parklets/sidewalk cafes for outdoor dining

︎ Blade signage for storefront visibility to potential customers
︎ Plaza for pop-up events, festivals, and markets that create opportunities for entrepreneurs to test local audiences and for artists to provide ambient entertainment in commercial districts

When well-designed, -managed, and -maintained, the public realm in our commercial districts can be utilized to leave positive visitor impressions, enhance customer traffic circulation, foster social interactions, and promote commerce for small businesses. During the COVID-19 pandemic, public spaces have in fact been critical lifelines for many businesses, offering safe places to promote and market products and services and to facilitate sales transactions, as well as functioning as alternative dining rooms for restaurants and food services that have been unable to serve indoors.