Should retailers prepare to serve customers in ‘post-car’ suburbs?
Tempe, AZ, is putting the finishing touches on a planned car-free community built to let its 1,000 inhabitants live — and shop — without owning cars.
The 17-acre community, called Culdesac, will open later this year, according to ABC 15. A vendor called Archer Bikes, which offers bicycle sales, repairs and rentals, recently closed the deal on the community’s final retail spot. The addition is consistent with what the article calls the community’s “post-car” ethos.
Culdesac’s website lists among its other retail partners Tacos Chiwas, Firecreek Coffee Company and Street Corner Urban Market. It also lists relationships with Lyft and electric car sharing company Envoy.
Towards the end of the 2010s, there was a growing buzz about retailers partnering with developers to work on concepts that would meet the needs of Millennials who were moving to the suburbs but were seeking city-style walkability.
Walmart in 2018 launched a website called Walmart Reimagined, which featured concept renderings of a store that would function as the “town center” of a community, offering entertainment areas, restaurants, outdoor spaces and health services.
In response to media enthusiasm, a representative of Walmart clarified to the Arkansas Gazette that the project was only in the exploratory stages and that the images on the website were meant to demonstrate possibilities, not plans.
Around that time there was, however, news of retail-anchored, walkable suburban developments cropping up in Arizona, Florida, Massachusetts and Texas.
Demand for such mixed-use suburban areas could accelerate with trends in homeownership. A study from Zillow found that since July 2021, suburbs have been growing faster than cities, GlobeSt. reported.
Even within cities commonly thought of as walkable, planners are considering changes to reduce reliance on cars.
A new plan backed by New York City mayor Eric Adams means to reduce the use of street space in NYC that is taken up by cars by 25 percent, according to Electrek. The initiative comes after COVID-19 forced the city to open up a significant portion of the city’s street to pedestrian use, which demonstrated how such a concept could work in the long term.
- Car-free community in Tempe leases final retail space – ABC 15
- Culdesac – About
- Walmart reimagines its big boxes as town centers – RetailWire
- Walmart damps buzz over pitch for stores as ‘town centers’ – Arkansas Democrat Gazette
- NYC wants to take 25% of its street space away from cars in favor of a walkable/bikeable city – Electrek
- Will retail be woven into the fabric of the new walkable suburb? – RetailWire
- Homebuyers’ Flight to the Suburbs Leads to Valuation Spike – GlobeSt.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see communities like Culdesac, with residential space built alongside retail space, becoming more common in suburban areas that have traditionally been built with cars in mind? Should retailers plan on revamping or tailoring concepts for walkable communities like Culdesac, and how?