Several posts ago, I wrote about the building pictured below, which clearly was built as a commercial structure, but has since become run down and seemingly abandon.
My assumption was that while the reasons for the building’s dilapidation were complex, the issue was essentially one of demand. Or, I figured that the community simply couldn’t support a corner store like this one.
But in the time since I wrote that post I’ve learned a little bit more — via the comments on the original post and in various other conversations — and it seems that the issue is even more complex than I originally suspected. Sadly, some have suggested zoning and neighborhood advocacy is actually what drove this building to its sad state.
Why members of the community would prefer a little sliver of blight to a vibrant corner shop I will never know. But as ineffably disappointing as that may be, the flip side is that the neighborhood may actually already be dense enough to support a store at this location — if it did once when the neighborhood was even less dense, why not now? In other words, the mistakes of the past could theoretically be corrected without a generation of neighborhood infill and population growth.
I’m extremely interested in this particular location for two reasons. First, it’s in my neighborhood so I have a personal stake in what happens. But much more importantly, this location seems to represent the struggle of neighborhood stores generally. Issues of demand, zoning, and planning have all combined to make this location what it is. The same could be said for similar sites in many places, so it consequently stands to reason that a better understanding of this location will lead to a better understanding of neighborhood stores generally.
To that end, I hope to write several posts exploring different factors that have influenced this building’s fate. It may take a while to unpack the issue, but for now I’ll start with basic zoning. According to this zoning map, the store lies within an area zoned as part of a “Residential Conservation Zone.” The map describes that type of zone as
“A zone to encourage conservation of existing housing by limiting the use of a given lot or parcel to the legal use existing. Project redevelopment is encouraged through the use of the PRO zone.”
Of course the situation is more complex than that, and the description doesn’t really tell us much. But for now at least, it provides a launching point for an exploration into why this neighborhood shop, as well as others, have failed.