The recent closure of the downtown Macy's might have seemed the death knell for shopping in Houston's urban core, but even on the eve of the store's last sale, survey results were released that painted a different picture of downtown retail.
Word came from the downtown Retail Task Force — an entity created by Mayor Annise Parker in cooperation with the Houston Downtown Management District following Macy's closure announcement — that Houston could absorb a good deal of retail space downtown.
"With a shopping trade area of more than 74,000 residents within a 2-mile radius of the urban core and recent supporting retail studies, the Retail Task Force strongly believes that downtown can absorb at least another 350,000 square feet of retail, especially now with Macy's closing," said task force chair Fred Griffin of Griffin Partners in a statement.
"The Retail Task Force strongly believes that downtown can absorb at least another 350,000 square feet of retail."
To put it in perspective, that number is less than half the footprint of the historic 788,000 square foot store.
"In addition to the strong residential trade area, downtown also has an office population of 140,000 and more than 18 million visitors annually to sustain shopping — the key is the right stores in the right locations," Griffin continued.
These findings come from a 20-question survey released in January to gauge the shopping habits of downtown residents and office employees. Overall, out of 1,776 respondents, more than half currently shop downtown more than once a month and 94.5 percent answered that they would "definitely shop downtown if the right merchandise was offered and if the stores were in the right location with appropriate shopping hours."
The task force is specifically looking at the viability and feasibility of developing in the "Retail Core," identified as Main Street and Dallas Street and adjacent streets Lamar, McKinney, Milam and Travis.
Over the next phase of work, the task force will engage stakeholders about parking, improved pedestrian and building lighting and other street-level concerns; discuss potential locations with national retailers and expand contact with both local and national prospective retailers; develop coordinated retail leasing strategies; and look at ways that the tunnel system can better engage with street level retail.