GOOD Ideas for Cities: Encouraging Small Businesses

Vacant storefronts keep a healthy block from feeling complete. How to bring small, local business activity to these under-utilized commercial spaces?


Even the most vibrant neighborhoods haven't emerged unscathed by the recession. Small commercial districts have suffered a loss of small businesses, and with them come vacant storefronts, which not only become targets for vandalism, but also keep a healthy block from feeling complete. As part of GOOD Ideas for Cities Dallas, the Elmwood Neighborhood Revitalization team tackled the challenge of bringing small, local business activity to these under-utilized commercial spaces in the community of Elmwood, in Dallas. After conducting research in the neighborhood, the team realized that myriad issues—from absentee owners to a lack of identity—contributed to the high vacancy rate, but the one way they could quickly improve the area was to increase the vibrancy on the street with unique, affordable-to-execute experiences.

Since graffiti cropped up naturally on these empty storefronts, the team proposed erecting large graffiti galleries throughout the neighborhood, giving local artists a place for self-expression, and turning the neighborhood into a street art destination. The team also proposed partnering local businesses with larger, national businesses to create pop-up and street-fair experiences with temporary retail. Finally, a series of pocket parks could help fill the gaps left by vacant properties and bring that sense of neighborhood pride that Elmwood needs.

Challenge: The neighborhood around Edgefield and Ferndale in Oak Cliff is a medium-sized, auto-based commercial district surrounded by single-family neighborhoods. The neighborhoods appear to be stable and well-maintained, but the commercial center includes many small, vacant spaces. How do improve use of this under-used commercial space?

Office of Economic Development, City of Dallas: Daniel Oney

Elmwood Neighborhood Revitalization: Mark Lea,Whitney Holden, Krystyna Morgan, Justin Tiros

Video by Madison Liane

GOOD Ideas for Cities pairs creative problem-solvers with real urban challenges proposed by civic leaders. To learn more visit Watch more videos of recent GOOD Ideas for Cities events, and if you'd like to talk about bringing the program to your city or school, email alissa[at]goodinc[dot]com or follow us at @IdeasforCities

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