Deactivating storefronts

Retail clothing becomes retail banking

This morning at Design Review Committee, approval was given for new awnings and signage at the historic Massey Building (corner Third Avenue North and Richard Arrington Blvd., ab0ve) for a new bank branch for Iberia Bank. While filling a vacant corner storefront is generally good, a bank branch is a lesser replacement for Remon’s, the longtime upscale men’s clothier. After decades downtown, Remon’s expanded to the suburban Summit shopping center a couple years ago and then quietly closed the downtown location shortly thereafter. The bank is lesser because the clothing store had regularly changing, high quality shop window displays. Lesser because good retail is few and far between downtown, while bank branches are ubiquitous. Lesser because, despite the decent new awnings and signage, this intersection loses a local business that made it feel special.

The gates are now closed

A similar situation has occurred across 3rd Avenue at the historic Title Building (above): a longtime coffee shop closed, and was replaced by a short-lived O’Carr’s restaurant franchise. When the restaurant closed, the place was converted into ordinary office space, signage was removed, blinds were drawn, and another hub of activity was eliminated from the intersection.

…and another bank branch

Speaking of ubiquitous, on the SE corner of the intersection we already have another bank:  First Commercial Bank‘s branch (above). The remaining corner is taken up by a large entrance lobby for the Concord Center which–while housing some of the best “lobby art” visible from a downtown street–is still an office building lobby. With the architectural prominence of the buildings on this intersection, and their massing which helps define the north-south corridor of Richard Arrington, it’s sad there are now no ground floor uses which engage the public in a more meaningful way. We have recently discussed how Mobile has a program to encourage retailers to come downtown; the state of this intersection illustrates how much our city needs one too.

Perhaps a new lease on life, yet again

Finally, now that the old “Ready in 2012” signage has come down from the much-anticipated, much-delayed Pizitz Building development, a smaller “Now Leasing” sign has appeared (above). We suspect this heralds a serious new effort by the developer to make this project happen, albeit perhaps in a different form than previously announced. Definitely stay tuned.

10 responses to “Deactivating storefronts

  1. You’re right, it’s damned depressing. But Lo!– upper Second is making up for it, so maybe enterprise and liveliness will work themselves down from there instead of up from 20th Street.


    • Maybe someone will start something moving at the other end (18th St.) of 2nd Ave. N. and work toward 20th St. I actually here a rumor that this may be happening 🙂

  2. Well, it is a shame to see more retailers leaving downtown or just closing shop. But I must say I am used to this. As for the Pizitz building, it is clear that Byer Prop. has no idea what they are doing in a downtown environment.

    • On the one hand, Bayer has admitted this is a new realm for them, and it’s indeed a learning process for them. On the other hand, at least they are a well-respected, stable company with staying power: they can afford to keep working at it until they pull it off. At least that’s our hope! Thanks.

  3. A retail strategy needs to be tailored to resources, market, etc. It seems to have been mostly wishful-thinking or passive waiting by the city on this. Ought to bring in someone like Robert J. Gibbs whose new book Urban Retail Planning & Development is the best overall assessment on the field. Needs to be well-planned, concentrated, targeted and pro-active. Second Ave. does show it can be done.

  4. Sometimes I wish the development of 2nd Ave was closer to the theatre district. If there’s a spot that draws in tourists, it’s the Alabama Theater and the McWane Center. While it’s easy for me to look past the blight surrounding that area, it’s a lot harder for someone out of town to do the same. Even thought these are banks moving into this corner of 3rd Ave, maybe the rest of the street will see some residual effects from what will hopefully be increased foot traffic.

    • With some strategic effort, the link between the Theatre District and 2nd Avenue could be made. It would not be an unpleasant walk with the addition of just a half-dozen new businesses lining the streets in-between. There’s a group currently working on the Theatre District–streetscape improvements, etc.–which bodes well. Thanks.

      • Did you see the news that Whole Foods is looking to greatly increase their number of stores, including smaller-size locations in food deserts? Might be something worth going after.

      • Yes–Whole Foods’ new store in midtown Detroit may not be part of this exact initiative, but is an example of committing to an “atypical” neighborhood. Thanks.

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