A national expert who was hired by the city to analyze Nob Hill’s struggling retail scene has suggested what some might expect — Nob Hill needs a better restaurant to retail balance. It also could use better parking, cleaner public spaces and move inviting landscaping.
The city recently hired Robert Gibbs of Gibbs Planning Group to help officials better understand national retail trends. Several Nob Hill retailers have closed in recent years, while restaurants and bars have generally gained footing.
Gibbs walked the Nob Hill commercial district and met with property owners, city staff, retailers and restaurant owners last month. His observations and recommendations, outlined in a city memo, point out that Nob Hill’s central location, historic character, active business community and proximity to employment centers and neighborhood associations are some of its strengths.
But he expressed concern with the amount of retail spaces being converted to restaurants and bars — further causing Nob Hill’s retail and restaurant mix to be out of proportion. A separate synopsis outlined by Nob Hill Main Street highlights the imbalance, too. Gibbs said Nob Hill should strive for a 40 percent restaurant/bar and 60 percent retail mix. He thinks the hiring of a retail recruiter to attract national stores to the area is a good idea.
“[Nob Hill] will continue to move unsustainably towards bars and restaurants, with associated congestion and declining property value, unless a concerted effort is undertaken to develop for retail success,” said the Nob Hill Main Street synopsis.
And more retail stores could help alleviate Nob Hill’s parking situation, Gibbs said, as eating and drinking businesses require more parking for their customers and employees.
Gibbs had several other suggestions to alleviate Nob Hill’s parking woes. He said some cities have replaced clustered parking meters, which can be confusing to use, with meters for each space. And those meters should run until 9 or 10 p.m. to account for Nob Hill’s dinner crowd. He said the city should look into creating a parking district where revenues can be reinvested back into the community, find or build a public parking lot, offer free parking on Sundays and be consistent but fair with parking enforcement. A parking district was recently proposed for the Downtown corridor by developer David Silverman, who thinks it would work in other parts of the city too.
Gibbs thinks the city could do a better job at keeping Nob Hill clean. He said he noticed trash, outdated signs, graffiti and half-torn posters along Central Avenue. The memo states a business improvement district [BID] could be created to help fund clean-up. Nob Hill Main Street is in the midst of drumming up support among property owners for a BID.
“Test one block in Nob Hill: Keep it clean and maintain vibrant landscaping for three months. If this pilot test improves business on the block, consider expanding down the corridor,” the memo states.
Gibbs said the city could also make the area more attractive to visitors by slowing down traffic along Central Avenue, installing more street lighting, widening the sidewalks and adding colorful landscaping.
City staff and Nob Hill Main Street are scheduled to give a presentation on Gibbs’ findings to the Albuquerque City Council on June 22.
By: Stephanie Guzman (Albuquerque Business First)
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