The Greater Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce (GRCC) spent much of 2015 establishing itself and beginning to provide services to its business membership. We took an in depth look at Ravenswood’s barriers and opportunities to creating a vibrant business climate. By the end of the year, the GRCC developed a variety of long-term programs to initiate and policies to advocate for in that would help to promote retail attraction.
Vacant Space Database
GRCC will market vacant spaces in the community through a vacant space database. In order to help prospective businesses find available space, the GRCC website will have a regularly updated list of vacant properties.
The database will contain basic information on rent per square foot, square footage of the space, any specific features on the space that are appropriate for a specific business type (eg, a full kitchen) and contact information for the property owner or broker handling the property. It will also have suggestions for possible co-tenancy based on neighboring businesses on the block.
This database will allow for collaboration with landlords, commercial brokers that operate in the area and the GRCC. This collaboration will allow us to stay current on available properties and assist in attracting businesses to vacant storefronts. The GRCC also collects data on properties in the area that could be used for future strategy development for Ravenswood.
Activating Vacant Storefronts
Vacant storefronts can often break up the momentum that some retail strips have. These vacancies do this by making the retail strip look less desirable and by creating large breaks between businesses, which can disrupt regular foot traffic. In order to activate these inactive storefronts, the GRCC encourages signage in these windows in order to active these spaces.
The GRCC aims to partner with property owners in order to active these vacant spaces. With the Ravenswood Community Council’s strong relationship with local artists, a natural synergy exists to display local art in vacant storefronts. In addition to art, these storefronts could also function as “storefront billboards” by allowing GRCC member businesses to rent out the windows to advertise their businesses. The GRCC aims to rent space in these storefronts for large posters as part of a branding campaign for the community.
By activating these inactive storefronts, the retail corridors will help make the neighborhood more inviting to pedestrians, which can help with foot traffic into existing businesses. It also helps the corridor and the vacant storefronts look desirable to prospective business owners.
GRCC Recruitment Material
In addition to promotional material for the Ravenswood neighborhood for consumers, promotional materials will be designed for prospective businesses. Business-oriented promotional materials will brand the neighborhood on its market potential. These materials will provide a prospective business with basic information including household income, consumer spending habits, leakage and surplus analysis and other relevant data. It will also provide a prospective business with information on Ravenswood’s history, annual neighborhood events and a brief description of each commercial corridor.
These materials will be available at the GRCC office in the form of a brochure. A digital brochure will also be available on our website.
Strong Relationship with Commercial Brokers
The GRCC will reach out to commercial brokers that operate in the area and build a working relationship with them. Since brokers are on the front lines of finding appropriate space for prospective businesses, finding out what makes Ravenswood strategic and what may be a barrier from their perspective would help guide the chamber’s activities in order to develop mid to long-term strategic planning for Ravenswood. It will also be helpful to invite commercial brokers into an advisory capacity for the business roundtable.