So, what can be done both large and small to increase customers locally.
There are three main sources for our customer base—1) residents, 2) workers in PA and 3) visitors.
One option recommended by our ED consultant and mentioned by council this month is to increase housing near DTN and Cal Ave.
Another option mentioned both by the ED consultant and a survey of Cal Ave merchants is to eliminate some of the constraints in filling our vacant spaces and encouraging new businesses. This could include several initiatives—1) allowing more service uses in vacant spaces, 2) rethinking our policies with regard to chain stores, store size limits and the retail preservation ordinance.
For my wife and myself what we need in our DTN neighborhood shopping area are everyday shopping venues and services. While I have no objection, we do not “need” shopping options that are more easily available at T&C and Stanford—both easily accessible to DTN residents. And spending on services on a growth sector and also not something done much if at all online.
We know that some shopping is done in neighboring cities because PA currently prevents those uses. Personally, the Whole Foods we use DTN is constantly reporting that they discontinue uses because the store is too small to make them viable (so we go the Los Alto store) and also difficulties being fully staffed.
If vacant spaces can be filled, this both provides more options for spending locally AND by itself brings more customers for nearby locations.
While this is not in our control, it is important to understand that Stanford activities are probably the most important source of visitor spending in PA and that includes hotels as well as dining and shopping. There are many types of visitors related to Stanford activities including —1) for sports activities, 2) the hospital, 3) to shop at the shopping center, 4) to see the campus, 5) parent activities and 6) related to the research park and 7) visits to non-academic activities on campus.
Better signage and “wayfaring” initiatives (like signs at parking garages as to how many and where there are parking places can help with people unfamiliar with Palo Alto.
Please share your thoughts.