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Why Don't Real Estate Developers Just Ask Us What We Want?

One Washington builder asked neighbors what kind of store should fill an empty building. Is this the future of urban development?
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It’s not all that difficult to identify what kinds of new development a neighborhood needs. There’s no pharmacy, no grocer, no gas station for miles? These are pretty obvious missing pieces in a community. It’s much trickier, though, to identify what the people who live there want. A bagel shop? A vintage store? A vegan farm-to-table karaoke bar?

Real estate developers typically handle this question by not asking it at all. If you’ve got a hole in your neighborhood, a street frontage of a certain size on the vacant ground floor of a certain kind of building, you’re probably getting a Starbucks. That’s the safe bet that can shoulder the highest rent, regardless of whether or not it’s also the business that locals really want.