Buildings that interact with the pedestrian at street level, inside and out, are a key ingredient for any retail friendly downtown.
With this in mind, there should be active ground floor uses that create valuable experiences along a street for both pedestrians and motorists. For example, a row of shops along a street is generally more interesting, comfortable and engaging to walk by than a solid wall or surface parking. Sidewalk activity also serves as a tool to reduce vehicular speeds through the core. At the very minimum, street level spaces should be engaging visually, allowing passers-by to enjoy the activity and aesthetics of the indoor space. This active interaction should take place year-round and unite both sides of the street on weekdays, nights and weekends.
Despite the grim view many have of downtown’s retail scene, one may find it surprising to learn that there are a number of businesses in the heart of the city already in operation that can not be seen from the street. Not only is this situation financially limiting for local business owners, it also serves as a major contributing factor to the empty feeling of downtown’s streetscape.