Urban Development Succeeds Throughout Washington

The University envisions a vibrant urban town center in East Campus, and if a story in today’s Washington Post is an indication, this type of development will be wildly successful. Sales in urban retail neighborhoods top sales in enclosed malls and, as one senior fellow at the Urban Land Institute simply notes, “No one wants to go to a strip mall to hang out.”

While the success of properly-developed East Campus is not in doubt, the Post mentions an important caveat that to be kept in mind when envisioning an ideal East Campus:

To keep a neighborhood from turning into a shopping mall—or a carbon copy of another town—experts say developers should concentrate on retaining local character.

In a decidedly college town, students provide a commercial demand for the peculiar. Though a Japanese décor emporium, for instance, may not attract enough business to afford the rents of a place like Bethesda, students’ adventurous demand combined with some other provisions for independent, small business may make such a business viable.

Do you think a variety of local, quirky shops makes other college towns successful?