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Getting Down To Business

By Dave Zornow

Nyack’s businesses, which feel the village has neglected their pleas for more parking, better signage and an improved streetscape, heard a pitch last week about how they can control their own destiny and improve downtown Nyack.

Consultants Larisa Ortiz and Joe Getz spoke to Nyack’s Chamber of Commerce about the merits of creating a Nyack Business Improvement District (BID).

“At a shopping center, someone has the job of worrying about the retail mix,’€ says business consultant Joe Getz. “The right mix is key to luring customers to a shopping area and providing a positive experience to keep them coming back.” Getz says the average shopping mall shopper visits 3.3 stores per visit but in a downtown, it’s closer to 1.1.

‘€œAbout 30 percent of the shopping experience happens outside the store, shaped by customers’ perception of parking, the cleanliness of the streets and attractiveness of the storefronts,” says Larisa Ortiz, a specialist in urban commercial district revitalization who presented with Getz at the October 12 Chamber of Commerce meeting. Ortiz says successful business districts do three things well: get people to visit, encourage them to stay longer and provide a good experience which makes them come back to shop again.

Ortiz and Getz consult with communities about setting up Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), special neighborhoods where landlords pay an additional tax which goes to a neighborhood business association. If a BID is approved by Nyack’s business community, the village would collect a tax from property owners and turn the revenue over to a new business association to work on issues like sidewalk maintenance, security and signage as well as parking and marketing.

A business improvement district can set marketing goals, formulate strategies and execute programs on behalf of Nyack’s downtown store owners. But before a plan can be formulated, Ortiz and Getz say a comprehensive analysis needs to be conducted among shoppers. An economic analysis follows next to determine which types of businesses will prosper. The consultants say the combined insights from both research studies are critical to creating a retail mix that increases a downtown’s regional pull and shopping frequency. ‘€œWe can then help catalog the opportunities that exist and then help pitch those opportunities to new businesses,’€ says Ortiz.

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The study can also help current businesses thrive and expand. ‘€œBusinesses that fail often haven’t done their market research,’€ says Ortiz. ‘€œThey may have started on a whim by someone who hasn’t done their due diligence to determine if there are enough customers to be successful.’€ Ortiz says the shopper survey and economic information is useful to both existing businesses and new ventures, too.

Skeptical Nyack merchants say ‘€œNyack is the village of studies’€ and its shortcomings have been studied over and over without any significant action. ‘€œThe problem with the Parking Study, the Comprehensive Plan and the SuperBlock Study is that each one has been cherry-picked for the revenue ideas and not implemented in its entirety to assure success,’€ says Nyack Chamber President Carlo Pellegrini. Gina Cambre, owner of Nyack’s Casa del Sol restaurant agrees. ‘€œThe difference between this proposed study and earlier work is that even a comprehensive study such as BFJ’s Parking Study didn’t make a full blown analysis of the surrounding area,’€ she says. Cambre, who is also a vice president of the Nyack Chamber of Commerce, says the shopper survey and economic analysis can identify areas of great, possibly missed opportunities.

Ortiz and Getz say a study of this type ranges from $35,000-190,000. A community the size of Nyack should expect to pay around $50,000.

‘€œI think that the approach of taking control of the random, market-driven process and establishing some semblance of planning and marketing is a good approach,’€ says Scott Baird, a broker with Rand Commercial services and a Nyack Chamber Board member. ‘€œWe are competing against the Palisades Mall- which has a full time staff that studies the market to make sure the right retail mix to attract shoppers gets implemented. It’s no wonder small downtowns with no central management cannot compete.’€

Nyack’s Chamber of Commerce has requested a proposal from Ortiz and Getz as the next step in the process.

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