BIDding on Liberty

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

"BIDding" on Liberty

Vibrant retail corridors play a significant role in promoting economic growth ad enhancing the appeal of a neighborhood. Healthy commercial districts attract consumer dollars from local residents along with shoppers from other areas. In many urban settings, the downtown or business district is often a reflection of a neighborhood. Healthy commercial districts attract consumer dollars from local residents along with shoppers from other areas. In many urban settings, the downtown or business district is often a reflection of the neighborhood population and its quality of life. At times, acknowledging a retail corridor is the easiest way to identify the geographic location of a neighborhood.

Most Queens neighborhoods, including those that are primarily residential, contain some type of nearby business corridor. Some corridors thrive, while others underperform. Generally, all successful shopping districts have some, or all, of the following characteristics. They are clean and pedestrian-friendly; offer a heterogeneous mix of retail options, accessible by public transportation; and hold a broad reputation as a shopping destination beyond its local customer base.

The Liberty Avenue commercial corridor in Richmond Hill indeed possesses some of these vital characteristics. This commercial corridor along Liberty Avenue, stretching from Woodhaven Boulevard to the Van Wyck Expressway, is home to more than 700 businesses. While there is a concentration of ethnic businesses that cater to a dominant Indian and Indo-Caribbean community, there is a diverse mix of national franchises and small businesses in basically all retail categories that parallels the needs of the general population. The commercial vacancy rate along this corridor is at a commendable 6 percent, During these challenging economic times, any retail strip that has commercial vacancy rates in the single digits is considered to be performing at an ultimate level. While this corridor is doing relatively well, it has not achieved its full potential. Liberty Avenue is not yet branded as a major retail destination compared to Jamaica Avenue in Downtown Jamaica or Main Street in Flushing.

One noticeable difference between the corridors is that Liberty Avenue does not have the services of a Business Improvement District. A BID is a public/private partnership in which property and business owners choose to make a collective contribution to the maintenance, development and promotion of their commercial district through a moderate increase in assessment. The district management association uses those funds for a variety of commercial revitalization initiatives, including but not limited to additional sanitation services, streetscape enhancements, commercial vacancy reduction and district marketing.

Establishing a BID for the Liberty Avenue commercial corridor would be a great way to address the need for additional sanitation services. The strip maintains a stretch of dense commercial uses that draws thousands of consumers and passers-by on a daily basis. The corridor also is home to multiple bus and subway stops. Such bustling commercial activity demands enhanced services.

The most significant role that a BID might have for Liberty Avenue is the marketing of the district through special events and promotions. This is because while the district seems vibrant and flushed with shoppers, many of them are local residents and workers taking advantage of the great retail options available nearby. The district will not be able to maximize its full economic potential until it is able to attract dollars from tourists and residents from distant neighborhoods throughout the city. With close proximity to the newly opened Resort World Casino at the Aqueduct Racetrack, Liberty Avenue businesses now have the opportunity to capitalize on a broader market of consumers. The district needs to promote itself to a broader population and outside residents in order to brand itself as a regional commercial destination for people of all demographic backgrounds. Many people who do not live in the immediate vicinity of Southern Queens are not aware of what Liberty Avenue has to offer.

Queens Economic Development Corporation is providing assistance to the Richmond Hill Economic Development Council with support from the New York City Department of Small Business Services to garner support for the creation of a Liberty Avenue BID. With proper planning and cooperation from community stakeholders, this BID will put Liberty Avenue on the map. The BID will help businesses grow, attract new investments, create new jobs, and improve quality of life for businesses, residents and shoppers on Liberty Avenue.

posted by Ricardi Calixte - Director of Neighborhood Development, 
Queens Economic Development Corporation