Rea & Parker Research

Many of our formerly important community and neighborhood economic clusters have fallen into varying degrees of economic disrepair and despair during the course of the past 50 years.  There is finally some attention being paid to this misfortune as the absence of the economic, sociological, and psychological benefits of vibrant neighborhood commercial nodes is being felt.

In response to this realization, economic development and revitalization have emerged as increasingly important objectives of community based urban planning.  Unfortunately, the craving in our society for models has seen one community after another following some sort of “boilerplate” attempt at solving what has been 50 years in the making.

Commercial revitalization defies blanket approaches.  Each area is different--each area’s causes of decline differs from every other one at least to some extent--the demography and socio-economic make-up of each area can be expected to differ significantly also.  No attempted solution will work without a deep and rich understanding of these localized factors.

Economic development planning can be thought as a program, group of policies, or activity that seeks to improve the economic well-being and quality of life for a community by creating and/or retaining jobs and economic activity that facilitate growth and provide a stable tax base.

The focus on a program and the improvement of the economic well-being are two critical aspects to this definition that warrant emphasis. As a program, the definition mandates that the activities of the organization be planned rather than reactive. Time has shown that those economic development programs that are successful operate from a planned rather than reactive perspective. This premise about working from a planned basis has been proven true over time.

Also notable in this definition is the concept that economic well-being can be impacted. A program focused on improving the overall economic health of the community usually has the greatest return on economic development dollars invested. Economic development’s primary output is the improvement of societal wealth.

Measuring societal wealth is where the task becomes difficult. In the areas that can be quantified (for example, jobs, tax base, and tax revenues) the metrics are quite easy to analyze and understand. In other areas, such as quality of life, the metrics are less easily read and not universally supported. Possibly the most difficult of these “quality of life” metrics is environmental stewardship. Well planned development strategies are most often successful in protecting or enhancing the environment, thereby creating a win/win scenario for the greatest number of participants.  This is particularly so for the properties that are the subjects of this study.
In development economics, the term economic development denotes sustainable increases in the standard of living, brought about by a structural or technological change.  Wealth and income creation, trade area capture, value added opportunities, improvement in physical and technical infrastructure for business are all part of basic economic development.  Further, to an increasing degree, economic development is finding itself involved in the social infrastructure of the community: Education, healthcare, quality of life, recreation and a whole host of community specific needs are now to be assessed. 

Economic development is at the core of Smart Growth, in which:

  • All planning should be in the form of complete and integrated communities containing housing, shops, work places, schools, parks, and civic facilities essential to the daily life of the residents.
  • Community size should be designed so that housing, jobs, daily needs, and other activities are within easy walking distance of each other. As many activities as possible should be located within easy walking distance of transit stops.
  • A community should contain a diversity of housing types to enable citizens in a wide range of economic levels and age groups to live within its boundaries.
  • Businesses within the community should provide a range of job types for the community residents.

  • There are some overriding guidelines or principles that must be addressed in any economic development project so that a “tipping point” of sustainable success can be attained, and these guidelines, therefore, inform the structure of the research:

    CENTRAL FOCUS:  Commercial revitalization should establish an identifiable central place which can be readily connected by consumers to the area.  This central focus must be unique and consistent with the character and market potential of the area.  This guideline has given rise to thematically focused retail concentrations such as ethnic commercial enclaves, historic restoration areas, and entertainment oriented retail, among others.
    PHYSICAL CONCENTRATION OF ACTIVITIES:  To maximize the market potential of the area, people must be kept out of their cars; hence, the area must be conducive to walking between economic activities.  You want to make the area as compact and walkable as possible, with a minimum of pedestrian/motor vehicle interaction.  In other words, a condensed physical layout and efficient use of space are critical.
    DIVERSITY OF ATTRACTIONS:  Inasmuch as the primary purpose of any retail concentration should be to attract as many people as possible and to keep them interested and, hence, there as long as possible, a revitalization project must develop a variety of reasons for people to come and to stay.
    APPEALING IMAGE:  The commercial area, of course, must be a pleasant place to be, with an image of safety, livability, and enjoyment.

    In this regard, Rea & Parker Research offers the following analytical and planning-related services:

    FISCAL IMPACT:  With regard to fiscal impact analyses, Rea & Parker Research is among the most prominent firms to be engaged in such work.  Fiscal Impact analyses focus upon the effects of some project or policy upon the subject jurisdiction(s) public revenues and expenditures. 
    SOCIO-ECONOMIC ANALYSES:  Socio-economic and straight economic analyses differ from fiscal impact analyses in that the emphasis moves from public funds to the general economic and social well-being of the community under study. 
    MARKET ANALYSES:  As with economic analyses, market analyses are frequently a part of fiscal analyses in that demand for the project must be established in order to assess impacts upon public revenues and expenditures.  Rea & Parker Research has not only an economic development division but also a survey research and focus group division such that the entire research and economic component can be addressed in a unified, seamless process. 


    "A designer is an emerging synthesis of artist, inventor, mechanic, objective economist
    and evolutionary strategist."
    -- Buckminster Fuller
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