People have been scratching their heads for years wondering why North Trail doesn’t seem to work any better than it does. After four decades of scratching my own head, here’s what I have come up with.
1) Not a Whole Market. Relatively few people live west of the Trail so most of the potential shopper-shed to the west is in Sarasota Bay. This limits the extent to which surrounding neighborhoods can support 41 businesses.
2) Narrow Lots. Many of the Trail fronting lots are extremely shallow, limiting what can be done with them. This creates pressure to intrude into adjoining neighborhoods with predictable pushback.
3) Commuters. Several well-known franchises (7-11, Pizza Hut, KFC) have folded along North Trail, which suggests to me that many of the people using the highway are not interested in stopping for a retail experience – they are headed somewhere.
4) North Trail does not run North. We assume it does, but it doesn’t. This leads to the façade of many buildings being oriented north-south, when they should be parallel with the curb. As a result the N-S buildings signal their disinterest in the motoring public. This is solvable, but will take redevelopment with rules.
5) Motel Legacy. Many of North Trail’s historic motels are gone. Of those that remain, some are well run and upstanding while others get by on clientele that create both crime and an image problem.
6) Hookers. We need to challenge the assumption that if we “re-brand” the North Trail with a catchy new moniker or some banners, the hookers will disappear. The encouraging sign is neighbor interest in taking back the Trail by walking and creating subtle pressure for illegal activity to re-locate. Hookers go first, and then we get a new image, not vice versa.
7) Capacity. No one knows what will happen to concurrency, but there is a risk the sites with greatest potential – (the corners and larger parcels) -- will be redeveloped leaving the problematic shuttered or limping sites to fester. We need a redevelopment strategy that incentivizes redevelopment of the worst sites, not the best.