The Church Avenue Business Improvement District (BID) has retained Pratt Center to conduct a retail market study and needs assessment, with the goal of making sure the already successful retail strip -- the shopping hub of Flatbush -- better serves a neighborhood where the poor and middle class live side by side.
The study, surveying the strip from Coney Island Avenue to Flatbush Avenue, will look at what shoppers and residents are buying on Church Avenue and also what they are buying elsewhere. The study will also examine Church Avenue's mix of retail and the quality of goods of and services offered. In addition, using a survey developed in partnership with Pratt Center, the BID will ask merchants what challenges they face in striving to operate successful businesses on Church Avenue.
Residents' needs will be assessed through demographic analysis, information about the customer base and offerings of competing shopping districts, and extensive community outreach efforts. With Pratt Center's help, the BID will survey local shoppers and residents about where they shop, what they buy, what they like about Church Avenue and what they think is missing or could be improved upon. Local store owners will also take surveys about what they sell, what difficulties they face as merchants and what physical improvements they'd like to see along the retail corridor.
Through this investigation, Pratt Center expects to help the BID get answers to important questions. Does the selection of goods on Church Avenue meet neighborhood needs; are there too many or too few of certain types of retailers? Is the quality of grocery items and other goods sufficient? Can the addition of amenities, such as benches and sit-down restaurants, improve shoppers' experience? Can a strip of vacant storefronts be put to good use?
Also working on the project is Michael Berne of MJB Consulting, one of the nation's foremost experts in promoting diverse inner-city retail. Berne will be sizing up the data on the area's retail potential, including information on shoppers' incomes and buying habits; which other shopping districts currently compete with Church Avenue for business; and unmet needs in the area. Berne is based in New York City and has a special connection to Flatbush: his father grew up there and attended Erasmus Hall High School. "The area has obviously changed a lot since his time," says Berne, "but I plan on re-introducing him to the fascinating neighborhood that his 'old stomping grounds' has become."
At Pratt Center, the project is headed by Director of Planning and Preservation Vicki Weiner. "Church Avenue is an important shopping area for the Flatbush community," says Weiner. "We're very pleased to have this opportunity to help the BID develop strategies to ensure it meets the neighborhood's needs."