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Part One: Alexandria Downtown Development Report March 17, 2006 Summary: Current national development trends indicate a renewed interest in existing downtown infrastructure. In order to understand the reasons for this development, it is important to trace the evolution of downtown market trends. Before the birth of the shopping mall concept in the late 1970s, retail in most American cities was located in downtowns. Of course, the shopping mall dramatically changed the ways in which retail developed, and throughout the 1980s and 1990s, retail moved out of downtowns and into or nearby shopping malls. Today, we are witnessing a slow reversal of this trend. Malls have depreciated in value and quality, and retailers have rediscovered the benefits of stand-alone locations. Shopping malls are being replaced by “lifestyle centers,” essentially strip malls that are anchored by large retailers like Best Buy or Barnes and Noble Booksellers. These lifestyle centers, however, are not necessarily locating in downtowns, and it seems evident that in order for downtowns to revitalize, it is important to reevaluate the overall concept of the downtown economy. Case Study: Houston Old Main Street During early part of the 21st century, Houston, Texas dedicated an enormous amount of resources toward a downtown revitalization effort. Houston focused the bulk of its energy on approximately four city blocks on Old Main Street. Rather than attempt to involve major retailers as anchor tenants of this project, Houston recognized that retailers preferred other areas of town, like the Galleria, and would not be inclined to make a risky investment in a depressed area of town, regardless of its prime location. Houston took the following steps to facilitate the revitalization of Old Main Street: It installed a light rail system, linking downtown with the Medical Center. It created incentives for developers seeking to convert buildings, like the Rice Hotel, into lofts and condominiums It encouraged professionals, like lawyers, doctors, and bankers, to locate their businesses on the first and second floors. In doing so, it attracted a plethora of restaurants, bars, and cafes, creating an all-new nightlife in downtown Houston.