Posted September 30th, 2013 in Blog by Rick Hill

granary-row-salt-lake-city-2-537x405How colorless urban districts are being revived by imaginative citizens.


I spend a lot of time looking at the underbelly and backside of cities instead of the preferred Chamber of Commerce photo ops. I find the more humble districts of a city, the ones somewhat frozen in time to be far more interesting.


These districts are often located between the showcase blocks of a downtown and the first ring of gentrified neighborhoods. Characterized by acres of underutilized parcels and aging and often functionally obsolete buildings, the “in-between zones” are the most intriguing. Even in their tattered state, the remnant zones of previous industrial, manufacturing, and segregation economies offer hope, promise and the greatest potential for economic development.


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Posted September 16th, 2013 in Blog by Rick Hill

Barefoot Landing -House of BluesBarefoot Landing, a lifestyle and entertainment shopping center, located in Myrtle Beach, SC, was sold in April to a subsidiary of Burroughs and Chapin for a reported $43 million.  The waterfront village, consisting of approximately 100+ shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues was developed by Sam Puglia.


In late 1987, Sam approached me to help him plan and lease a small specialty retail center he wanted to develop in North Myrtle Beach, SC.  I drove down to South Carolina from Charlotte, NC and was impressed by the natural beauty of the location, a 27 acre lake between tidal basins of the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway, and the sight of Boss Hog, a 14 foot alligator sunning himself on the lake’s shore.  At the time, I thought the market was too seasonal and declined the assignment.  Sam moved forward without me, and proved the wisdom of his vision and later convinced me to join him in subsequent phases. Continue Reading »

Posted September 13th, 2013 in Bardstown by Rick Hill


I recently hosted eight young couples who were visiting Bardstown from various places around the country.  They were employed in the financial, fashion, medical, legal, internet, and retail industries.  The average household income of the group was significant but not unlike many similar gatherings that occur throughout the town on a regular basis.


Over dinner the conversation turned to the upcoming bourbon festival, held annually in Bardstown each September attracting upwards of 50,000 people.   Interest was expressed in returning to Bardstown with friends, co-workers, and clients during the Bourbon Festival in subsequent years.  But, the prevailing question was: “where would we stay?” This was particularly relevant since this group had experienced their own problems finding acceptable accommodations in town.  Some settled for the last couple of rooms in a quality-for-the-money 3 star national chain, one roughed it in a B & B, and others ended-up on air mattresses on floors and flopping on the living room sofa rather than subjecting themselves to the remaining alternatives of “outdated, musty, worn-out, and transient shelters.” Continue Reading »

Posted September 7th, 2013 in Bardstown by Rick Hill

bikes (1)A small town’s downtown, especially one that relies on tourism and one that has been designated as a national historic district, like Bardstown can become static and lose its appeal.  Strict controls on storefront improvements can result in an adverse impact that results in a stagnated, aging, and dated marketplace.  Vital retail streets require change, innovation and the new to remain appealing to contemporary consumers.


One small suggestion:  Add a bike sharing and rental system in downtown Bardstown similar to the ones springing up across the U.S.  Such bike sharing programs consist of clusters of rental stations spread throughout a community.  A cluster may have 20 color fat tire bikes with baskets and GPS guidance systems.  They are used by locals for recreation, a quick ride to a local business, students traveling between home and schools, and visitors who want to explore town past the town’s short main street.  Bardstown’s flat and  grid pattern of streets, and close proximity of homes, schools, civic institutions, restaurants, and businesses create an ideal environment for such a program. Continue Reading »

Posted September 2nd, 2013 in Bardstown by Rick Hill

TransomThis morning on my daily walk through Bardstown’s downtown, in a two block area I counted 20 storefronts with canvas awnings.  Disturbingly, the awnings of 14 storefronts hid the original transoms above the show windows.  The transoms were covered with a variety of materials including aluminum siding, corrugated metal, and plywood.  Without the concealing awnings this portion of the storefronts, the ones on the showcase street in the most beautiful small town in America, would look like a commercial strip on the wrong end of town, in a depressed major urban city.


I’m not sure how this condition came about.  But, the awnings do their job in hiding one of the most beautiful attributes of the town’s most significant block including leaded-glass transoms and ornate copper cornices.  Obviously, at one point, the transoms were a major source of mercantile pride.  It is now sad to see the concealment of an attribute that would support the “most beautiful” designation in a national landmark district if the canvas veils were removed and the transoms were restored to their natural beauty.  Stewardship of a national treasure brings much responsibility and a commitment.  Hiding an attribute under a fake facade is something else.

Posted September 2nd, 2013 in Blog by Rick Hill

images (15)In the early 1950,s, in the face of a declining amusement park industry, Walt Disney conceptualized Disneyland based loosely on Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen Denmark, which had opened in 1843 as a public amusement garden themed around the stories of Hans Christian Anderson.  On July 17, 1955 Disneyland opened in Anaheim, with a formula of year round good weather, large parking areas, and easy highway access.  His blueprint included a traditional American main street with retail shops and concessions and themed lands with rides and shows borrowed from children fairy-tales and an overall sense of nostalgic community.


Disney’s underlying business model included two highly profitable strategies: feeding and housing guests and selling goods.  As Disney expanded and perfected its formula in Orlando, it became so efficient at moving, feeding, selling, housing people and telling stories, the company actually considered opening a visitor center, hotels and tours in at least one major U.S. city where the existing parks, museums and memorials would be the attraction. Continue Reading »