The City finalized the Trenton Citywide Economic Market Study in 2015, which provides a valuable tool to the City for making strategic decisions regarding the investment of resources that will improve economic development. According to the Market Study, Trenton’s downtown retail market exhibits significant gaps in retail opportunity due to both market conditions and negative perceptions of Trenton. As a result, shoppers either don’t seek amenities in the city or are forced to go outside the city due to market limitations. However, this gap creates a variety of immediate retail opportunities for downtown Trenton, including retailers who provide service in the categories of food and beverage (grocers and convenience stores) and general merchandise.
This initiative is aimed at capitalizing on the retail opportunities that exist in Downtown Trenton to fulfill the goal of creating a vibrant downtown commercial district while filling vacant commercial space. Immediate downtown retail opportunities include grocers, convenience stores, personal services, and general merchandise stores. Opportunities for new niche retailers and restaurants will increase as downtown visitation, arts and culture, and residential activity increases as well.
To ensure that the goal of vibrant retail areas is satisfied, and a retail expansion strategy throughout Trenton is successful, it will be important for the City to provide assistance to new and existing business owners and empower them with the resources necessary to start and sustain their businesses. Moreover, the City should create a retail space inventory that identifies all vacant ground-floor properties throughout the downtown area. This database can provide prospective business owners with a one-stop shop for identifying new spaces. If the City partners with a retail recruitment firm or commercial broker to identify and contact appropriate retailers for downtown Trenton, the City and its partners can effectively play matchmaker between businesses and property owners. A pop-up storefront program may provide opportunities to new businesses interested in opening downtown but hesitant to fully invest.
The City should also seek to capture economic impact from residents, workers, event goers, and arts and culture tourists by developing a signature retail and restaurants program. This cluster must be driven by the assessed desires of the community, must be of high quality in terms of both product and service, and must be unique (or near unique) to the city to assist with the placemaking and niche branding that comes with signature clusters. A downtown restaurant fund could strengthen such an effort. Nonetheless, the City should be cognizant of the current issues facing downtown: without more residents living in the area, retail and restaurants will continue to struggle. As such, the City must coordinate this effort with the Expand Downtown Market-Rate Housing Initiative.
Overall, the growth and expansion of downtown retail will provide services to residents, workers, and visitors, while creating new business and job opportunities for residents. This initiative should involve coordinating efforts with the Trenton Downtown Association and Greater Trenton.