Corner Market Reality or Myth?

I love the idea of walking from my front door to pick up a homemade deli sandwich and some local veggies. But the reality is corner markets in older neighborhoods around town offer lottery tickets, cheap alcohol and phone cards. So why does Santa Rosa think higher residential density housing located in the downtown core near mass transit will someday support this?

San Francisco has these markets. The Haight, North Beach, Marina, Cow Hollow, Castro are examples of neighborhoods with small corner markets that have endured. These merchants have to make money to survive, and to make that money, they have to price their merchandise at levels higher than large chain stores. The major ingredients to the success of the San Francisco corner markets are lots of people with a high level of discretionary spending in close proximity.

However, in Santa Rosa the recent closing of the Sky Hawk Village Market located within an upper middle class sub-division along State Hwy 12 is a set back for the “corner market” concept. The cold hard facts are that Santa Rosa will have to increase residential density way beyond the current sub-division levels to support strong corner markets. Manhattan has more than 27,000 people living in a square mile, San Francisco more than 15,000 and Santa Rosa less than 4,000.

Future mixed-use building in Santa Rosa will need to have ground floor retail spaces that are as small as 800 sq ft. Large spaces equal large leases, which can keep many operators from even thinking about opening up in downtown areas.

And finally, Santa Rosa must be aware of the mix of residential income levels that will surround these small stores. A corner market without customers will close sooner than later. Requiring the developers to provide for neighborhood-serving retail without providing the framework to support the merchant will ultimately prove to be bad planning.

Comments (1)


  1. Sisyphus says:

    Well said, sir, and hopefully as this city begins to embrace higher densities, they will develop policies to encourage the development of infrastructure to accommodate small retailers, especially grocers, to support microcommunities (in the proximity sense, not the population sense).

Leave a Reply