It's amazing what one can glean from a slow drive through a neighborhood. The urban geography of an area like East Austin says so much about the market by way of its housing stock, architectural trends, successful local businesses and failed ones, too. But what (or rather, who?) is a, "market"? And how does walking past Cisco's on East 6th tell you anything about it?
We talk about the market as if it's an individual, a monolithic persona capable of making big decisions of it's own free will. The reality is, a market is nothing more than the collective tastes and preferences of the people who participate within it. Given our unique backgrounds, cultural and familial values, financial restraints, and personal tastes, every population generates a collective demand for locally provided goods and services. Suppliers try their best to anticipate and satiate said demand, and the game is played out on the chess board that is our city streets.
What does this understanding of a market mean for developers? It attempts only to highlight the importance of demography. The demographic structure of an area is the direct driver of local businesses' success or failure. As a developer and landlord, demographic analysis is crucial to attracting and securing tenants that will be successful and, by extension, stable.
The City of Austin generates a plethora of demographic maps and information based on age, race, ethnicity, personal income, and even political party, all of which is open to the public. Unfortunately, most of this information is a result of data collected during the most recent national census (2010). In high-growth corridors like East Austin, people and businesses are moving fast, and any developer waiting until 2020 to analyze their market is doomed to fail.
Here is where an awareness of urban geography can be invaluable. Taking in the sights and sounds, the cultural and economic cues of an area, can be just as informative as any demographic data, no matter how recent. Where are people buying their groceries? Where are they banking? What type of food is the newest restaurant serving? What was the last place to go out of business? What architectural motifs are the newest developments donning? What genre of music is the local radio station playing? What services are being provided in the area? All of these phenomena are clues for the savvy developer, and just as much market insights as a demographic map of median income. They tell us something about who is inhabiting the space in question; the collective "who" that, by way of their individual choices, will decide the fate of every new development.
It's understandings like these that have helped Beck-Reit Commercial formulate our, "boots on the ground" approach to real estate. We spend our days out in the community because no information is more accurate than what's happening on the street in real-time. We hope that all of our clients find their inner geographer and take the time to appreciate a slow-drive down a side street. That being said, don't hesitate to ask one of our experts like V. Bruce Evans to help perform in-depth market and feasibility analyses on your latest project, or to contact the boss lady and East Austin Expert herself DeLea Becker to talk tenants and who might fit your development best.