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Urban regeneration, retail development and the role of information and communication technologies

Scientific outlook
Eunseong Jeong, Irene K. Shim et Mark I. Wilson
p. 133-146


Au centre de cet article, se trouve l’hypothèse forte que l’évolution de la doctrine urbanistique a conduit à de nouveaux paradigmes, tels celui de la régénération urbaine, édictant le principe de zones de croissance intelligente. Ce nouveau modèle implique le retour du commerce de détail dans les quartiers urbains concernés. La régénération urbaine a donc le vent en poupe non seulement du point de vue urbanistique mais aussi du point de vue économique. L’article aborde l’usage des TIC par le commerce de détail, un des principaux leviers de cette régénération urbaine. Il analyse de manière empirique les caractéristiques de l’emploi local à San-Francisco, Boston et New-York.

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1Technical improvements and human migration to cities have led to increasing urbanization. For instance, only 16 cities in the world contained a million population or more in the early 20th century; today, approximately 400 cities contain a million or more residents (Cohen, 2006; United Nations, 2004). Urbanization has produced both positive and negative consequences, which has prompted urban planners and scholars to propose plans and alternatives to solve urban problems and improve urban environments (Berke & Conroy, 2000; Corburn, 2003). One challenge facing many cities is their hollowing out, as suburbs and selected urban districts thrive while other areas face economic decline. Recently, many cities have focused on urban regeneration as a concept underlying their development strategies. These planning initiatives seem progressive rather than radical because a new planning concept tends to enhance the strengths of plans and eliminate weaknesses from previous plans.

2Progressive evolution of urban planning can be defined as ongoing regenerative processes in urban spaces through appreciating existing environments by pursuing new paradigms. Appreciation of old values in urban planning, as noted above, has made our planners and policy-makers respectful of old urban elements, such as shopping at small and local retailers. In this respect, many American cities have emphasized retail developments (Frisch & Servon, 2006; Halebsky, 2004; Nunn, 2001) to revitalize and regenerate their regions from the dramatic suburbanization in the United States since the 1950s.

3Suburban expansion has been criticized by many scholars (Baum-Snow, 2007; Massey & Denton, 1988; Mieszkowski & Mills, 1993; Rowley, 1980) for producing negative consequences such as metropolitan fragmentation, hollowing out, residential segregation, and deteriorated inner city. Because of these negative effects, scholars and practitioners have been evaluating better alternatives to improve socioeconomic and natural environments in urban areas. These endeavors have created diverse urban planning paradigms legally and administratively since the early years of the last century.

4Information and communication technology (ICT) has facilitated the assessment and planning of human environments; in particular, urban planning works are increasingly dependent on ICT like Geographic Information System, Internet-based communication, etc (Graham, 2002; Hanzl, 2007; Van der Meer & Van Winden, 2003). In reality, many planning proposals in the United States tend to include ICT as a tool to enhance human interaction and public relations, especially noticeable through the use of the web by retailers. Retail development has been recognized as a strategy to regenerate central cities by using ICT. Accordingly, the aim of this study is to provide a review of empirical studies on the retail development for regenerating American cities, in terms of urban regeneration, by location quotient (LQ) analysis in three American cities including San Francisco, Boston, and New York City.

The road to urban regeneration

5Respecting both existing and new values can let urban scholars and practitioners initiate a new urban planning paradigm such as urban regeneration. Generally, European countries have enjoyed utilizing the terms of urban regeneration (Adair, Berry, McGreal, Deddis, & Hirst, 2000; Couch & Dennemann, 2000; McCarthy, 1998; Orueta, 2007). In particular, British governments and scholars have initiated and developed the terms of urban regeneration with a focus on the revitalization of brownfields, docklands, and inner-cities (Howland, 2001; McCarthy & Pollock, 1997; Raco, 2003). The definition of urban regeneration, however, does not seem to justify what urban regeneration is clearly even though some have approached the definition. This debate is caused by totally different urban physical and socioeconomic environments in developed and developing countries.

6As mentioned above, American cities have experienced urban blight since the 1950s, and have actively made efforts to rehabilitate themselves through establishments of urban policies. Unlike European urban planners who utilize the term of urban regeneration, American planning practitioners little enjoyed utilizing the notion of urban regeneration into their planning concepts by the end of 20th century. Some American scholars pointed out urban issues by means of urban regeneration with the emphasis on relationship between physical and socioeconomic features in American urban areas (Cervero, 2006; Jonas & Mccarthy, 2009). They argue that urban regeneration in the United States tries to minimize the negative consequences from urban renewal development such as socioeconomic segregation, deconstruction of connectivity between neighborhoods, and revitalization of central business districts.

7Jacobs’ (1961) advocacy of human interaction from criticism of physical-oriented urban renewal development has reconfirmed that community-friendly planning makes cities viable, less crimes, and resilient (Manski, 2000; Sampson, 1999). Her notion of emphasis on human interaction is open to discussion, in terms of, what urban generation should be developed into better cities. The paper discusses earlier that previous Americans’ urban planning have tended to focus on physical and economic enhancements without considering of existing environments. Little attention has been given to respect socio-historical assets under redevelopment of urban spaces (Khakee & Strömberg, 1993; Listokin, Listokin, & Lahr, 1998); for instance, economic-oriented urban policies do not consider relocation of exiting residents. In addition, tourism planning disrespect the value of historic sites to develop more tourist-attracted places (Timothy, 1997).

8Biologically, regeneration means restoration of the original function from damage or loss. As to urban planning, therefore, the paper argues that urban regeneration seems to orient toward restoration of affirmative urban functions through appreciation of old and new perspectives. We have studied in urban planning reports and proposals in the United States since the 1980s to approach an element of urban regeneration with focus on New York City, Boston, and San Francisco. We found some common patterns that they have begun to look forward to achieving new development and preservation of old physical and historic values at the same time. As far as we study to find an element of urban regeneration in the United States, the paper may present characteristics of urban regeneration as followings: 1) reinforcement of central city; 2) encouragement of human interaction; and 3) appreciation of nature and neighborhood.

9These three main perspectives seems to be implemented in order to attract human gatherings through enhancement of public open spaces, connectivity, walkability, environment-friendly public transportation, green building, and mix-use development, and public participation. Consolidation of these criteria may need to develop amenities and facilities for providing a comfortable and cozy atmosphere to people regardless of income, race, age, and gender. To achieve these notions by adaption of urban regeneration concept, we found that efforts of urban planning and developments respect socioeconomic, historic, cultural, and physical values by utilizing technology. Appreciation of these diverse values may rediscover locality such as local businesses like retails.

Retail development and ICT

10Many studies point out that retail development deeply affects locals’ healthy economic enhancement (Guy & Bennison, 2002; Nunn, 2001; Walker, 2006; Wrigley, 2002). We found, for instance, many downtown plans in the United States since the last decade have dealt with retail enhancement by means of mixed-use development. Retailing districts are traditional places where people purchase something they need, but suburbanization and increase of vehicle-ownership lead consumers to go shopping at mega-superstore and suburban malls. Development of big malls results from individuals’ migration to suburbs to seek for better residential environments from inner-cities which also make downtown commercials to follow up their consumers to the suburbs (B. J. L. Berry, 1980; Hutton, 2004; Kasarda, 1993; Rankin & Quane, 2000).

11The consequence of migration of residents and commercial firms from inner-cities to suburbs has caused the inner-city to deteriorate; on the other hand, suburbs are getting more affluent. This phenomenon causes residential segregation by income and race in American cities. Unequal distribution of urban development pattern can let urban planners and policy makers realize the needs of urban regeneration by way of elevating usage and visitation in urban cores (Dymski, 2001; Gotham, 2001). Regenerating urban core could be derived from attracting individuals, which requires cities to develop more amenities, open spaces, housing, and jobs. In particular, populations who live in downtown areas look for groceries, coffee shops, and other necessary shopping places for their daily needs. Retail developments in the urban core can provide them and offer an alternative to the drive to suburban malls. This improves urban residential environments and reduces vehicle-dependency.

12It is not easy to attract retailing to the inner-cities because, as mentioned above, they are private and seek consumers. Generally, consumers tend to decide where they purchase something based on price, accessibility, services, and product, and accessibility and service could be defined as not only the provision of information (Peterson & Merino, 2003) but also physical accessibility by transportation. Because of these planning and marketing environments, there has been a tendency that urban planners and marketing professionals prefer to utilize information and communication technology (ICT) as a tool for analyzing market and designing spaces such as geographic information system (GIS) (Lepy, 2008). GIS is recognized as an efficient tool to assess to retail location planning (Benoit & Clarke, 1997). Furthermore, GIS has cooperated with the Internet services with wireless such as GPS, which are demonstrated that help commercial and economic development including retails to vitalize (Hoyt, 2000).

13In addition to serving as a planning tool via GIS, ICT has greatly affected human environments including the regional planning domain (Cooke and Leydesdorff, 2006, Dabinett, 2001). In particular, urban planners and administrators have enjoyed utilizing ICT as a strategic tool for enhancing human interaction within urban areas (Cohen et al., 2002, Gibbs and Tanner, 1997, Yu, 2006). Their preferences encourage contemporary urban planning and policies to provide wireless zones in downtown areas and public buildings with free accessibility to Internet. Developing the wireless Internet zone has regenerated urban areas by gathering young populations and attracting new small businesses because of increasing individuals’ ICT tools. The challenge for many areas being regenerated is that areas in transition or with low incomes have less ICT infrastructure. Kwon’s (2009) study of wifi density in the United States found poorer areas lacking wifi access, as well as variation across cities. One of our case study cities, San Francisco, was found to have far more access than predicted. Practically, Asian countries have actively transferred and regenerated their inner cities to ICT-based zone (Rahman et al., 2006).

14ICT has played a significant role in the retail sector of the United State since the mid-1990s compared to European countries (O'Mahony & Van Ark, 2005). In 2009, according to “The Connectivity Scorecard 2009,” the United States scores 7.71 out of 10 which is the highest score related to innovation driven economies by ICT (Basu, 2009). Data for leading ICT economies are presented in Table 1. The US score demonstrates “holistic interaction between a country’s ICT infrastructure and the end users, including the various skills they need to get the best usage from the tools”(Waverman & Dasgupta, 2009). The figure demonstrates that Americans utilize more ICT in their daily life through well-developed infrastructure compared with other nations. The result is a reminder that ICT plays a significant role to develop and implement any type of business in the United States, including urban retail areas.

15ICT infrastructure is essential to the effective functioning of retail space, especially chains that require links to central financial and inventory databases. Stores also need to link to credit card systems to verify funds and card validity. One of the reasons offered for the slow uptake in the United States of the chip and pin credit card commonly used globally is that integrated ICT systems allow verification of credit cards. The chip and pin system, designed to offer security, can function securely in the absence of ICT linkages. Linked systems in the US provide ways to securely manage credit card transactions. Point of sale transaction systems and inventory management require strong ICT infrastructure, so that a district needs to build such services before many retailers will operate. A second dimension is that regenerating areas seek to attract customers through ICT, such as free wifi in coffee shops or public access systems. A retail district may need to provide services for its customers through cell phones as an additional service and signal of development.

Table1. The Result of Connectivity Scorecard in 2008 and 2009: Top 10 Countries



(Connectivity Score)




United States


United States















































Data Source: LeCG (2009). Connectivity Scorecard 2009.

Case studies

16To examine the relationship between ICT, retail development and urban regeneration we analyzed three cities: San Francisco, Boston, and New York City. The cities were chosen for their established and implemented strategies for enhancing retail and ICT systems to regenerate their urban cores. The three cities studied ranked in the top fifteen of Internet content production locations in 2000 (Zook, 2000) which might be sufficient criteria for estimating ICT and retail development. Recent planning projects in the three cities proposed retail enhancements to their downtown areas; furthermore, the cities were distributing wireless services to their urban cores. For instance, even though San Francisco Municipal Wireless was not implemented in 2007, the City of San Francisco has still planned to provide free wireless Internet access to local communities (Vos, 2007). In reality, we easily obtained access to wireless services during our visits to the regenerating areas of the three cities.

17Growing users of wireless technologies through mobile phones or the Internet prompt small business and retailers to innovate ICT use for their advertising and trading, and to offer wireless service to customers. As ICT access becomes more common and expected, urban districts and businesses need access to these services for their own function, as well as the needs of their customers. Improved ICT access might help small local retailers promote their businesses, make better use of the Internet and attract customers to stores and districts. According to the European Union (2009), ICT allows small and medium-sized enterprises to improve productivity. The regenerating districts in the case study cities are increasingly attractive due to their walkability, range of businesses, and urban vitality with visitors and residents evident after general business hours. In the observed inner cities, retailers seek ways to enhance security and promote attractive elements to increase downtown consumer traffic.

18The three cities recognized retail development as a significant element for regenerating some of their urban areas. For example, Boston City has tried to create interactive urban space through retail development that respects and features local history and culture, including Chinatown and Japantown; New York City has developed lower Manhattan as an active city center through mixed-use development to increase urban retails since the September 11 attacks; and San Francisco has developed downtown retail areas through the establishment of the C-3-R, retail use district. The visits to three cities reminded us that the cities have been regenerating their areas by developing urban retails with utilizing ICT.

Empirical evidence of retail-led urban regeneration

19The paper discusses urban regeneration related to ICT by enhancing retail development. Over the few past decades, a considerable number of studies have been conducted on perspectives of urban regeneration. Studies, however, have tended to focus on conceptual approaches rather than empirical reviews, which means that they might review existing planning, and then tried to find that the planning was implemented. Very few attempts have been made to evaluate the effect and consequences of urban regeneration through empirical studies. This is because it is necessary to evaluate an outcome of urban regeneration by analyzing empirical data.

20Hence, we explore retail enhancement in three American cities, San Francisco, Boston City, and New York City, by utilizing employment data from the American Community Survey between 2004 and 2008. Employment is generally recognized as a measure of economic development (Galenson, 1963; Renkow, 2003; Simon, 1998). Furthermore, the paper adapts the location quotient (LQ) approach to indicate the relationship between retail development and urban regeneration because LQ is generally utilized to show the relative degree of industry concentration (Kloosterman, 2004). According to Blakely and Bradshaw (2002), “LQ is shown as a ratio between the percentage of employment in an industry locally to the percentage of employment in the same industry found in the state or nation being used as a reference.” If LQ is 1, it means production equals consumption; if LQ is less than 1, it means production is less than consumption; and if LQ is more than 1, it means production is greater than consumption. In addition, if LQ is greater than 1, it is possible to calculate the LQ multiplier. The multiplier indicates the number of new jobs created per job in a basic industry. The formula of LQ and the LQ Multiplier are:

Formula of LQ and the LQ Multiplier

Formula of LQ and the LQ Multiplier

Eunseong Jeong, Irene K. Shim, Mark I. Wilson

The result of the LQ and LQ Multiplier calculations are presented in Table 2. All three cities indicate retail production greater than consumption (LQ>1), which means that these cities have a higher than average concentration of retail employment. The analyses of LQ Multiplier (LQM) reveals that every job in the retail industry in cities such as San Francisco, Boston, and New York City is associated with five to nine jobs in the local economy.

Table2. Analysis of LQ and LQ Multiplier in the Research Areas



Total Employment in the State

Total Retail Employment in the State

Total Employment in the City

Total Retail Employment in the City


LQ Multiplier

San Francisco








































































New York City




































21San Francisco has the highest LQ among the research areas, with a growth rate between 2004 and 2008 of 5.8%. Even though the LQ and LQM have been fluctuating for five years, five new jobs were created per job in a basic industry in 2008. The growth rate of retail employment in Boston has increased around 27.8% over five years. The LQ increased between 2004 and 2007, and then the number decreased in 2008; however, LQM is the highest among the cities studied. For every one job in the retail industry up to five jobs are created in the local economy. New York City’s retail sector grew around 26.4% between 2004 and 2008, and the LQM dramatically increased 68.1% over five years. This increase of LQM indicates that the retail industry of New York City deeply affects the local economy in terms of the regional employment.

22In brief, the empirical analyses demonstrate that the retail industry of the three cities plays a vital role in the regional economy to regenerate their urban areas. The mean of the LQ in the research area for five years is 1.24, and the mean of the LQM is 5.83. The retail industry, therefore, practically contributes the three cities to enhance local economy, and the result of the empirical studies indicates that the two cities, Boston and New York City dramatically grew their retail industries for the past five years with the result that there was around a quarter percentage growth of employment. This rate demonstrates that retail jobs significantly affected local labor markets in the last 5 years. The strength of the retail sector as a regenerative force, combined with its use of ICT suggests an important relationship that needs to be incorporated into urban policy actions.


23Urban areas have dramatically expanded in developed and developing countries in the past century through advancing economies, application of technology, and migration to cities for jobs and lifestyles. Recent urban planning perspectives, such as Smart Growth and New Urbanism in the United States, promote resilient urban areas that balance social and physical environments. These approaches are criticized, however, because of unexpected consequences such as the deepening of residential segregation by income, profession, and race, although the concepts do contribute to improving and respecting the natural environment (Garde, 2004; Litman, 2009).

24Urban regeneration is a new approach to improving city neighborhoods and districts while seeking to harmonize old and new values. Many scholars already recognize urban regeneration as a new concept for urban planning, but there is little empirical evidence. In this paper we have analyzed retail development in three American cities: San Francisco, Boston, and New York City. In the past, urban residents interacted with neighbors, communities, and strangers, but today, interaction is adapting to ICT. Even though ICT is a factor influencing face-to-face interaction, the technology also encourages individuals to interact with diverse communities beyond time and space limits.

25One industry heavily using ICT is retailing, particularly, small local businesses that utilize ICT as a promotional and strategic tool to activate their businesses; such as the use of web pages and point of sale transaction systems. For example, the three cities studied ranked among the top fifteen cities for developing commercial websites, and provide many opportunities to access wireless networks within their local communities. These elements are important to promoting retail development because ICT can help retailers be competitive against major chains. In addition, ICT may promote retail use by individuals who gain easy-access to information about the local market.

26The research aims to find empirical evidence of urban regeneration with a focus on retail development. Retail outlets are a good choice for development urban regeneration promotes increased human interaction for pursuing human-friendly urban spaces. Urban retailing allows residents to increase interaction with others compared to large suburban shopping malls. Further, urban retailing not only provides more employment but also regenerates the local economy. In order to demonstrate these ideas, we adapted location quotient analysis to address regeneration in three cities. Results demonstrate that the retail industry plays a significant role in the local labor market, and that ICT prompts urban retailers to regenerate local economies and therefore encourage more social interaction. Retail enhancement makes visitors and residents want to visit urban districts, and encourage commercial space, public amenities, and more public transportation which support additional urban regeneration.

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Titre Formula of LQ and the LQ Multiplier
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