Monday, June 13, 2011

Wilton Drive Gets New Businesses

One of the most common complaints about Wilton Drive is that there aren't enough parking spaces.   The problem isn't that there aren't enough spaces, there are not enough free spaces or enough spaces at peak hours.

What happened is that businesses which operate outside of "Bar Time" get a free ride with parking.  If you're on The Drive, you have the entire parking lot at Hagen plus the metered spots on the entirety of Wilton Drive, plus the spaces at the Shoppes and even at Publix if you want to park there.

For the most part, if I remember right, parking is free.  If you are here outside of metered hours, it's fairly cheap by big city standards.  $.50 an hour vs the $1.25 an hour I had to pay in Downtown Fort Lauderdale at a meter last Thursday.

Parking should not be a problem for a business that services the off peak people - daytime users of Wilton Drive.  Ever.   (to paraphrase Mythbusters)

So what kind of businesses will best be served by opening on Wilton Drive in the short run? 

Three new businesses popped up recently.  Actually one expanded and one is new.  They both are "daytime friendly" businesses.   There is never a problem during a weekday of finding parking on Wilton Drive since every time I walk down the drive on an afternoon - it's fairly empty.

First, the Real Estate Office at the corner of NE 6th and Wilton Drive had expanded.   Castelli Real Estate spilled over into the adjacent bay and added desks for quite a few new Realtors.  This says that while the market is misbehaving, there's a lot of life left in Wilton Manors Real Estate.  In fact the house next to mine was actually in a bidding war and closed around 25% higher than asking price.  This was most likely due to lack of supply more than anything else.  More people moving in means a better environment all around and the particular person who moved in next door is doing a nice job in reversing the decline that that house has seen over the last four years.

Thanks, Jack!

Second, just south of Belle Isle in the new multi-story condo, a new barber shop is set to open.  This will be roughly the fourth on the drive, but more power to you!  The thing is that there are some available spaces on the property and plenty of open parking on the drive.  The location is directly across the street from The Manor so there could easily be a number of folks who will notice it and come back to the Drive to patronize the place.

The more businesses that area open in the early evening and into the night time Bar Hours, the better Wilton Manors will be.  After all, a well lit store with people inside is a draw.  Closed stores, no matter what, mean people will go to their destination and not consider coming back.

The restaurant that opened up within the last month, Rodeo, is a prime example.   The place serves Southwestern cuisine, and was packed when we walked past yesterday at 1PM.  Past the lunch hour on a Sunday and the restaurant was stuffed full of people.  No problem with parking at all, plenty of happy customers and an enticing new addition to the drive.

There is no centralized organization that has control over what businesses come into an address.   For the most part, if you pass Wilton Manors zoning ordinance you can open up any sort of business and hope for the best.  The trick is to look at Wilton Drive for what it is *now* and complement what is there.  You'll then have a better chance of staying open a year later.

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