Chart / Map of the Day: US Cities Ranked by Storefront Index

Here’s an important chart for you, showing something that the City Observatory cooked up called the “storefront index.” It measures the number of “customer-facing businesses” along city streets.

Here’s the ranking [in absolute, not per capita, terms]:

It looks like Minneapolis is punching a bit below its weight, though that might be accounted for by the dual downtowns. At any rate, here’s what the City Observatory explanation has to say about the map:

We also use the Storefront Index to track change over time, looking at the growth of businesses and street level activity in a rebounding neighborhood in Portland. There’s also strong evidence to suggest that concentrations of storefront businesses provide a conducive environment for walking. We’ve overlaid the storefront index clusters on a heat map of Walk Scores for selected metropolitan areas to explore the relationship between these two measures. While Walk Score includes destinations like parks and schools, as well as businesses, it also measures walkability from the standpoint of home-based origins, while our Storefront Index shows the concentration of commercial destinations.

City Observatory has developed the Storefront Index as a freely available tool for urbanists and city planners to use in their communities. The index material is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license (as is all City Observatory material), and shapefiles containing storefront index information is available here.

This is something that Sam Newberg has been harping on for some time in downtown Minneapolis, the number of doors and windows on the streets. I’m not sure if they count skyway businesses in this metric, but I suspect not.

At any rate, it’s safe to say that Minneapolis is not helped by its skyway system, which (in my opinion) dilutes the pedestrian traffic and economic agglomeration potential of the downtown.

Here’s the 3-mile radius map in detail. You can see that most of the storefronts are on Nicollet, Central, or Lake:


[See other cities here.]

At any rate, it’s pretty cool data. Looks like Portland is not just a street in Minneapolis after all?

8 thoughts on “Chart / Map of the Day: US Cities Ranked by Storefront Index

  1. Alex SchieferdeckerAlex Schieferdecker

    People throw shade at streetcars and for good reasons. But this chart does, I think, show some of the strengths of the Nicollet-Central streetcar concept. Streetcars are not brilliant transit solutions compared to other nodes but they’re well suited for streets with lots of small storefronts and commercial activity.

      1. Al DavisonAl Davison

        I believe so. I consider those types of buildings as an early 20th century version of TOD in a way.

  2. Alex

    Maybe I’m not fully understanding what they’re measuring here, but just looking at their Minneapolis map indicates that their data is unreliable. They seem to be missing dozens of businesses along Nicollet but they show a couple on Mt Curve Ave that are clearly not storefronts (Century Park Pictures movie theater?).

    If it’s just a google dump, maybe they’re better measuring internet hipsters than actual urban businesses?

  3. Matt SteeleMatthew Steele

    Looking at my neighborhood, this data is wildly inaccurate. If the data is equally inaccurate across all neighborhoods and all cities, it’s still a useful tool for comparison. But I don’t have much faith in it, unfortunately.

  4. Cameron ConwayCameron Conway

    I’m forgetting the name, but there’s a Walkscore alternative that looks at curb cuts, surface parking and crosswalk crossing distance along with the standard set of variables. Considering that these are the factors that inhibit walkability in otherwise storefront-rich districts, I feel like that would be helpful here. Also, I’m not really sold on the value of comparing CBD’s (especially in MSP’s dual downtown, skyway ridden case). Would be much cooler to look at the role of storefront ecosystems in relation to citywide walkability and walkable redevelopement, IMO.

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