Mobile Urbanization on the Rise - Annual Downtown Alliance Luncheon 2019

Greeted with morning elixirs (mimosas and poinsettias, that is) and Excelsior (second-line band, that is), there's no way the NAI Mobile team wasn't going to enjoy the Downtown Mobile Alliance Annual Luncheon. The Alliance truly knows how to capture the spirit of Mobile and somehow package it up into one annual event. With nearly 500 people in attendance, this year's luncheon did not disappoint!

What started as the Main Street Mobile awards several years ago has now turned into an "embarrassment of riches" in recognition of all the downtown production and new businesses.

While several accolades were distributed, including more than forty Chairman's Certificates, there are a few that merit additional mentioning. Chef Pete Blohme received the “Excellence in Façade Improvement” award for his most neoteric restaurant, Squid Ink; Bestor Ward received the “Excellence in Adaptive Reuse” award for his latest mixed-use redevelopment The Wheeler Building; and Robert and Karrie Maurin of Maurin Architecture were the obvious recipients for the “Excellence in Architecture or Design”. Our sweet & funky little city is nothing short of blessed to have such talented & hard-working creatives that strive to continue Mobile's growth.

Building on the excitement and momentum, the Alliance strategically selected Christopher Leinberger, a renowned urbanist, as this year’s keynote speaker. With an introduction from Aerosmith, Leinberger emphatically advised us how to "Walk this Way" - encouraging a more walkable downtown and how to achieve it. Here are some key insights Christopher shared:

  • Rent per SF is at a premium for walkable urban real estate in the largest 30 metros over drivable suburban areas.

  • In metros there is a 30-40% cap rate premium on top of already-increased rental rates

  • Office spaces are renting at 105% higher rates in metros in other areas. As well as, retail space renting 121% higher and Multi-family rentals pose 61% higher rates.

  • Since 2010, WalkUp office & rental multifamily product types in the tope 30 metros have seen 130% market share gains.

  • Drivable sub-urban real estate is loosing market share to walkable urban real estate.

  • In many big cities, 80-90% of overall city growth is taking place in less than five percent of the metro area.

In what ways have other growing urban cities seen success?

  • Urban, downtown environments need to be able to support people in all life stages. Everyone from young professionals to young families all the way through retired couples.

  • Downtown needs to be more walker than car friendly.

  • Private entities need to invest and manage the revitalization efforts in the downtown areas. Private entities do a way better job at building a sustainable, thriving and profitable venture than public entities do.

  • Grocery stores are a great indication of how well an urban area is doing.

  • Cities that have baseball stadiums (minor or professional league) downtown have been proven successful for various reasons. Stadiums located downtown are easy to get to and can attract a lot of close by people. Not to mention, they don’t need to build parking because they can utilize empty office parking garages at night—also adding value to office buildings.

What steps can Mobile take in the immediate future to grow?

  • Embrace the waterfront

  • Narrow Water Street

  • Focus on the success of new rental apartments

  • Recover the waterfront area like other cities have done in the past (Charleston, Chattanooga, Savannah, etc.)

  • Expand Riverwalk

  • Profit-making property management, such as the Downtown Alliance, needs to organize downtown events like farmers markets and Oktoberfest

Leinberger's passion for a successful downtown gives Mobilians a magnified energy for growth. We all love our city, and events like this one amplify that love. We at NAI Mobile want to share our gratitude for the Alliance continually hosting such a well-planned, coordinated and exciting event each year!