There's a chicken-and-egg problem with chickens and eggs: Retail consultants usually tell you which retail fuctions your neighborhood will support. And unless their numbers are hopeful, neighborhood founders are discouraged from building anything other than houses… so you don't have a real neighborhood; just a subdivision. But you can look at it the other way as well. Instead of saying "what shops will my neighborhood support" why not build a business and ask "where am I going to find the customers to support my business?
That's exactly what they did at Schooner Bay, and it's working out great. Schooner Bay is a new town in the Bahamas designed by DPZ. I was there from the beginning, at the design charrette when Schooner Bay was first planned. Eric, Julia, and I have been on several charrettes to design the architecture of Schooner Bay, and Julia designed most of the houses now being completed on the island in the center of the harbour. But this story isn't about architecture; it's about food.
Orjan Lindroth, Schooner Bay's Town Founder, set out from the beginning to make Schooner Bay a nourishable place. He secured dozens of acres of crown land adjacent to Schooner Bay. Crown land is owned by the Queen of England, but available for agricultural lease. He then teamed up with organic agriculture experts to create Lightbourn Farm. I blogged recently not only about Lightbourne, but how Schooner Bay is becoming an authentic fishing village as well.
Had Orjan done the normal thing and asked "how big of a farm will my town support" there's no way he would have started the farm because there are only a couple dozen homes complete at this point. Instead, he asked "where do I sell all this fresh produce?" And so Lightbourn Farm isn't just feeding Schooner Bay; it's feeding many other people in South Abaco. This, in my opinion, is the way to make things work in a town's early years: don't worry so much about the rooftops. Worry about the customers. And the businesses you generate will be great assets in building the neighborhood.