Carlisle has just what national retailers are seeking and, with the right development, the borough could become a destination spot for tourists.

That was the message pitched during a redevelopment workshop Wednesday in Carlisle.

"We think that Carlisle could become a major place for tourists to come to and shop," said Robert Gibbs, urban retail planner with Gibbs Planning Group.

Gibbs is part of the team assembled by Stromberg/Garrigan & Associates to develop an urban redevelopment plan for a study area in the northwest section of town that encompasses three former industrial sites — the former Carlisle Tire and Wheel, the former International Automotive Components and the former Tyco properties.

He presented his findings at a session Wednesday morning that focused on the economy and real estate market.

His work is a follow-up to a study completed last year in which he determined the downtown area could support an additional 162,000 square feet of retail space. That could include seven or eight more restaurants, a grocery store, five or six more clothing stores, two pharmacies and a selection of electronics, sporting goods and home furnishings stores, Gibbs said.

“Carlisle has a very strong potential to support a lot more retail and housing even some offices, both in the downtown area and in this study area,” he said. “We thought it would be very important in doing this analysis to recommend retail and business types that do not take those from the downtown area.”

Among those potential retail and business types are those that are too large to fit into the downtown area but would add customers to the downtown because it brings customers close to the area on a regular basis, Gibbs said.

Developers on the western side of Harrisburg have already said they would like to be established in the Carlisle area. “You are seen as the next flight of growth,” Gibbs said.

Retailers like urban settings and are gravitating toward historic buildings. That allows them to play into the tendency of shoppers to claim they hate the chain stores, but still shop in them. “The chains now like to look like they’re not a chain on the outside,” Gibbs said.

Big box retailers now have urban store plans and other retailers are “bending the rules” of retail by moving into two-story buildings or even building new structures made to look historic. “It would be more sustainable if you could stop the next strip center from being built on a farm and have those same retailers build in a walkable, urban format that looks like this,” he said.

“We’re recommending that modern, large-format retail be there (at the former industrial sites), but that it be designed in a walkable way,” Gibbs said.

Residential growth is exploding in walkable cities, Gibbs said. Apartments on three or four floors above the retail space on the ground floor are popular with empty nesters who want to downsize and with young professionals. Both groups like the easy accessibility to shops and restaurants.

Gibbs showed an example of a mixed-use center in which retail spaces were complemented by offices on the second floor. The offices leased well, Gibbs said, because employees were happier with the location that allowed them to go out to lunch, visit the coffee shop or go shopping during breaks or after work.

Gibbs said there’s also strong demand to build an enclosed, year-round market with approximately 30-40 vendors. Grants are available from the federal government, but they take a lot of legwork.

Still, the effort could pay off. “If you do build it, it will become your main tourist attraction,” Gibbs said.

Gibbs said the recommendation for mixed use in the renewal districts comes with a vision to have that area feel like an extension to the downtown. “In your case, what’s good for High Street is good for here and vice versa. If your High Street would go into a decline, it would definitely hurt your property values here,” he said.

Though recommendations will be made, the decisions about what will be put on the former industrial sites will be up to the community. “Our job is to tell you what you can support. Your job is to say what you want,” Gibbs said.

(21) comments

Thewholetruth
Thewholetruth

Only in your dreams. Can you imagine what an out of town visitor must think when they drive passed the freaks at the square on a warm summer evening? Or up Pitt street and seeing a lot of people who have a lot of time on their hands and no apparent job during the day?

CarlisleGirl
CarlisleGirl

It's an appealing idea. Attracting outside spending would be good for the local economy -- the trick will be careful traffic management, no vast seas of open parking, and not just more of the same of these "national retailers." I want to see that money staying local as much as possible, with an emphasis on jobs. And no matter how much they disguise their boxes to look cute or even historic, they need to be a real draw. No baby Targets, CVS, or Walmarts -- encourage LOCAL stores!

whiterav
whiterav

Other than Car Shows, what else would draw people not associated with Carlisle to visit? I've been to Bethlehem PA several times, they have Musikfest each summer for a week, and the Celtic Classic in September. Both are largely outdoor venues, and draw huge crowds for the venues. Bethlehem has done a great job turning around from being a "steel town" to truly becoming a destination to a wide audience.

pystil
pystil

We have Bluegrass on the grass in July, and McClain around Labor Day but I get your drift there should be a weekend music festival to attract over night out of town folk who will buy rooms, eat and drink. A coordinated event could include an evening live performance or music film in the Carlisle theatre. I think Blue Grass, folk or country would be the best fit for Carlisle. In front to Old West, or the natural amphitheater used for the July 4th concert would be great. I guess a job for DCA.

maryann
maryann

Seriously, TWT? One, they're not freaks, they're PEOPLE...people who have every right to sit at the Square whenever they please, just as anyone else has the right to. The great thing about this town is belongs to all of its inhabitants - rich, poor, "freak" or not, employed or unemployed (P.S. the unemployment rate for the area was up to 8.2 percent in January, in case you hadn't noticed)

Carlisleborn
Carlisleborn

When they stop having babies they can't feed, I'll worry about their status as people. Heck. I'd even be happy if the homeless stopped finding ways to get drunk and started finding ways to get a job.
Until then, they're just burdens on the tax system who need to find another town to invade.

Candyman
Candyman

What is there to tour in Carlisle? What would be inviting for people to come in other than the car shows? Remember we're talking about tourists - not people from Mechanicsburg or Camp Hill or Boiling Springs...we're talking tourists. This area just doesn't have the number of residents to support more stores, restaurants...etc. And it's bad business practice to depend on the car shows for 50% or more of your yearly revenue. Places have to be sustained via year round purchases/services.

pystil
pystil

Carlisle has some great houses. The Indian school, Army Heritage, a great little county museum that punches over its weight. It is close to Amish country west of Carlisle with farm to table food places.

PastisPrologue
PastisPrologue

The Indian School?? You mean the US Army War College??? It hasnt been and Indian School in 100 years

PastisPrologue
PastisPrologue

I guess you dont know anyone who lives down the Jersey Shore

FedUp
FedUp

an enclosed, year-round market with approximately 30-40 vendors?? Did we not already have this, and not sustain it? In fact, the building still stands EMPTY, so let's fill it before we build another. sigh.

pystil
pystil

The site did not have enough parking for a market. It could be used for an artists work shop studio with a coop store for selling their art. People could watch the artists / craftsmen work and be able to buy their art. Jewelers, wood workers, potters, paint, basket weaver and other art mediums, and crafts.

pystil
pystil

The old indoor market on N Hanover would make a great place for a micro brewery and restaurant, but an art/ craft coop would be better. I suspect a micro brewery and restaurant will be built at the Masland site next to the hotel.

pystil
pystil

Carlisle Productions could have a huge Country and Western stars at the fairground and have a mini South by South West weekend.

pystil
pystil

Only a Trader Joe's would bring bring people to Carlisle from a 20 mile radius. I am not sure a Gap would do any business.

CarlisleGirl
CarlisleGirl

Trader Joe's is in expansion mode, but they have very clear discipline about the population needed to support one store, and I understand the threshold is 50,000 residents within a certain radius. Even in some large cities, they have resisted planting a store until they see that population they need. They would come late but not early. Ever since the Coloumb family sold the business, things have tightened up tremendously. But the merchandise is simply GREAT and totally affordable.

TruthSeeker
TruthSeeker

Every time I read these articles I wonder where all of this pent up demand is in Carlisle for all of these proposed retailers and services. And what has happened in Carlisle in the last 20 years that will draw tourists? I don't know the numbers, but in my experience, young people are leaving and the townspeople are getting older. The services necessary to accommodate an older population is where the demand will be. That doesn't bode well for a Gap store.

CarlisleGirl
CarlisleGirl

The whole US population is aging. Smart retailers factor this in and find ways to serve all demographic groups. Gap, btw, has been struggling for years. But Carlisle DOES have a cluster of youthful shoppers at Dickinson, and a fresh batch every year. Meantime, one of these properties might be a good draw if it were all outlet stores. People come from miles away to shop at such places, and I gather the closest one is in Gettysburg.

TruthSeeker
TruthSeeker

Those are issues with supply, not demand, which is my concern. Dickinson students do not present a net gain of consumers. One class leaves, another one replaces it. And just because we build something doesn't mean people will come. Also, in a post below you say that we don't need national chain stores but above that we need outlets? Isn't that the same thing?

Carl Lyle
Carl Lyle

Isn't it great the wonderful ideas that people come up with...as long as it's someone else's money at risk. Does anyone truly believe a Trader Joes is going to locate in Carlisle? They're going where the money is and it isn't in Carlisle. Seven or eight more restaurants? Yeah right...you could have a weekly lottery in town now to see which one is the latest to go under for lack of business. I guess the snake oil salesmen are still around.

Sokrates
Sokrates

This article is about potential, what could be, not what is. And compared to many towns, there is a lot in Carlisle to draw people here.

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