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High Streets Reimagined: Shifting Availability Is Changing the Look of Legacy Retail Districts

August 2, 2023 2 Minute Read


“Legacy” high-street districts are adapting to shifting occupancy trends as more and more luxury brands are attracted to new or “emerging” high-street districts.

Legacy high-street districts are the top prime-rent areas tracked by CBRE, while emerging high-street districts are those that local retail leasing professionals are reporting increased leasing activity by luxury brands.

Availability among the two sets remained even through 2015 but began to diverge as demand increased in emerging districts. During the pandemic, this spread expanded further, hitting a peak in 2021.

Figure 1: Retail Occupancy Index for Legacy High-Street Districts vs. Emerging High-Street Districts


Source: CoStar, CBRE Research, Q1 2023.

This suggests that storefront and higher-end retail have become more flexible in their location strategy. Retailers are more likely to secure rent discounts in emerging districts, while perception of crime has led to some key move-outs from certain legacy high-street districts.

Legacy high streets are responding, as rising availability of space combined with market rent reductions attract new retailers. For example, the Lincoln Road District in Miami’s South Beach struggled with higher vacancy when asking rents surpassed $300 per sq. ft. Now that asking rents have eased, the district has reinvented itself with more food & beverage operators, including Shake Shack, Raising Canes and Cheesecake Factory. These retailers—predominantly suburban-space seekers—have expanded their location strategies to explore urban storefront districts.

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