I heard the quote which comprises the title of this post on the April 24, 2012 Tuesday’s at APA (Chicago) podcast. All I can say is bravo, bravo! I could not agree more.
Some communities pride themselves on their aesthetic appearance and visual ambiance. This is particularly important in commercial areas and in office/light industrial developments. Oceans of bleak asphalt, myriads of signs, and numerous curb cuts are the complete antithesis of good planning and appealing aesthetics.
Despite the obvious visual, aesthetic, environmental benefits associated with quality landscaping, far too many realtors, builders, developers, sign companies, and property owners routinely attempt circumvent adopted landscaping requirements or worse yet – some go as far as defoliating their site incrementally in hopes that they won’t get caught. They never seem to quite grasp the fact that aesthetically pleasing locations draw people and provide a reason for them to stay longer – an economic development tool if I ever heard one. Personally, I prefer a well landscaped retail site or office park where I can park my car or bicycle in the shade during warm weather.
Here are two tidbits from the Local Government Commission and USDA on how trees can be beneficial to business:
“University of Washington studies found that consumers will shop more often and longer in downtown business districts with street trees and other landscaping than in districts without; and they are willing to pay more for parking and up to 11% more for good and services.”
“And each tree returns an average of $65 in energy savings, cleaner air, better managed stormwater, extended life of streets (shaded streets require resurfacing less often), and higher property values.”
In one of the more questionable rationales I have ever heard for removing required trees once came from a commercial property owner who asked if they could remove some of the trees from their shopping center so tenants at the rear of the complex could be seen better from the adjoining road. Within the same conversation this property owner also inquired about building a freestanding restaurant along the same street frontage. The first question that came to mind was, “how is that going to improve visibility for your tenants?” It certainly cannot be easier to see them through a whole new building compared to trees.
Let’s not kid ourselves. In the overall scheme of things, a well run business, particularly with a good quality product, will draw customers to its doorstep. Giant rotating marquees, two dozen signs, and all the parking in the world are not going to save a poorly run business or one with a weak product line. However, a nicely landscaped business site or better yet, an entire community that supports beautiful landscaping, can be a significant economic development tool that draws more customers and encourages them to stay longer and spend more. Sounds like a win-win-win situation to me.