CBD MapThe Castro/Upper Market commercial corridor is the second most active business district in San Francisco, with high pedestrian activity and draw as both a tourist destination and a “gay mecca.” Its retail vacancy rate of 6.9%, however, is much higher than the city’s 3.8% average. New large-scale construction projects, adding over 30,000 square feet of retail space, threaten to increase the neighborhood’s retail vacancy rate up to 10.6%.

Concerned about the health of the neighborhood’s retail environment, business and neighborhood groups formed a coalition and established a working group tasked with developing a comprehensive “Retail Strategy” for the Castro/Upper Market corridor.

Led by the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District (CBD), the coalition includes the Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association (DTNA),the Castro / Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association (EVNA), and Castro Merchants (CM.)

The primary aim of the “Retail Strategy Project” is to address the existing high vacancy rate and develop an actionable plan to fill new ground floor retail in a manner that enables the commercial corridor to thrive while preserving its unique character and draw as a tourist destination. It also aims to ensure high quality of life for area residents.

Specific questions under consideration now include:

  • What new businesses would residents like to see in the neighborhood?
  • What mix of residents vs. international, national and regional tourists visit the neighborhood commercial corridor?
  • Why are some businesses vacating the neighborhood?
  • For which goods and services do local residents leave the neighborhood, and where do they go to buy them?
  • How can desired businesses be attracted to the neighborhood?

The initial phase of the Project, which includes a study by a professional third party and development of recommendations, is expected to take 12 months. Beyond this timeframe, the Project is envisioned as an ongoing effort that is updated to reflect changes in the local retail landscape and new lessons learned. Funds for the Project have been secured using private funds and grants from the Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) and District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener (see budget details.)

The areas included in the Project are the Castro Commercial District, Market Street (including cross streets) between Octavia and Castro, and Church Street between 16th and Duboce.