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For about a decade or more there has been an uptick in development all across downtown Indianapolis and the immediate surrounding neighborhoods. From high rise condos on Mass Ave to new and remodeled homes in Fountain Square to community planning on the near East side, we are seeing intentional residential and commercial development in our city.

In almost every one of these communities and many others around the country where development like this is occurring there is usually a local coffee shop or two. Considered a gathering place and amenity for neighboring residents and a draw for folks outside the community to get a great cup of coffee, it goes much further than that.

The common question in community development is which needs to happen first – residential or commercial? Sort of like which comes first, the chicken or the egg. Amanda Napoli, writer for the Urban Times said, “The urban coffee shop is the unsung hero and catalyst of pedestrian activity and increased social activity in the city. The establishment of a coffee culture helps in the creation of vibrant streetscapes and produces a large percentage of the pedestrian activity that is found in these areas.”

Coffee shops bring eclectic and diverse demographics to an area. Customers with various ages, cultures, genders, etc; congregate at coffee shops around the country and that drives other businesses to be near and around coffee shops. Our shop has been presented several offers to be part of residential and commercial developments and the one thing the developers always mention, “We knew going into this the one business that is a must-have is a coffee shop.” Why? Because they understand that a coffee shop will do two things:

  1. Be a billboard for the community. If you want to get a sense of what is important to a community check out the local coffee shop. It is the proverbial ‘water cooler’. It is the place people hang out, share their stories, their passions, make business deals, conduct interviews, create art, write music, read books, talk politics, have bible studies. Some coffee shops carry the name of the community or be named after a historical facet unique to that community. Some coffee shops have live music, poetry readings, trade schools. Many coffee shops share their profits, tips, and initiate their own fundraisers for local charities, non-profits, and other organizations that directly and positively impact a community.
  2. It draws more private business owners and new residents to the community. A coffee shop is a third place for many people. Small business owners often use it for a second office. For a prospect resident it is one of the things that they may want to have nearby. It is a friendly place to meet and also a comfortable place for one to go to alone. You can often find boutiques, restaurants, and other small businesses surrounding a coffee shop because of the kind of consumer traffic that frequents these coffee providers.

Most importantly relationships are fostered, encouraged, reinforced, and flourish in a coffee shop setting. This very crucial aspect is key for a healthy and thriving community. Planning on developing a community or redeveloping one then a coffee shop is a requirement. Would you like to get the sense and feel of a community? Then go to the local coffee shop by yourself and enjoy people watching while sipping on a delicious cup of coffee. Just don’t make it creepy. 🙂