Is rent increase the sole reason for the constant decline in "neighborhood" shops? It's easy to blame the landlords, who are following sound business practice when an area improves and the market rate for thir properties also increases.
Just in the seven years I've lived in Park Slope, we've lost two local bookstores (and the third is doing OK but not yet flourishing), several coffee shops and other local institutions. Despite the allure of our local writer Paul Auster's chronicle of the 'hood (see OTBKB on this story of a Frenchman's quest to seek out points mentioned in Auster's book Brooklyn Follies.)
This long story in City Limits offers "A range of ideas is proffered to stall the trend of older businesses' extinction - though it could be too late for one block in Chelsea."
In a Manhattan neighborhood where utilitarian stores have transformed into trendy eateries, meatpacking businesses were made over as designer dress showplaces, and every other storefront becomes an expensive hair salon, a string of old-school, regular-Joe shops is taking a contrarian stand against rising rents and business displacement.
New York City actually enjoyed commercial rent control as part of the price controls introduced during World War II, and the statute stayed in force until 1963 – though the breadth and depth of its impact are unclear.
Other potential zoning tools include community impact reviews, under which new commercial developments, or developments above a certain size, are subject to a comprehensive review before they can open for business. Brattleboro, Vermont has amended its zoning code to require a community review of any retail project that will eat up more than 65,000 square feet. Establishing "neighborhood serving zones" is another tactic: In Palm Beach, Florida, stores over 2,000 square feet require a permit, and the applicant must demonstrate the store is "for townspeople."
Finally, San Francisco has gone so far as to simply ban chains in two neighborhoods and require public review of any new "formula business" that would open in the city.