I have lived just off the Gloucester Road in Bristol on and off for the past 20 years. Gloucester Road is somewhat iconic. An article from 2004 in The Independent called it the Last Great High Street in Britain. Re-reading that article in 2011, over half of the shops mentioned are still trading and chain shops are still mercifully absent, barring the supermarkets (The dispute over Tescos in Stokes Croft further down the road blew up last night into an ugly riot)
Many of the traders have been there for decades, but some premises change hands and use quite rapidly, or fall into disuse. In these days of recesssion, Gloucester Road is faring rather well with less un-occupied properties than one might expect. This is still a wonderfully varied, lively useful street.
I think it would be great to be able to see how the road has evolved over time It would be interesting to gather data on the occupancy of each property over time. Then you could explore the changing ownership of shops, the changing density of different kinds of business over time and changing levels of occupancy. It would be great to be able to push the history back to the time when these properties were private dwellings.I can imagine some cool animations of the street over time, with the rocks of businesses like the inestimable Bishopston Hardware standing tall as the waves of hairdressers and fast-food joints flow around them.
Lacking any knowledge of the practices of local history myself, I dont know if the data is obtainable or how much work would be required to obtain it. I see the basic data set as being basic property data with a sequence of events for each property, an event being a dated record of evidence of occupancy, with its provenence. Events might be gleaned from archived trade indexes, telephone directories, census records, personal memories, photographs. Having the timeline we can infer periods of occupancy and display either by time or location as you suggest. The timelines could also help date photographs as well as incorporate personal memories of the shops and shop-keepers.
Perhaps this data could also find a place in the new Bristol knowyourplace project which provides a rich set of historic maps of Bristol and the ability to add user-generated content.
One of the differences between residents and incomers, of which, being close to both Bristol Universities, there are many, is that the residents have a personal memory of what used to be here and a view of the place which is deep in time. This historical record could help to create that sense of evolving place for everyone.