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Each month, Downtown Idea Exchange and Downtown Promotion Reporter provide in-depth news, information and ideas on how to rebuild the hearts of our cities.

But we often have valuable background material, additional information, or related resources that we just can’t fit in the newsletters. Listed below are a wide range of documents that add further insight and understanding to the articles in Downtown Idea Exchange and Downtown Promotion Reporter.

Learn more about Downtown Idea Exchange and Downtown Promotion Reporter.

February 2014

Collaborative center meets multiple goals — In Durango, CO, the city, the business improvement district, a local college, and the tourism office have created a new welcome center that addresses each of their marketing needs, and more importantly, the needs of visitors to the city center. See a video about the Durango Welcome Center collaboration.

Concise tagline creates buzz while telling the downtown story — Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21 launched its new Cya Downtown, Milwaukee campaign last May. See the Cya Downtown television spots and hear the radio ads.

Put a name on it — Naming rights at downtown’s Windsor Castle Park in Smithfield, VA, range from $500 to $20,000 depending on the amenity selected. Here are all of the Naming Rights details.

January 2014

Small businesses will be going greener in 2014 — Up until recently, the primary focus of energy conservation programs was on larger buildings of over 100,000 square feet. Thanks to the research Preservation Green Lab has done, there is a rising awareness of some really significant energy saving opportunities to be had in Main Street communities, smaller neighborhoods, and commercial districts. Learn more at the Preservation Green Lab website.

Report highlights importance of citizen input in placemaking — A new report by a MIT Department of Urban Studies research team examines the interactions between placemaking, community participation, and the expanding ways communities are collaborating to make great public places. Read Places in the Making.

Bicycles are becoming more accepted on downtown streets — Concerns about the environment, rising costs for fuel and parking, and an interest in fitness are making bicycles a popular mode of transportation for many downtowners. Read the article Bike-sharing trend gaining traction downtown.

Special event bylaws create common framework — Ottawa, ON, Canada, has a well deserved reputation as a city of festivals and events. The city hosts multiple events each month that draw local, national, and international visitors. So when the city decides to revamp its event bylaws, other communities can learn from both the process and the outcome. Read the new Special Events on Public and Private Property Bylaw.

Festivals from around the world — Covering yourself in tomatoes, mud, water, and dye are just some of the ways people are celebrating at festivals around the world. See 23 World Festivals You Won’t Want to Miss.

Marketing to new business owners with an info session — The Downtown Committee in Syracuse, NY, is attracting new businesses through an annual event that highlights the resources available to potential retailers. See the event schedule.

December 2013

Saving historic theaters is an economic development mission in many communities — When the functions of a theater cannot be saved, the building can still be repurposed in ways that revitalize downtown. For example, the shuttered Fox Theater in Hays, KS, was reopened as an event space. Read the archive article from Downtown Idea Exchange.

Partnerships enhance annual retail recruitment event — The Downtown Committee in Syracuse, NY, is attracting new businesses to the city center through an annual event that highlights the resources available to potential retailers. See the Retail Recruitment Event brochure.

Leadership programs benefit businesses and communities — Offering a leadership training program can not only provide downtown businesses with more skilled employees, but the community with stronger civic leaders, and with skilled volunteers to complete city center projects. View the Leadership Frederick County Leaders on Loan program application.

No downtown organization is an island: Maximizing partnerships — Learn how your downtown organization can maximize the potential for partnerships.

Best practices for food truck integration — A new report from the National League of Cities shows municipal officials how they can incorporate food trucks into the city’s existing business community.

Downtown organization increases event schedule by sponsoring rather than producing events — View examples of the application form that is the first step in requesting funds and learn about some of the creative events.

Application: Soundwalk

Application: Film and Music Festival

Application: Oktoberfest

Creating a successful downtown film festival — The Traverse City Film Festival in Traverse City, MI, has been going strong for nine years. See the organizations FAQ Sheet and details on its accomplishments.

Creative solution to need for public event space — A stunning example of adaptive reuse comes from the small town of York, MS. Lacking a central gathering area and performance space the city decided to create one on the site of a dilapidated single-family house. View the transforming theater.

November 2013

Container Park fills vacant space with entrepreneurial opportunities — To create a community gathering place, give entrepreneurs affordable space to launch business ventures, and bring new energy to the city center, the Downtown Project purchased one and one-third acres of land and designed a park complete with an interactive playground, public art, an outdoor performance venue, and more. Rather than incur the costs and time demands of new construction, the park features repurposed shipping containers and locally manufactured Xtreme Cubes. View the Container Park video.

Fostering artistic careers, building artistic neighborhoods — An innovative pilot program in Cleveland, OH, is providing affordable artist housing while building a stronger creative economy for the city. A low-cost weekend familiarization trip was marketed to the group’s database. See detailed information on the Collinwood project and background reports from the Rust Belt to Artist Belt conference.

Picturing Collinwood

From the Rust Belt to Artist Belt, Executive Summary

From the Rust Belt to Artist Belt, Companiion Report

Libraries: a valuable ally in economic development — In their bid to remain relevant in an increasingly bookless society and to survive municipal budget cuts, libraries are evolving into valuable downtown partners. Read the report Partners for the Future: Public Libraries and Local Governments Creating Sustainable Communities.

Art and teamwork are expanding the downtown footprint — Belfast, ME, boasts a Main Street organization, the Belfast Creative Coalition, a city economic development office, and the Belfast Area Chamber of Commerce. The leaders of the four organizations meet at least monthly to see how they can support each other, avoid duplication of effort, and maximize opportunities. They have even developed an Excel “cheat sheet” so that they can provide seamless service to prospective business owners.

E-commerce expands customer outreach — Having an online sales option enables brick-and-mortar retailers to promote products to customers outside their own communities, and also draws more foot traffic into downtown businesses. By sharing one website, each business can have its own fully functional e-commerce presence for a fraction of the cost of creating individual sites. See the Historic Quincy Business District E-Commerce Participant Agreement.

October 2013

It’s time to rightsize old streets to better meet the needs of new users — Rightsizing is the process of reallocating street space to better serve the full range of users. See the FHA’s Summary Report on the impact of rightsizing on crashes.

Art installations create support for more art — In Durango, CO, the city is learning that the more public art it has, the more public art people want to see. Donations of art, as well as pieces on loan, are multiplying throughout the community. View the Durango Art Donation Agreement.

Gen Y still likes to shop in stores — Despite being far more tech savvy than previous generations, Generation Y has not traded shopping in stores for online purchasing says a new report from the Urban Land Institute.

Video contests generate unique perspectives and low-cost marketing materials — Rather than paying staff or filmmakers to spend hours creating promotional photographs, videos, and sound bites, some downtown organizations are sponsoring video contests and then using the entries for future marketing efforts. The October issue of Downtown Promotion Reporter shows readers how. Click here to see a sample video contest entry form.

Outdoor fitness zones gain popularity in city centers — Increasingly, city centers are exploring ways to keep residents healthier and to contribute to their quality of life, which in turn creates a more vibrant downtown full of active people. Communities across the nation are finding creative way to fund fitness zones, and installing them in a variety of configurations, from accessories to existing fitness trails to functional public art. View a brief video, which shows the sculptural City Art Gym in use.

September 2013

Successful crowd control enhances downtown events — The September issue of Downtown Idea Exchange highlights key practices from the Police Executive Research Forum report, Managing Major Events: Best Practices from the Field. Click the link to read the full report.

Parking plan maximizes on-street parking for downtown customers — The focus of the Downtown Parking Solutions Project in Hillsboro, OR, was two-fold: first, to identify ways to better manage Hillsboro’s existing parking situation, and second, to examine long-term strategies that would address downtown density going forward. The Executive Summary from the project report is online here.

Mushing is not just for huskies — March 1 is the first day of the Iditarod, a 1,100-mile-long dogsled race from Anchorage to Nome, AK. Some downtowns are creating races of their own — using shopping carts and teams of human mushers. Three events were profiled in the September issue of Downtown Promotion Reporter. See the map and rules from the Partnership for Downtown St. Louis Idiotarod.

New market draws weekend customers downtown — By offering a wide range of fresh and prepared foods, varied programming, areas for gathering and dining, and cross promoting with downtown events and main street businesses, New Rochelle, NY’s Grand Market is a blueprint for success. Click to see images of the market.

Good communication and lots of promotions keep downtown bustling during construction — Faced with a lengthy and disruptive downtown construction project, the Main Street program in Ogallala, NE, was determined “not merely to cope but to make the experience a positive one.” View some of the many collateral materials used during the Downtown Construction Ahead — So What! campaign.

Construction Calendar

Construction Details

Alternate Routes

August 2013

Uniqueness factor and local support key to event success — For an event to become sustainable, it must have the support of local businesses, and it must continue to draw crowds year after year. The August issue of Downtown Promotion Reporter shows how the Annual Great American Duck Race does just that. Hear the radio ads, view the tv commercial.

Deming Duck Race TV ad

Deming Duck Race radio ad from 2011

Deming Duck Race radio ad from 2010

Art events can benefit all downtown businesses — Events that highlight the local creative economy are a wonderful addition to downtown cultural offerings. See how the Bozeman Downtown Art Walks activate downtown. View the promotional materials sent annually to downtown businesses encouraging participation.

Creating a year-round tourism community — Promoting an “open year-round” message helped Eureka Springs, AR, bolster the local economy. See the marketing materials.

Save the Date Invitation

Shopping in Eureka Springs web page

Winter Hideaway in Eureka Springs web page

How to reach out to writers — When a community has a story to tell, it’s important to engage the media. Here are links to national travel and outdoor writers’ organizations.

The Society of American Travel Writers

The Outdoor Writers Association of America

The Editorial Freelancers Association

The American Society of Journalists and Authors

Grassroots planning summit yields vision for downtown — After 20 years, most of the recommendations from the Intown Manchester Development Plan in Manchester, NH, have been accomplished. However, Intown Manchester didn’t want to “rest on its laurels.” Instead, the organization convened a day-long Next Steps Summit. Read the Next Steps Report.

July 2013

Creating walkable downtowns — View the 2013 sponsorship solicitation materials for Intown Manchester’s Custom Banner Program.

June 2013

Sculpture in the Streets program enlivens downtown — Art exhibits staged in public spaces attract visitors downtown and provide the opportunity to view art in a new way. The June issue of Downtown Promotion Reporter features Albany, NY’s Sculpture in the Streets program. Here you’ll find the BID’s Sculpture in the Street map and a video highlighting the exhibit of late kinetic sculptor George Rickey’s work.

Homegrown event creates buzz and builds business with good natured competition — Tapping into the competitive spirit of sports and dining enthusiasts, the Downtown Madness campaign promoted restaurants and attracted online followers. A local sportscaster was even brought in to do a YouTube video replicating the March Madness selection show.

Building an Instagram community — In the June issue, Downtown Promotion Reporter announced publication of Hearty, Wholesome, and Homemade: Building an Instagram Community that Thrives. You may read it here.

Communities growing DIY grocery stores — To help members and other supporters of the Hudson Grocery Cooperative spread the word, the group created talking points for face-to-face promotion, as well as a sample email letter that could be shared electronically. Read the talking points here.

Recovering from natural disasters — Scott Teel, marketing director for Agility Recovery, is a strong advocate for early education to ensure that downtown businesses have solid plans in place well before disaster strikes. Read our report on Teel’s presentation The Top 10 Most Common Mistakes During a Crisis.

Incubator attracts retail to the downtown — In early 2010, Downtown Idea Exchange first reported on this incubator program. Click to read the article First store opens under retail incubation program enabled by state legislation.

May 2013

State of downtown reports quantify value, attract investment — Creating an effective state of downtown report can quantify the value of your downtown organization’s work to the economic health of the city, and attract more investment. The May issue of Downtown Idea Exchange covers how to create a state of downtown report. Here are samples:

Charlotte Center City Partners

Downtown Denver Partnership

DowntownDC BID

Dedicated recruitment staff draws businesses — In York, PA, a recruitment specialist is bringing retailers downtown. This article in the May issue of Downtown Idea Exchange provides the details. This Web Extra shows the recruitment brochure.

Guerilla placemaking provides downtown character — Individuals and groups around the nation have begun “guerilla placemaking” initiatives to bring some of the grit, color, and character back to their city centers. This article covers activities such as knit graffiti and the Eye Love You project. The I Wish This Was project was covered previously. You may read the article Innovative outreach leads to creative public input here.

April 2013

Existing businesses weigh in on incubator services and tenants — This article in the April issue of Downtown Idea Exchange reflects the findings in A New Small City Business Incubator: A Business Community’s Attitudes and Desired Services.

Incentives and rezoning stimulate downtown housing — Knowing your market potential, offering incentives, creating appropriate zoning to make growth possible, and facilitating connections between the city, developers, and potential residents all play a role in creating more housing downtown. In Ithaca, NY, several housing projects are underway, with a targeted effort to attract even more. View details on the tax abatement program offered to developers.

Downtown beauty can be a community effort — Main Street Gardnerville in Garnerville, NV, has an all-volunteer Flower Committee keeps downtown festooned with blossoms from spring through early fall. View the Adopt-a-Pot brochure and care instructions.

Partners cut ribbons on incubators — The Edge: Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation opened last September in downtown Tuscaloosa, AL. View The Edge’s Coworking Membership Application and Agreement.

Promoting a business contest, and a community — The It Starts Here Challange in Princeton, MN, included the following collateral materials, a website, Facebook page, radio spot, flyers, and press releases. Local and regional newspapers and radio stations contributed some advertising, as well. And the contest generated enough buzz to earn a slot on the evening news. Hear the radio spot and view the TV coverage. Read the complete It Starts Here Challenge description and rules.

March 2013

The smart math of mixed-use development — This months Perspectives column was based on the work of Joseph Minicozzi, which originally appeared at the Planetizen website. You may read the original article The smart math of mixed-use development now.

Affordable housing crowdfunding pilot program — Our March article New online platforms support downtown projects includes information on a crowdfunding pilot program in Ottawa, ON, Canada. Click here to read the white paper Crowdfunding Affordable Housing.

Work space, programs, and events support start-ups — This month, we reported on the Alliance for Downtown New York’s business incubator, Hive at 55. You may also find our recent article Cowork incubators foster start-ups and fill vacant spaces useful.

New fund for arts businesses — The City of San Jose, CA, has established a Creative Industries Incentive Fund that provides financial support to commercial businesses rooted in the arts. View the program application and guidelines.

Tapping into the office-worker market — Despite the barrage of information on shoppers moving their spending online, a recent research report by the International Council on Shopping Centers shows a healthy amount of spending by office workers as well as opportunities for retailers, restaurants, and service businesses. Read the report Office Worker Retail Spending in a Digital Age.

February 2013

Investment in the arts means business — The nonprofit organization Americans for the Arts recently released its study Arts & Economic Prosperity IV. We provide encouraging data regarding the return on arts investment nationally, and on a local scale, in Downtown Promotion Reporter. You may read the report summary here.

Smart retailers reach out to smartphone shoppers — Increasingly, downtown retailers are learning how to engage smartphone owners and lure them away from Internet and big box shopping. Read the report The dawn of mobile influence: Discovering the value of mobile in retail.

Highlighting downtown’s heritage draws visitors — This article covers several ways that communities highlight downtown heritage, add visual interest, educate people about a community’s history, and draw visitors downtown.

See the Chillicothe Missouri Mural Map

See the Excelsior Springs walking tour map

Reducing fuel consumption at festivals and events — With rising fuel costs and an increasing awareness of sustainability, many large festivals are looking for ways to cut fuel consumption. Download The Power Behind Festivals: A guide to sustainable power at outdoor events.

Five keys to downtown success — The report The Value of Investing in Canadian Downtowns contains five keys to success, which downtowns can use to measure their progress and shape their futures. We provide a summary in this issue of Downtown Idea Exchange. Here is the full report.

Healthy living, healthy businesses, healthy budget — This article covers an ambitious project in Ottumwa, IA, which includes an incubator for local food-related businesses. For more articles on how the locally-grown movement is benefiting downtowns, click below.

Local foods and culinary offerings basis of downtown tourism niche

Bringing ‘locally grown’ downtown

A new plan for sustainable BID funding — The goal of many BIDs is to ensure a stable, long-term funding source, but if you don’t have a fair and equitable assessment plan or a good mechanism for collection, that can pose real problems. See the Downtown Boise Association Business Improvement District Assessment Billing Proposal.

Small cities continue to rise in popularity — U.S. Census data shows that cities in small metro areas are gaining population. Read the full report City Versus Suburban Growth in Small Metro Areas.

January 2013

Pop-ups becoming part of the annual holiday scene — When holiday pop-up programs first gained popularity, it was to add some vitality to vacant storefronts during the dark days of the Great Recession. However, the programs have proved valuable, not only in dressing up empty storefronts, but in boosting sales, drawing foot traffic downtown, generating media attention for the city center, and incubating new permanent businesses.

For background on pop-up programs read “Pop-up shops make downtown more festive,” from the December 2011 issue of Downtown Promotion Reporter.

Grant program encourages targeted retail development — One successful way to encourage specific businesses to open exactly where they are needed downtown is to tie financial assistance to those locations. The following materials support the Louisville, KY, program detailed in this article.

Louisville South Fourth Street Retail Merchandising Plan

Louisville Retail Grant Program application

Streets that work better for people, bikes, transit — The National Association of City Transportation Officials has released the Urban Street Design Guide. From bus rapid transit to bikeways and public seating, the guide showcases a new model for streets that work better for people, bikes, transit, and cities.
Read it here.

December 2012

Using existing anchors to create a niche market — The presence of a strong anchor business or a cluster of similar businesses downtown creates the opportunity to attract like-minded entrepreneurs to the city center. Harrisonburg, VA, has created its Harrisonburg Downtown Technology Zone, complete with incentives for technology-related businesses, to build on the strong tech presence already located downtown. See how the Technology Zone is promoted in this brochure.

A cohesive approach makes the most of downtown resources — Having several unrelated organizations working to revitalize downtown can be almost as ineffective as having none. This is just one of five issues covered in the report
5 Common Issues Cities Face & How to Tackle Them. Click the report title to read it online.

Embracing the cold — Edmonton, AB, Canada has released its Winter City Strategy. The report calls for more all-season patios, increased focus on winter festivals, more heated bus shelters and benches, and in general a strategy for making Edmonton into a “world-leading winter city.” Read the report now.

Using art as an economic development tool — The Office of Arts, Culture and Tourism in New Haven, CT, is using art to fill downtown vacancies and revitalize neighborhoods while also transforming would-be entrepreneurs from hobbyists to small business owners. For a related article about The Bourse and other successful co-working incubators published in the May, 2011, issue of Downtown Idea Exchange, click here.

Managing a month-long holiday promotion — Some communities keep their city centers programmed nearly on a daily basis throughout the winter holiday season, giving shoppers more reasons to venture downtown. But a downtown organization does not have to produce such an ambitious series of events on its own. By coordinating and marketing everything being done downtown by businesses and nonprofit organizations as a packaged campaign, each holiday event receives higher visibility than if it were marketed on its own. Click to view the website and program for the month-long Christmas in Newport celebration.

November 2012

Communities produce local gift guides — Downtown Cincinnati worked with local merchants last year to develop a holiday e-catalog. See it now.

Creating a trail through downtown — The nine-mile-long, multi-use Deer Creek Tribute Trail opened last spring, offering residents and visitors alike a cultural and ecological pathway for picnics, bicycling, hiking, swimming, fishing, and even horseback riding. "The trail was consciously designed to bring people downtown," says project partner Elizabeth “Izzy” Martin, CEO of the Sierra Fund. View the Tribute Trail Map.

Stakeholder input builds better holiday events — Main Street Chillicothe in Chillicothe, MO, spent time last summer polling merchants to discover what works, and what doesn’t, in the city’s holiday event calendar. View the Main Street Chillicothe merchant survey.

LipDub’s promote cities, trollys, and more — See a selection of LipDubs from Grand Rapids, Calgary, and Traverse City.

Creating people-centric city centers — Programs are underway throughout the nation to make downtowns more pedestrian friendly and to revitalize unused public spaces. The following examples appeared previously in Downtown Idea Exchange.

Stalled construction project leads to award-winning public space.

Reclaiming alleys as vital spaces.

From dangerous intersection to attractive, multi-use space.

Turning excess pavement into parklets.

Four ways to create pedestrian-friendly streets — The Make Way for People initiative in Chicago, IL, is a comprehensive approach to making the city’s streets, plazas, and alleys more inviting to pedestrians. View the PowerPoint presentation.

October 2012

Networking opportunities create financing partnerships — To fund new business ventures and help established businesses expand downtown, a group of involved citizens in East Jefferson County, WA, has set up a match-making group. The Local Investing opportunities Network (LION) facilitates investment by bringing together local investors with local business owners in need of loans or equity. View the LION Investment Opportunity Submission Form, and the video Local Investing Made Easy.

Restaurant and retail pairing attracts new customers — The Downtown Schenectady Merchant Mash Up is bringing restaurants and retail businesses together in events that provide the public with a fun new way to experience both. See the Merchant Mash Up Map & Guide.

September 2012

Summer concert series involves much more than music — The Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation website promotes the concert series with daily event details, along with information on how to advertise in the square and how to become a presenting sponsor. The site also features a video marketing the square, and the reach that advertising in the square provides.

Giving downtown a “face” — Downtown Peggy is a fictional character that has been posting, tweeting, and blogging her way into the hearts of downtown dwellers and visitors to Winnipeg, MB, Canada. Learn about Boots Walker, another fictional character and recording artist who promotes downtown Cheyenne, WY.

Preserving the “heart of the community” while revitalizing downtown — A plan that has been in the works for the past four years in Bothell, WA, includes relocating one major highway, extending Main Street, creating a transit-friendly route that detours busses away from downtown, and a major streetscape project, all focused on preserving the charm of the historic Main Street. Click to view a 3-D Fly-through of the plan.

Downtown Business Center focuses on attracting retail — To foster private-sector development, fill vacancies, and decrease downtown’s “one-dimensional” dependence on the dining and entertainment industries, the Town Green Special Services District in New Haven, CT, created a dedicated business center. Visit the Downtown Business Center website.

Supporting dynamic retail — The DC Vibrant Retail Streets Toolkit, explores model retail streets to determine what common elements define the truly vibrant ones. Click the link to read the full report.

August 2012

Learn more about award-winning re-skinning projects — In an era when concerns about cost and the environment factor heavily into new development, processes known as “re-skinning” and “re-imagining” existing buildings are gaining popularity. See details on award-winning re-skinning projects.

Program trains entrepreneurs for success — Cincinnati is filling vacant storefronts with a business training program for artists. See a short video featuring many program graduates.

Collateral materials help boost downtown living — In Syracuse, NY, a glossy, full-color, 12-page brochure features information on various downtown neighborhoods, complete with details about each building.

Tour perks attract brokers and potential residents — See the wide array of information provided to brokers and potential residents via the San Jose Downtown Association’s blog.

Mob dance keeps visitors downtown longer, builds community spirit — This type of instructional video keeps everyone dancing together.

Grassroots festival draws crowds and international attention — See how the Sarasota Chalk Festival uses its website to promote artists, as well as to communicate with the media, the public, and potential sponsors and donors.

July 2012

Improving downtown, one business at a time — To help retailers evaluate their businesses, consultant Christine Moynihan has created a self-assessment tool called A Retailer’s Gut Check, a 70-question self-assessment that business owners can use to see how they fare regarding exterior and interior appearance, customer service, and other vital best practices. See it beginning on page 9 of Welcome to Waltham!

Tools that support small businesses downtown — While most downtown professionals agree that small businesses are the backbone of the local economy, not everyone knows how to support entrepreneurs and small businesses to give them the best odds of survival and growth. Supporting Entrepreneurs and Small Business: A Tool Kit for Local Leaders, indicates that leadership, communication, and partnership are key themes in the small business success story. Read the full report now.

Savvy marketing moves brand and event goal forward — The Brand Leadership Team in Sparks, NV, worked closely with the public and the business community to develop the city’s new logo design and color scheme. To ensure that the logo and other marketing materials are easily accessible to the media, event producers, and businesses, a City of Sparks Brand Style Guide was created and added to the city’s website. See the Sparks Brand Style Guide here.

Photo contests create interactive marketing opportunities — Staff members of downtown organizations have plenty on their plates without having to gather new marketing shots of the city center. One solution is a photo contest. Read the Downtown in Focus Rules and Guidelines from Dayton, OH.

June 2012

Breathing new life into downtown alleys — Alley improvements are happening across North America. The goals range from enhanced connectivity, to beautifying streetscapes, to providing gathering spaces. Some are grass-roots efforts spearheaded by volunteers while others are city-funded reclamation projects. This article has two important online resources:

A photo essay on urban lanes by Alyse Nelson

The Fort Collins Alley Master Plan.

Collaboration creates larger event — Hometown Tourist is a month-long event offering discounts for Kentucky and Indiana residents at 32 area attractions, 17 restaurants, and nine hotels for the month of May. The goal is to encourage residents to “be a tourist in your hometown.” View video of the Hometown Tourist Celebration kick-off event.

Hanging art on main streets — Many communities are replacing the fabric banners that festoon their main streets with metal works of art that are more cost effective, and are customized to fit the city center. In Hoisington, KS, the banners even inspired a walking tour and scavenger hunt. View the Walking Tour brochure here.

May 2012

Experts predict the economy and changing work patterns will impact demand for office space — A panel of experts predicts that the amount of office space we now have is likely all we will need. Rather than adding massive amounts of new space in the future, these experts see a demographic and cultural shift toward making the space we have more efficient and accommodating. Read the full report Will We Need Any More Office Space? (Downtown Idea Exchange)

Protecting the environment and the small business bottom line — Dollars saved by business owners are just as important as dollars earned. Energy audits and efficiency upgrades are two ways that businesses can cut operating costs without impacting customer service. Downtown organizations are coming up with creative programs to help. Learn how to conduct a small business energy and water makeover. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

Bringing ‘locally grown’ downtown — Locally grown and produced foods are increasingly in demand, but can be hard for city dwellers to find. Urban farms are providing residents with those opportunities while also providing productive uses for unsightly vacant lots. In Columbia, SC, City Roots occupies 2.75 acres downtown. The farm provides locally grown and produced foods to two farmers markets, three grocery stores, and a dozen restaurants, as well as providing on-site sales, and a place where residents can get their hands into the soil, if the urge strikes. See the City Roots story in words and images. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

April 2012

Chocolate festivals provide sweet success — Because chocolate is not regional, any community can celebrate this flexible food, and its popularity practically guarantees high attendance. If you’re pitching a chocolate festival, share this video with your promotions committee. Lewisburg Chocolate Festival. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

Adapting to changing community demographics — Changing demographics nationwide suggest that downtown organizations seeking a larger participant base would do well to reach out to immigrant and older adult populations.

A recent study by Partners for Livable Communities provides insights from cities nationwide on ways organizations involved in the production of arts and cultural events can connect with immigrants and older adults. Read Culture Connects All: Rethinking Audiences in Times of Demographic Change. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

Parking programs keep pace with changing needs — Tough economic times and leaner budgets have lent downtown parking a new significance, as a way to generate revenue, a traffic management tool, an amenity, and even as a way to leverage development deals. Read our past coverage of programs in Pueblo, CO, and Naperville, IL. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

Addressing downtown parking problems — if a community wants to explore potential parking issues, the first step is a downtown parking study. View a PowerPoint Presentation on where to start. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

March 2012

Downtown offers bargain properties to developers — Staffers at Battle Creek Unlimited are hoping that current successes downtown, along with some very attractive property prices, will generate redevelopment of vacant buildings. Click to see an example of the simple sell sheet used to promote downtown properties to developers. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

A winning strategy for downtown parking — In 2010, Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, undertook an ambitious project to redevelop the site of a former downtown arena. Preserving downtown parking was a priority during every step of the project, with a range of creative “hard” and “soft” parking solutions recommended. Read the Town of Newmarket Directions Parking Report here. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

Temporary art and retail continue to gain pop-ularity — Open for only 24 days between February 18 and March 13, 2011, the Mt. Pleasant Temporium housed 34 artisans in vacant retail space, drew 6,800 visitors, and grossed $31,000. See the entire Mt. Pleasant Temporium Final Report. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

Mad Bags add to event excitement — People attending Third Thursday events in the Mill Avenue District in downtown Tempe, AZ, are warned to be on the lookout for the Mad Bags crew. Mad Bags are filled with goodies from businesses all over the Mill Avenue District. To win one, event participants simply answer a Mill Avenue trivia question. Share the fun with this Mad Bag video. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

February 2012

Re-creating downtown: historic restoration calms objections — To build support for a large, multi-stage revitalization project in Newport, RI, a slide show was created and presented to civic organizations, neighborhood groups, the downtown merchant association, and anyone else interested in learning more about the project. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

View the slideshow here.

Local foods and culinary offerings basis of downtown tourism niche — Many communities are reconnecting to their agricultural roots and culinary traditions as a way to revitalize downtowns, promote economic development, and build stronger, more resilient local food systems. View What’s Cooking in Your Food System? A Guide to Community Food Assessment.
(Downtown Idea Exchange)

Discount cards encourage downtown shopping and dining — Tough economic times have led several downtowns to offer discount cards that provide customer savings at participating retail businesses, restaurants and service providers. In Lynchburg, VA (est. pop. 75,568), the first discount card program has just begun. Learn more about the program.
(Downtown Promotion Reporter)

Social networking for event and business promotion — Downtown organizations can use social media to promote themselves, downtown events and more. Unfortunately, small business owners often lack computer or social media skills, so providing that training can be an invaluable service to members of downtown organizations, as well. See how one downtown organization is successfully using social media.
(Downtown Promotion Reporter)

January 2012

Creating an age-friendly environment downtown — With 77 million baby boomers entering and approaching senior citizen status, downtown organizations are giving thought to the needs of older citizens. Click to view the following resources:

Video, Growing Old in East Harlem.

Age Friendly Grocery Guide.

Age Friendly NYC Report.
(Downtown Idea Exchange)

Municipal cuts in snow removal budgets present challenges and opportunities — In Manchester, NH, a snow removal guide clarifies roles and responsibilities. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

Walking tours highlight downtown’s claim to fame — Offering a range of walking tours can spur interest in historical landmarks and famous citizens, while providing a format to suit every taste. View the Historic Downtown New Rochelle walking tour. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

December 2011

Downtown expansion takes patience, public support and innovation — the revitalized downtown Tupelo, MO, has doubled in size and has won multiple awards, including a national Phoenix Award for Brownfields Revitalization. View an interactive map of the redevelopment area. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

Developing a downtown arts district — While the Main Street group in Dubuque, IA, was considering a new arts district the city was looking to add 400 units of market-rate housing. A group of property owners and developers joined the arts organizations to ensure that housing was incorporated into the plans. See the Master Plan. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

Pop-up shops make downtown more festive — To enhance offerings during the busy holiday shopping season, many communities are developing annual holiday pop-up programs that enliven main streets, highlight available spaces, and give entrepreneurs a valuable outlet for showcasing products. See an example of a Pop-up Shop Program FAQ and Interest Sheet. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

Awards program puts focus on customer service — Accolades help reinforce the message that excellent customer service is important to Savannah, GA. View the service award nomination form. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

Local talent can keep television affordable — Maintaining a good relationship with the local cable company, using local talent, and knowing when and how to use air time most effectively can make television an affordable outreach medium for downtown organizations. See commercials from Syracuse, NY, and Boonton, NJ. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

November 2011

Modern streetcars gaining in popularity — Moving people throughout city centers in cost-effective, environmentally-friendly ways is important. When a transit system meets those needs while also driving economic development, cities nationwide sit up and take notice. Click for details about Portland Streetcar’s vehicles, alignments, stops, timeline, goals, and more. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

Good communication key to meeting changing needs downtown — A downtown ambassador program can beautify city streets, increase safety and enhance the visitor experience. Clear communication with stakeholders and plenty of public feedback can help these programs better address the needs of downtown constituents. View the Downtown Cincinnati Inc. Perception Survey. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

Enhancing the pedestrian experience — Recently, the Times Square Alliance in New York City, NY, created a successful program that cleverly combined socializing, seating and aesthetics. The playful urban furniture, called “Meeting Bowls,” are three large semi-spherical creations which seat up to eight people in each. Watch the video here. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

Utilizing land banks to rehab abandoned properties — People think of land banks as a tool for dealing with surplus land that no longer has a use, such as former farmland. While land banks are not new, the way that they are now being used is bringing new help to center cities. Read the handbook Land Banks and Land Banking. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

Determining the value of green infrastructure — Many city centers are faced with aging infrastructure, shrinking budgets, and a need to meet federal and state stormwater runoff mandates and/or protect valuable natural resources downtown. A new report, The Value of Green Infrastructure: A Guide to Recognizing its Economic, Environmental and Social Benefits, gives planners, builders and city officials tools to determine which infrastructure investments will be most effective, efficient and sustainable. Also read the Seattle green roof inventory and report. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

Hospitality training boosts business downtown — Great customer service can create consumer trust and loyalty that will not be swayed by big box stores. It has been said that people may forget what you say, or what you do, but they never forget how you make them feel. With stiff competition for every consumer dollar, providing hospitality training for downtown businesses makes great financial sense. Recently, the Greater Lansing CVB launched a Certified Tourism Ambassador (CTA) Program so that front-line employees could enhance the visitor experience via their improved knowledge of what the area has to offer. View data on the economic impact of tourism in Lansing, including the CTA training brochure and blog. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

Introducing commercial and residential realtors to downtown — The very successful bi-annual Urban Nights program in Dayton, OH, is being used strategically to market downtown to real estate professionals on an evening when the city center is at its best. See the Know Dayton, Sell Dayton course description. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

October 2011

Designing downtown for an aging population — There are about 77 million baby boomers in the United States. As this largest segment of the population ages, pedestrian-friendly downtowns become increasingly important.
(Downtown Idea Exchange)

Click to view New York’s Toward an Age-friendly City: A Findings Report.

Addressing stakeholder concerns leads to proposal acceptance — The City, Main Street Concord, and Concord 20/20 proposed a major redevelopment plan for downtown. While the process and plan were widely praised, one group felt left out of the process. A second report specifically addresses the issues of downtown retailers. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

The original report.

The retail supplement.

Another useful tool used by the group was Kirk Westphal’s video, Insights into a Lively Downtown.

Successful residential tours lead to office space tours downtown — Inviting potential business owners, residents, and real estate professionals to tour available inventory is an effective way to sell downtown properties. Residential tours have led the way in many communities, but tours of office and commercial space are becoming popular, as well. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

View the newspaper insert used to promote the Syracuse Downtown Living Tour.

View Intown Manchester’s Office Space brochure.

How to handle too much of a good thing — Bustling holiday events are a goal in many city centers, but when the annual Halloween festivities in Chapel Hill, NC, began to draw 80,000 people from across the state, managing for public safety got downright scary. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

The downtown association shares information and safety tips with merchants via halloween-style emails.

September 2011

Partnerships and place management — Click here to view the full text of this article, which includes information on how public/private partnerships for place management are evolving in Europe and Asia. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

Regulating portable cuisine downtown — Whether or not to allow food trucks downtown, and how to regulate them if they are allowed, has been up for debate for over a year in Asheville, NC. The difficult economic times make it more feasible for entrepreneurs to finance a food truck than a brick-and-mortar business. But some restaurant owners and downtown retailers are concerned about the competition, and potential noise, odor and litter that might accompany food trucks. City lawmakers are struggling to balance the needs of all concerned. View a presentation on food carts prepared for the Asheville Independent Restaurants association.

Also view the Madison and Dane County Food and Drink Application.
(Downtown Idea Exchange)

Innovative outreach leads to creative public input — What if citizens had the opportunity to express opinions about how to fill vacant storefronts every day in their own neighborhoods? This was the question posed by the “I Wish This Was” project, which launched last November in New Orleans, LA.

Click here to see public feedback gathered through the program.
(Downtown Idea Exchange)

Putting the “fun” in fundraising — Careful pre- and post-event planning and marketing of a fundraising event can boost attendance, raise more funds, and garner statewide attention. The Best Creative Fundraising Project award from Mississippi Main Street has gone to the tiny town of Water Valley, MS, for the second year in a row, this time for the Come as You Aren’t Costume Party/Dance. See a one-minute video of the Party/Dance here. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

Sell the lifestyle, not the bricks and mortar — View collateral materials created for two redevelopment projects. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

Kansas City, MO, video.

Mission, KS, brochure.

Charity begins downtown — An innovative program in Traverse City, MI, partners the Downtown Traverse City Association with local nonprofit organizations in marketing the city center, raising money for good causes, and encouraging shoppers to get a head start on holiday purchases. Here is the solicitation letter and the application for nonprofits. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

August 2011

Recovering from a natural disaster: preparation, planning, response — Natural disasters can devastate downtowns, leaving residents homeless, businesses destroyed, and communities struggling. Those who have survived Mother Nature’s wrath have valuable insights and are often willing to share recovery information. See the Grand Forks, ND, Recovery Briefing Book. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

New laws help downtowns deal with absentee landlords — The recent uptick in downtowns struggling with abandoned buildings and absentee landlords is driving changes in public policy. New laws in several states strive to provide communities with the tools necessary to address properties left in disrepair and move forward with revitalization efforts. View the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania’s Quick Guide: New Tools to Address Blight and Abandonment. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

Contest draws entrepreneurs downtown — Click here to view complete details on the Amory Venture Business Plan Competition. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

Vibrancy plan — To boost vibrancy in Stowe, VT, the village commissioned the Stowe Village Vibrancy Report. See it now. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

BID levy flexibility — While most BIDs can levy only against properties, and in a uniform manner, some jurisdictions allow a sliding scale linked to the level of benefit derived from the BID. One example is Ontario, Canada. Read the full Municipal Act here. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

Connecting an icon to downtown — Old Post Office Plaza, in St. Louis, MO, provides 30,000 square feet of public space in the heart of the downtown business district. Programs include lunchtime concerts, theater, street performers, weekend markets, and other events designed to draw various demographics downtown. See the following documents:

Old Post Office Plaza brochure

St. Louis Visitor’s Guide

Parking Map & Guide

July 2011

Downtowns creating programs to deal with aggressive panhandling — In Ann Arbor, MI, the Mayor’s Street Outreach Task Force has released a 42-page report detailing the issues, and recommended solutions, around downtown panhandling. Read the entire task force report here. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

Public transit not always welcomed by downtown businesses — In Providence, RI, substantial investment is underway to make bus stops clean and safe, and to turn a major busing hub into a downtown asset. Click here to see the Providence Metro Transit Enhancement Study. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

Video nets international fame for downtown — The nine-minute lip dub video highlighting Grand Rapids, MI, went live on YouTube on May 26 two weeks later, it had already been viewed over three million times, and garnered more than 29,000 “Likes” on Facebook. See the video here. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

New Community Center adds vibrancy, connectivity and more to downtown — Draws 22,000 people annually to town of 3,296. To see the full range of programming at the Community Center, view the Art Walk brochure and the Parks and Recreation Summer Guide. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

Turning downtown utility doors into an asset — Beautifying downtown spaces can be challenging when streetscapes include metal utility doors that create a warehouse-like atmosphere. In San Jose, CA, the Downtown Doors program has been transforming utility doors throughout the urban landscape into works of art since 2003. View a video, the Downtown Doors map, and samples of student artwork. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

June 2011

Two Ohio communities take innovative approaches to housing rehab — Vibrant neighborhoods attract residents and help enliven downtown streets and businesses. But issues of vacant homes and homes in need of maintenance plague many communities. In Lakewood, OH, a new program helps residential owners and tenants more affordably maintain building exteriors. View the Paint Lakewood Preliminary Application and complete Program Guidelines. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

Citizen attachment creates vitality downtown — Communities with loyal citizens who experience an attachment and enthusiasm for their downtowns experience a higher Gross Domestic Product (the value of goods and services produced) and more population growth, according to a recent study. Read the full Knight Soul of the Community 2010 report, including city profiles and interactive maps. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

Debunking parking myths, providing downtown solutions — Myths about downtown parking abound and often get in the way of ensuring the right amount of parking, in the right places, at the right price. View a PowerPoint presentation from the Laberger Group. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

May 2011

Cowork incubators foster start-ups and fill vacant spaces — Cowork incubators provide an opportunity for downtown development organizations and property owners to fill vacant space and enliven downtown streets. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

View the Downtown Coworking Survey from Downtown Vision Inc. in Jacksonville, FL.

Learn about events and programs that draw people into cowork space at The Factory in Grand Rapids, MI.

Investing time and outreach pays off when making zoning changes — The City Council in Spartanburg, SC, recently adopted a new form-based Urban Code that was five years in the making. Click to see the new Urban Code. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

Common thread in stakeholder feedback creates marketing and branding program — Fenton, MI, jump starts marketing for two downtown districts with new marketing plan and brand. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

View a PowerPoint presentation about the branding process. (49.9MB file, may take some time to download.)

See the survey used to gather branding input.

See marketing materials based on the new brand and logo.

Strengthening the connection to nearby attractions draws visitors downtown — When a downtown, a nearby natural resource destination, and a region undergo revitalization efforts at the same time, and connect to promote those efforts, collaboration pays off. One important product of that collaboration is the Outside Seattle map. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

Poetry draws visitors, enlivens city streets — As the city of St. Paul, MN, goes through the routine of replacing 10 miles of sidewalk annually, poetry is being added to city streetscapes. Click here to view the process of poetry stamping. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

Bed races keep rolling — From bed specifications to entry fees, the Great Topeka Bed Race lays out all of the details in this informative guide. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

April 2011

Program builds fences — and commitment to downtown — The Lend A Hand program in El Cajon, CA, includes large-scale neighborhood enhancement events, monthly clean-up sessions, neighborhood meetings, education and training sessions, public art, and opportunities for the public to provide feedback on capital improvement projects. See the Lend A Hand at a Glance document. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

Getting social gives downtown a personality and a voice — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and blogging attract millions of users daily. Downtown organizations are using the constant-connectivity craze to educate the public about issues, create buzz about events, and to maintain a line of open communication with the public. The Downtown Sacramento Partnership in Sacramento, CA, is using all of these tools. Click here to read their blog. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

Science Cafes draw patrons downtown — In New Rochelle, NY, a BID, a college and a library have partnered to create interesting evening programming that draws people into downtown restaurants and pubs. Learn more about Science Cafes here. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

Incentives encourage pop-up retail opportunities — Downtown organizations are always looking for creative ways to fill vacant storefronts in city centers. Pop-up retailers can help fill those voids. See the rules, FAQs and a description of Go Downtown, Grow Downtown. The Great Space Giveaway in Duluth, MN. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

Downtown construction leverages jobs — A case study in Baltimore, MD, shows that constructing pedestrian improvements in places like downtowns leverages multiple jobs. For every $1 million spent directly on pedestrian projects, communities earn 11.3 total jobs. Click here to read Estimating the Employment Impacts of Pedestrian, Bicycle, and Road Infrastructure. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

March 2011

Residential use is integral component of downtown revitalization plan — As input to the Greater Downtown Dayton Plan the general public participated in a survey. The data is summarized here. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

Planning, focus and innovation lead to successful downtown development — In 2009, the City of Eugene conducted a survey to discover what type of economic development and revitalization projects the public would support for downtown. As a result, the City Council and the City’s Planning & Development Department created a plan focusing on four high-priority areas: job creation and development; safety; parking; and drawing people into downtown for events and amenities. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

View results of Eugene’s Downtown Revitalization Plan Survey.

View Eugene’s Downtown Safety Initiative.

Lighting project saves City dollars, reduces crime — To learn more about ways communities are addressing light pollution, visit the International Dark-Sky Association website. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

A unified message promotes tourism and economic development — The Edmonton, Alta., Canada message map provides positive talking-points about the City. View the complete message map here. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

New twists on an old children’s game bring people downtown — Geocaching is a high-tech cousin of the scavenger hunt. Learn more about Downtown Grand Junction’s historic geocaching tour, and see the GPS coordinates to 13 downtown landmarks. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

Family-friendly zones enhance downtown events for some attendees — View the ordinance establishing a drug and alcohol free zone along parade routes in Slidell, LA. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

February 2011

Collaboration reduces competition and offers cost savings. View the Defiance Development and Visitors Bureau/Defiance Area Chamber of Commerce PowerPoint Presentation on the benefits of collaboration.

Coordinated marketing efforts write a new story for downtown. Learn how Center City Philadelphia has weathered the economic storm. Read the 2010 Retail Report.

Housing study clarifies strengths, weaknesses. Read the Comprehensive Housing Market Analysis for Bristol, CT.

View a site comparison and 3-D renderings of the proposed development at Depot Square in Bristol, CT.

Successful volunteer management is not one size fits all. See the Volunteer Management Assessment worksheet designed by Florence May of The Registration System.

Dine Downtown programs boost business during low-traffic months. View the Dine Downtown San Jose online survey for consumers.

January 2011

Under-utilized pavement reborn as vibrant public space. San Francisco’s Pavement to Parks program invites project proposals with this RFP. (Downtown Idea Exchange).

View seven completed projects in the Pavement to Parks program.

Creative revenue sources add up to successful downtown projects. Building consensus results in high public buy-in for new plaza in Chillicothe, MO. Using information from focus groups is a good first step. Read the Focus Group Survey Report. (Downtown Idea Exchange).

Get people onto their bikes. On a list of 28 ideas for getting more women to ride bikes, making it more fashionable was dead last. View the complete Women’s Cycling Survey. (Downtown Idea Exchange).

Mixed-use development produces most property tax, study says. To understand how much property tax is produced per acre by various kinds of development, Futurewise analyzed development in Sarasota County, FL, and Asheville, NC. Click to view their PowerPoint presentation. (Downtown Idea Exchange).

Vacant storefronts provide opportunities to draw people downtown. Cities across the nation are transforming vacant storefronts into opportunities for artists and fledgling entrepreneurs with creative ideas. View the Artist Application Procedures required by the Missoula Cultural Council for storefront art projects. (Downtown Promotion Reporter).

Tuning in to local ad media. A report from the Radio Advertising Bureau lists and rates the effectiveness of local media options. Read Guide to Competitive Media here. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

December 2010

‘Vote Yea’ campaign a primer in building political will. This archive article covers a successful initiative to build voter support for a temporary sales tax. (Downtown Promotion Reporter).

Three-point business recruitment plan relies on marketing at every stage. To cope with ever more vacant space downtown, the City of Sebring, FL is embarking on a business recruitment and retention program. The first step saw consultant Casey Wohl plowing through an extensive marketing analysis and plan completed by the City and setting a firm course of action. (Downtown Promotion Reporter).

This small downtown successfully balances growth and preserving its historic core. Despite harsh winters and pricey real estate, downtown Hanover, NH (est. pop. 11,040), best known as home to Dartmouth College, is an economic engine that keeps getting better and stronger. One reason for Hanover’s success is that it has stuck to its Vision Plan steadfastly. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

November 2010

Debate over toy store mural indicates that better signage and mural regulations are needed. A toy store mural painted recently in downtown Walla Walla, WA (est. pop. 31,290), may be cute and seemingly innocuous, but City officials and downtown leaders fear that letting it stand will set a bad precedent in retail signage and design. This strange brouhaha has brought national attention to the small downtown. See the mural here. (Downtown Idea Exchange).

Catchy jingle and tours among new assets. In this age of social media, a catchy jingle on the radio is an old idea that still has legs to reach and connect with local people.This new jingle for downtown Vineland, NJ (est. pop. 59,200) is a recent example. Click to hear the jingle. (Downtown Promotion Reporter).

October 2010

Festival celebrates with Latin beat, flavor. Sponsorship dollars help the MusicArte de Fort Worth festival stay in the black. View the Official Sponsor Proposal. (Downtown Promotion Reporter).

Creating downtown destinations: From daylighting to fine dining. In Yonkers, NY, a public-private partnership involving the City, State and developers is undertaking a project to "daylight" submerged sections of the Saw Mill River — a local tributary of the Hudson River. This waterfront city bordered by the Hudson is joining an elite club of daylighting cities that includes San Antonio, TX; Providence, RI; and Kalamazoo, MI. Read the report Daylighting: New Life for Buried Streams. (Downtown Idea Exchange).

Projected population growth calls for long-term visioning. Between 2001 and 2006, the population of Guelph, Ontario, grew 8.3 percent, from about 106,200 to 114,900, and that trend is very likely to continue.

This document establishes core growth principles and short-term initiatives for the next five to 10 years. (Downtown Idea Exchange).

September 2010

10 principles to make downtown more competitive and livable. To create a set of shared goals for transportation development in urban areas, the Institute of Transportation and Development Policy has published, Our Cities Ourselves: 10 Principles for Transport in Urban Life. The 10 principals provide practical and thought provoking direction for downtown areas in a compelling format.

Downtown development gets going when vision and practicality meet. After slow progress and a seeming inability to move forward, the City of Hillsboro, OR (est. pop. 95,320) has found its way to a sound approach to both planning and implementing improvements for the downtown area. The following important documents are discussed in the article:

Downtown Hillsboro Urban Renewal Plan

Downtown Hillsboro Urban Renewal Report

Downtown Hillsboro Urban Renewal Financial Summary


Public Hearing Notice

Downtown Framework Plan

Think about a Community Benefit Agreement. Under a Community Benefit Agreement, groups impacted by a development agree to support, or at least not oppose, a project provided the developer agrees to meet the negotiated demands. Read “The role of community benefit agreements in New York City’s land use process.” (Downtown Idea Exchange).

Photo-sharing campaign and contest gives downtown a much-needed lift. The “Picture it Downtown” campaign encouraged residents to go downtown, snap a photo, and share it online. In doing so, residents shared their rich experiences of downtown, and gave the city lots of photography to use royalty-free in its downtown marketing. Hear a radio ad and see bus and transit stop ads from the campaign.

Branding rebuilds excitement in the promise of downtown. Through the “I Am Downtown” campaign, Downtown Lafayette is inspiring a new sense of ownership and pride within its growing creative class. The campaign succeeds by showing and telling about the ties between downtown and real people. View Downtown Lafayette’s Brand Book and Brand Standards.

Utility boxes as a downtown canvas. The Downtown El Cajon [CA] Utility Art Box Program invites artists to design and paint utility boxes. The idea is to bring more art into downtown to beautify the streetscape. See the complete UArt guide including the application, FAQs and more. (Downtown Promotion Reporter).

Potluck stars the arts. The 20th Annual Grand Marais Arts Festival brings art-lovers downtown. See how a simple two-page self-mailer provides all the details that artists need to participate.

August 2010

Use a timeline to make the community visioning process most productive. Having a plan for the planning process — what to do when — is vitally important. It enables downtown leaders to translate good ideas into implementable units, put them on a calendar, and make them a reality. See the Downtown Waco Planning Process Timeline and the draft Downtown Waco Plan. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

“Connect the dots” between existing assets to generate foot traffic from car traffic. During the community planning process for West Point, MS, it became clear that the downtown had everything it needed to succeed. It just needed to link those assets better. So the charrette team worked on “connecting the dots” to give the community a solid foundation on which to build future efforts. View the charrette presentation. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

Research could help downtowns and users know where the parking is. Seeing tight parking as a real-time information problem rather than a supply and demand issue, two Rutgers professors are working on an intriguing, information technology-driven solution. Read the Rutgers Focus Report on the technology. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

Bikeways provoke legal issues. While many communities are looking into the development of bikeways and bike facilities on downtown streets, they should be aware of potential legal issues -- particularly liability for accidents that could impact the local government. Read the TRB's report Legal Research Digest 53 on Liability Aspects of Bikeways. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

How many people will work here? A mega-study done at Rutgers University suggests these rough parameters for estimating the employment that various space uses generate. Read the report How Many People Live Here. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

Invest those marketing dollars and other resources where they'll do the most good. So many downtowns are in the difficult position of trying to do more with less. With some strategic long-term investments and creativity though, it can be done. See how the City of East Lansing, MI shapes up it's budget. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

July 2010

If downtown is not firing on all cylinders, a task force should find out why. The mayor’s task force in Summit, NJ, takes an objective look at the roles and responsibilities of the various organizations involved in downtown revitalization and makes recommentations for improving management and leadership. Read the Downtown Review Task Force report’s recommendations. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

Using a score sheet simplifies choosing the best development proposal. The DeLand Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) used a score sheet when it met to interview two development firms that proposed bringing housing projects downtown. Review the Request for Community Redevelopment Action, including the ranking sheets and comparisons of two competing proposals. Plus a Final Tally Sheet, which shows how the two proposals were scored. (Downtown Idea Exchange).

Repurpose obsolete commercial areas as residential. Read the full report Managing Neighborhood Change: A Framework for Sustainable and Equitable Revitalization from the National Housing Institute. (Downtown Idea Exchange).

Invest those marketing dollars and other resources where they’ll do the most good. Many downtowns are in the difficult position of trying to do more with less. With some strategic long-term investments and creativity, it can be done. A case in point is the City of East Lansing, MI’s, Downtown Management Board (DMB). While the organization would like to do more marketing, its overall budget is only $50,000, what the DMB still manages to do is remarkable, a study in investing money and resources wisely. View the DMB’s budget in detail. (Downtown Promotion Reporter).

June 2010

Supporting others’ events helps promote downtown. The Downtown Stockton Alliance offers a range of services to individuals and organizations hosting events downtown. Here is their eight-page agreement.

Subsidy helped businesses with construction outside their doors. Using tax increment funds, the Fort Myers (FL, est. pop. 65,390), Downtown Redevelopment Agency established the Common Area Maintenance Subsidy Program, essentially a rent subsidy that provided restaurants, retail stores, and nightclubs affected by construction 50 cents per square foot per month, for as long as construction was underway in front of the business. Read the application for the Common Area Maintenance Subsidy Program. (Downtown Idea Exchange).

Ad campaign relies on fund-raising for long-term implementation. The goal of the Downtown Savannah Brand & Marketing Campaign is to increase awareness, foot traffic, and sales in downtown Savannah, GA (est. pop. 132,400), by targeting the greater Savannah residential market. The campaign theme and brand revolve around personal experiences and illustrate the unique attributes of downtown Savannah. The first phase of the campaign kicked off last August with two professionally developed television commercials, one presenting downtown by day and the other by twilight. Here’s an early fund-raising mailer soliciting business support for the ad campaign. (Downtown Promotion Reporter).

Wonderful Day TV commercial

Twilight TV commercial

Print ads

Poster ads

Campaign fund-raising mailer

Public art show presents both technical & marketing challenges. For the last three years, the Downtown Albany Business Improvement District (BID) in Albany, NY (est. pop. 93,540), has presented an outdoor public art exhibition and walking tour. Guided tours of the exhibition and downtown could be arranged through the Albany Aqua Ducks and Trolleys, and this walking tour. (Downtown Promotion Reporter).

May 2010

Successful facade grant program works hand in hand with design standards. A facade grant program in Ocean City, MD (est. pop. 7,040), is credited with making a striking impact on the appearance of downtown, encouraging significant private investment, and extending the tourist season for this resort community. Through the program, the Ocean City Development Corp. provides architectural services at no charge to the applicant. What’s more, the Town waives its permit fees for program participants. However, recipients of the exterior improvement grants must follow the Town’s design standards for the traditionally mixed-use downtown. View the Ocean City Downtown Design Guidelines. (Downtown Idea Exchange).

Executive directors stress value of networking with peers. Networking with colleagues to share ideas, insights, and best practices is central to the work of many downtown organization managers. One such collaboration produced tools to educate downtowners about crime prevention. View the Partners in Prevention guide and poster. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

Bike rides can show off downtown districts in a positive light. The 15-mile Tour de Elizabeth, a fun ride around the City of Elizabeth, NJ (est. pop. 124,800), starts and ends in downtown. For locals living in northern New Jersey, whose impressions about the city are often vaguely negative and outdated, this family fun event can be a special eye-opener. View the Tour de Elizabeth entry form and release statement. (Downtown Promotion Reporter).

Modernizing approaches to marketing. A downtown that has thoroughly modernized its marketing is Memphis, TN (est. pop. 669,700). Upon visiting Downtownmemphis.com, one is greeted with colorful, energetic photos of downtown and its community. The central message positions the website as an idea-starter and planning tool for fun and leisure with the tagline: ‘log on + go out.’ Elements of the campaign include cheeky YouTube videos (represented by still frames here) and “My Week in Downtown” print ads. (Downtown Promotion Reporter).

YouTube video 1

YouTube video 2

YouTube video 3

“My Week in Downtown” print ad 1

“My Week in Downtown” print ad 2

“My Week in Downtown” print ad 3

“My Week in Downtown” print ad 4

April 2010

In taking on implementation of a plan, make a short list. When the Downtown Fond du Lac Partnership and the City began working on the new Downtown Development Plan, they determined that they needed to group redevelopment opportunities into districts to maintain some consistency in the areas and to show potential developers that there is a larger vision for each area. This approach resulted in 10 concepts for areas that are clearly defined on a map of the downtown. The Partnership will focus on three of those concept areas, aiming to create more vibrant and cohesive placemaking and activity centers. (Downtown Idea Exchange).

City of Fond du Lac Downtown Development Plan

Business retention programs maintain the harder gains made through recruitment. An impressive regimen of business recruitment and retention activities by the Rochester Downtown Development Authority shapes and maintains the vibrant and largely independent business mix of downtown Rochester, MI (est. pop. 11,000).

A secret shopper program helps businesses improve the customer experience and thrive downtown (Downtown Promotion Reporter).

Secret Shopper Survey Form - Retail Store

Secret Shopper Survey Form - Restaurant

Secret Shopper Survey Form - Service Business

Going big & community-wide fund-raising. The Lewisburg Downtown Partnership (LDP) in Lewisburg, PA (est. pop. 5,450), is a small downtown Main Street program that operates successfully despite a fractured local government structure — several boroughs contained in one ZIP code — and no grant dollars from the state. But it continues to raise big money in fund-raising through strong leadership, clear planning, and a well-documented track record of success. The LDP is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation that depends heavily on both fund-raising, which it does through campaigns conducted once every three years, and volunteers. View a fund-raising campaign letter from the Partnership. The letter went out on LDP letterhead with all board members’ names listed on the left. (Downtown Promotion Reporter).

Campaign for Lewisburg letter

Campaign for Lewisburg brochure

March 2010

To jump-start upper-story development, downtown calls on local design and engineering students. One of the opportunity areas for downtown-gown partnerships is in tapping local architecture and engineering faculty and students to help generate ideas and designs for adaptive reuse of underused buildings. The City of Roseburg (OR, est. pop. 20,680) Community Development Department, for example, recently partnered with downtown property owners and engineering students to design conceptual plans for four buildings with vacant upper floors. “We viewed it as a small jump start to redevelopment options downtown,” says Brian Davis, director of the City of Roseburg Community Development Department. View a report to city council about this town-gown program, as well as a video of the students’ presentation at that meeting. (Downtown Idea Exchange).

Billboards, magazine ads, and events all support a downtown’s re-branding efforts. With the relocation of a winery to its central square a few years ago, and the emergence of wineries in this state-capital region, the picturesque downtown of Georgetown, TX (est. pop. 49,620), now has something more tangible, engaging, and activity-oriented to promote. Georgetown is using its wine association to market downtown via special events, ads in regional lifestyle magazines, and billboard ads that target people who pass through the city on their commutes. Photos for the ads were shot in several downtown businesses. View all three billboard ads and the magazine ad. (Downtown Promotion Reporter).

Wine Billboard 1

Wine Billboard 2

Wine Billboard 3

Magazine Ad

February 2010

Countering negative perceptions of parking with branding, technology and reduced fees. Three ideas top Eugene, OR’s agenda for revamping downtown’s public parking system: branding through new parking and wayfinding signage; upgrading to modern technology and easier payment options; and expanding and publicizing free parking. View a packet of memorandums from Parking Services to the City Council Parking Subcommittee, which detail these parking ideas. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

Have more regular dialog with elected officials, IDA says. Encouraged by a White House memo on developing effective place-based policies for the FY 2011 Budget, the IDA is attempting to do precisely that at the national level, through lobbying to have a seat at the table as government discusses policy that could impact urban areas. The memo is relevant to downtown management in the three principles it advises agencies to follow. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

Expose people of various walks of life to the joys of living downtown. Downtown Living Exposed, a multi-faceted campaign by the Pittsburgh (PA, est. pop. 310,000) Downtown Partnership (PDP), raised awareness among target demographics about the appeal of living downtown. Most interestingly, the campaign focused on very different kinds of real people who have chosen to live downtown. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

Pittsburgh Living Ad — Eco-Friendly Exec

Pittsburgh Living Ad — Dynamic Duo

Pittsburgh Living Ad — Battlefield Beauty

Pittsburgh Living Ad — Family Focused

Downtown Living Exposed (PowerPoint Presentation)

January 2010

Campaign encourages redirecting $50 locally each month. Begun with a blog post by retail consultant Cinda Baxter, The 3/50 Project is a buy-local campaign based on a simple premise: Ask consumers to frequent three local brick and mortar businesses they don’t want to see disappear, and to spend a very affordable $50 per month doing it. Unlike other buy-local campaigns, The 3/50 Project does not ask consumers to avoid or stop shopping in chains or franchises. A week after first posting this proposal to her blog last March, Baxter threw together a free flyer that businesses could crank out of their desktop printers to hand customers. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

Survey leads to four-pronged approach to economic development. Following a survey probing what type of economic development and revitalization projects people would like to see downtown, the planning and development department and the city council in Eugene, OR (est. pop. 150,100), adopted a set of four strategic focus areas for their downtown revitalization efforts.View the results (starting on page 9 of this document) of the public survey commissioned by the City of Eugene to inform its downtown revitalization plan. (Downtown Idea Exchange) Read Technomic’s white paper, Satisfying the Changing Consumer: The Winning Restaurant Formula. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

With strict enforcement of time limits, free parking can enhance commerce. Short-term parking meters are meant to encourage frequent turnover of spaces in key areas. Trouble is, people are often unprepared with quarters when they need to park, and so may avoid stopping at all. This informal parking survey was sent to downtown businesses in Davenport, IA, to solicit opinions on a range of solutions. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

Facing widespread blight, large redevelopment zones should strengthen downtown. Taking into account its decades of decline and sobering economic and demographic trends, the City of Cedartown, GA (est. pop. 10,120), is taking a practical and holistic approach to preparing downtown for economic relevance and redevelopment. The Cedartown Redevelopment Plan puts downtown development in the context of communitywide revitalization. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

New downtown organization tackles weak local awareness. Creating a strong brand identity for downtown has been an early focus area for the Castle Rock, CO, DDA. Among its accomplishments is this well-produced, quarterly newsletter that informs area residents about what downtown has to offer. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

November 15, 2009

Downtown organization seeks to establish BID for next phase of growth. Established in 2002, the not-for-profit Great American Downtown, Nashua, NH (est. pop. 86,580), organization relies on special events as its primary source of income. Over time, this has led to problems as sponsorship dollars have become less plentiful while the organization seeks to do ever more ambitious work. See the letter to downtown Nashua business/property owners regarding a proposed Business Improvement District. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

Parking policy is seen as key to downtown’s economic development. A major reorganization in the City of Salem, OR (est. pop. 153,400), reflects changing priorities and a new vision of parking as an integral part of economic development in the downtown core. See a map of Salem’s Downtown Parking Plan, which shows a preponderance of free two-hour on-street parking around approximately 20 blocks of the downtown core. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

November 1, 2009

Laying the foundation for upper-story housing. Downtown revitalization efforts are luring many residents back to city centers. Yet, downtowns face inherent challenges in developing their market-rate housing stock to meet these needs. In 2006, Main Street Concord, Concord, NH (est. pop. 42,260), for example, set its sights on stimulating market-rate housing in upper stories of existing downtown buildings. To begin to pursue this top priority, the objective of the Downtown Housing Committee, a sub-committee of its Economic Development Committee, was to explore the practical, financial, and market conditions that would be necessary to encourage upper-story residential redevelopment. The results of its site evaluations are presented in the group’s 2007 Downtown Housing Study, Concord, New Hampshire. Each site study includes photos and descriptions of the buildings, relevant zoning details, conceptual floor plans drafted by an architect, a financial analysis, and conclusions about the property’s redevelopment potential. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

Bicycle and rider accommodations can make downtowns more accessible via transit. A great solution to move more people in and out of transit centers serving downtown is also a very old one most of us learned to use as children — the bicycle. Clearly, transit centers serving downtowns have an opportunity to become more viable and user-friendly at a relatively low cost if they can better accommodate bicycles and their riders. Mobis Transportation/Bikestation has worked with a number of agencies and organizations in the planning, development, and implementation of bike-transit facilities next to downtown transit stations like this converted storefront in Pioneer Square near King Street Station, Seattle, WA, and this purpose-built facility serving Union Station, Washington, DC. They also design and develop modular facilities like this one slated for Covina, CA. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

Curb panhandling while delivering much needed help. Panhandling, unfortunately, is a fairly universal problem for downtown districts, even the very best ones. And, it creates a negative atmosphere that can drive people away and keep them away. To mitigate the problem, downtowns must encourage the general public to stop rewarding this behavior, and to provide help in more meaningful ways. The Downtown Alliance of Salt Lake City, UT (pop. 181,700), which recently unveiled an educational campaign designed to discourage donations to panhandlers and encourage donations to local social service organizations instead, also teamed with the mayor’s administration, which drafted a panhandling ordinance that was submitted to public comment. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

Putting good, bad, and ugly of citywide events into perspective. Even if the disruption of hosting a high-profile, citywide event hurts small businesses in the short term, the long-term benefits should not be overlooked. Be it a convention, sporting event, or even a classic car show on the main street, downtown should embrace and capitalize on these rare opportunities by making the best impression it can on new visitors and the news media covering the event.

By forcing downtown to put its best foot forward — sometimes in a hurry — high-profile events can also provide a shot in the arm to critical activities like business recruitment. For example, in the four months it had to get ready for the G-20 Summit of world leaders in September, the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (PDP), Pittsburgh, PA (est. pop. 310,000), did a number of key things to ensure the event’s success and a positive image of downtown. Read the wrap-up letter that Michael Edwards, CEO of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, sent to members after the G-20 Summit. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

Home-grown scavenger hunts. The November issue of Downtown Promotion Reporter, discusses strategies for bringing a professional scavenger hunt producer downtown and provides lessons from the pros. If you’re creating your own scavenger hunt, these three events, which were originally covered in the August issue of Downtown Promotion Reporter, will provide inspiration. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

October 15, 2009

RFP Announcement. The City of Huntington Park, CA, is soliciting Requests for Proposals (RFP) from qualified individuals, firms, and/or consultants to conduct a study to review the City’s existing business based Business Improvement District (BID) including an assessment of a fee adjustment for the existing district, a review of a physical expansion of the existing district, and a review of a property owner-based expansion of BID membership. (Downtown Digest)

When a mixed-use redevelopment defaulted, this city forged ahead to improve the main street. When the City of Sunnyvale, CA (est. pop. 132,100), embarked on a 184-acre mixed-use redevelopment of a downtown mall, the last thing economic development manager Connie Verceles expected was that the developer would fail. In the wake of the stalled mall redevelopment, the City made a strategic decision to forge ahead with public investment in improving the infrastructure of Murphy Avenue, which is chock full of independent restaurants and bars, and immediately north of the redevelopment area. View design details from the Murphy Avenue Master Plan. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

October 1, 2009

Downtown acts on short-term implementation steps suggested by master plan. To steer more investment, development, and sorely needed pedestrian activity downtown, the City of Blue Springs, MO (est. pop. 55,700), developed a new downtown master plan in 2006. “The downtown area is the personality, heart, and soul of any community,” says Mayor Carson Ross. But as new development has gone elsewhere, that personality has become rather flat and utilitarian: “People come downtown to go to city hall, to the post office, and the police station. Those are your major attractions.” Through redeveloping downtown, he says, “We want to be able to offer something that will entice people to come downtown for a purpose, but then after that, have a want rather than a need to be downtown.” Since the city council adopted the plan in February 2007, many of the short-term implementation projects have been completed. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

Downtown “creates“ a spokesperson and builds a marketing campaign around him. The Cheyenne (WY, pop. 56,920) Downtown Development Authority (DDA) created an urban legend — an urban cowboy legend, more precisely — as the downtown’s resident songsmith, troubadour, and mystery mascot. His name is a mix of what people tend to be when they come to downtown with what they expect to see a lot of locals wearing in Cheyenne, Wyoming: Boots Walker. A DDA press release last December introduced us to the multi-media “marketing campaign championed by spokesperson Boots Walker” and two songs credited to him, with the headline, “Recording Artist Boots Walker is coming ‘Back to Cheyenne.’” See and hear the music video for “Back to Cheyenne.” Here’s the poster that “Friends of Boots” merchants place in their windows to connect this new urban legend with foot traffic into their businesses. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

Guide gives direction to new businesses. One of the most useful business recruitment tools we’ve seen is not geared to selling entrepreneurs on downtown, but rather preparing them with the information they need to succeed. Business Development in Downtown Lexington: A Guide for New and Expanding Businesses is a 10-page booklet developed by the Lexington Downtown Development Authority (LDDA), which guides business owners through the complex process of opening a business in downtown Lexington, KY (est. pop. 282,100). (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

September 15, 2009

New technology is making street trees more sustainable. A new underground soil cell system called Silva Cell is engineered and manufactured to be sturdy enough to support a sidewalk and heavy equipment above, while housing non-compacted soil in the voids below, allowing for tree roots to grow freely beneath the pavement, and have easier access to good soil as the street trees mature.

“Each Silva Cell is composed of a frame and a deck. Frames can be stacked one, two, or three units high before they are topped with a deck to create a maximum amount of soil volume for tree root growth and stormwater treatment. The cells can be spread laterally as wide as necessary — the Silva Cell is approximately 92% void space, enabling it to easily accommodate surrounding utilities,” explains Al Key, vice president of sales for Deep Root Partners, the company that designed and manufactures the Silva Cell. For more, see this technical sheet on how the system works. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

September 1, 2009

Street design guidelines provide best practices for quality and functionality. The New York City Street Design Manual, introduced earlier this year, provides policies and design guidelines for the improvement of streets and sidewalks throughout the five boroughs of the Big Apple. It is intended to serve as a comprehensive resource for promoting higher-quality street designs and more efficient project implementation. As a collection of current best practices in urban street design, the manual is worthy of study by downtowns of all sizes. Especially noteworthy is this Street Design Policy introduction, which gives the over-arching goals and principles of the NYC DOT for planning and designing city streets. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

Business recruitment campaign features people who live and work downtown. Business recruitment materials should present opportunities, not just hard facts about office space — and they should be exciting. A great example is “It’s the Moment,” a business recruitment campaign featuring photography and profiles of a number of accomplished people from all walks of life who choose to do business and/or live in downtown Brooklyn, NY. The bulk of the campaign revolves around a direct mail piece sent to 1,500 commercial and retail real estate brokers and corporate decision-makers. The mailer contains a collection of full-color postcards profiling downtowners. Here are some examples. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

“It’s The Moment” ad

Postcard 1

Postcard 2

Postcard 3

August 15, 2009

Building inventory aids city and other stakeholders in making appropriate development decisions. Which downtown historic buildings are most important to preserve? As the saying goes, pick your battles. A building inventory can be a highly useful tool in doing so, by establishing a baseline or a reference point that is in place before any development that threatens an old building is proposed.

For example, at the request of the mayor in Lexington, KY (est. pop 282,100), the Division of Historic Preservation has drafted a 170-page, building-by-building inventory of 34 downtown blocks. Each downtown property in the study area was inventoried with a color photo, the name of the building, if known, its street address, approximate year of completion, and a brief architectural description. Each building built before 1965 was also categorized in terms of its importance through ranking terminology accepted in the historic preservation field. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

August 1, 2009

Market data is key to good strategies. Sound, insightful, and up-to-date market research and analysis will inform more realistic and ultimately more successful marketing and promotion. But for small downtowns in particular, good data and analysis is often hard to come by. Warren Brown, a senior public service associate and director of the Applied Demography Program at the University of Georgia, recommends a four-step process to develop more realistic, fact-based, and successful marketing strategies for downtown:

  • Uncovering downtown’s unique niche.
  • Tracking and sharing information.
  • Understanding the trade area and market conditions.
  • Studying successful downtowns.

In a paper titled, Successful Downtown Retail Districts, Brown expands on each of these points. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

Donut ads promote newly renovated square, events, businesses. Recently, downtown Watertown, NY (est. pop. 27,440), finished a $7-million streetscape project that has given it a newly renovated public square to host special events. But tearing up the streets to make the improvements also disrupted downtown businesses for two and a half years. So to help get downtown and its businesses back on track, the board of directors of the Watertown Local Development Corporation authorized a budget of $65,000 for a co-op ad campaign promoting downtown, including these television and radio donut ads. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

University to acquire downtown hotel, remake as home to students and events. From time to time, even relatively recent developments need to be repurposed to contribute to their potential. A silver lining of the recession is that it facilitated an opportunity for reinvention of the 252-room Doubletree hotel in downtown Lowell, MA (est. pop. 103,500), and a larger University profile in downtown by UMass Lowell. In a move that will bring students and professionals directly to downtown, the University of Massachusetts Lowell has agreed to purchase the hotel, which will be renamed the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center. It will provide housing for hundreds of University students, host professional and academic conferences, and also cater to summer festival tourism crowds. Read the detailed prospectus on plans for the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

July 15, 2009

Emphasis on mix of uses brings a long-struggling downtown back to viability. Downtown Flint, MI (est. pop. 114,700), is successfully changing gears from a shell-shocked former “Vehicle City” to a renovating college town. It has many underutilized but grand old buildings that were built during the auto industry’s boom times. Developers and civic leaders alike are focused on working with those assets to revitalize downtown, and return those grand old buildings to good economic use. Watch this video on Flint’s progress. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

July 1, 2009

Through philanthropies, downtown has found the funding to start planning its reinvention. In the midst of a recession and the aftermath of a hurricane, downtown Galveston, TX (pop. 57,470), has turned to area philanthropies to fund its $395,000 economic development plan. The plan’s development will be overseen by the Historic Downtown Strand Seaport Partnership, and will help shape the island city’s recovery after Hurricane Ike. Read a draft of the scope of services outlined for a downtown Galveston comprehensive plan. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

New uses for downtown’s shuttered car dealership. Stanford, KY (pop. 3,430), ran with an idea to transform their vacated downtown auto dealership into a small parking garage that also serves as a community center for seasonal events. Review the project’s executive summary and purpose statement. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

Promoting shop-local message downtown. Education vs. gift certificate approaches. One approach to promoting local commerce is to make buying local a part of downtown’s marketing message or brand. The Bainbridge Island Downtown Association in Bainbridge, WA (pop. 20,310), took this approach with its “Think Bainbridge/Buy Local” campaign. Read the Think Bainbridge brand guidelines. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

June 15, 2009

Economic downturn creates window of opportunity to reform development process. Before the recession, the growing city of Asheville, NC (est. pop. 73,880), started seeing a quantity and scale of development proposals that was unprecedented since the 1920s. With no downtown height limits, an overwhelmed city council, and an activist population base, downtown development was becoming a highly politicized, reactive, and unpredictable process. That’s changing now. A silver lining of the recession is that it’s given Asheville a welcome opportunity to catch its breath, and create a new format where cooler heads may prevail, in the form of the new Asheville Downtown Master Plan. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

Retail incubator program aims to boost critical mass of key shopping zones. Downtown Kalamazoo Incorporated (DKI), Kalamazoo, MI (pop. 77,150), recently announced the availability of a new business development tool designed to assist small business owners get their concepts off the ground. A new retail incubation program will be run and managed by the Business Recruitment and Retention Committee of DKI. The Retail Incubation Program is one of the first retail-focused initiatives to come out of the new 2009 Downtown Kalamazoo Comprehensive Plan, which identifies building downtown retail as a strategic priority, based on focus groups with hundreds of community members last year. Unlike other incubator programs that identify a specific start-up property, DKI’s program is based on a model and method that encourages businesses to locate in the best space for the business. It’s expected to help two or three new businesses get started this year. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

June 1, 2009

Payment-in-lieu-of-parking fees can ease infill development constraints and parking shortage. Some cities allow downtown developers to pay fees into a municipal parking or traffic mitigation fund in lieu of providing the required parking on site. The fees can then be used to provide public parking that is strategically located according to need. Such a solution was recently implemented by way of a payment-in-lieu-of-parking code amendment ordinance in Cold Spring, MN (pop. 2,980). All money paid in accordance with the city’s payment-in-lieu-of-parking policy is deposited into a special account known as the “Parking Improvement Fund.” The city council may authorize expenditures from the Parking Improvement Fund only for the acquisition and/or development of off-street parking and related facilities, which are determined by the council to address the demand for parking within specific commercial blocks or nodes. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

Grand yet shuttered downtown theater is purchased by CVB. Downtown Wheeling, WV (pop. 31,400), has a classic theater on its main street, the Capitol, which opened in 1928 and features a 2,450-seat auditorium. The Capitol Theatre was sold by Clear Channel Communications to LiveNation in the spring of 2005. After LiveNation purchased the venue, it remained largely dormant and underutilized. By August 2007, the venue was closed due to several fire and building code violations. Fortunately, downtown backers saw that day coming, and had already been long at work on a plan to purchase and resurrect the theater, to once again serve downtown as a vital cultural and economic engine. A study by Economics Research Associates conservatively estimates that the revived theater will attract at least 74,000 visitors per year through 62 events, led by the return of Wheeling Symphony Orchestra concerts. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

May 15, 2009

Identifying opportunities as short- or long-term helps to prioritize. Over the next few months, the Sussex Downtown Business Association board of directors will be prioritizing elements from Downtown Sussex — A Strategic Plan for the Redevelopment of the Central Business Area in Sussex, New Brunswick (pop. 4,240), and laying out a work plan for implementation, says Karen Black, the association’s general manager. To make choosing projects more manageable, the report divides key opportunities into short and mid- to long-term categories. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

May 1, 2009

Understand why people jaywalk, and whether the risk is acceptable. Jaywalking is something that we come to associate with the pedestrian-oriented culture of a downtown setting, and out of self-preservation, most people don’t do it too recklessly. But it should be safely managed. The Federal Highway Administration acknowledges the inevitability of this behavior, in its Course on Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation-Lesson on Mid-Block Crossings.

Facade program has helped spur reinvestment and new interest in downtown. In downtown Vineland, NJ (pop. 56,270), improving the appearance of commercial buildings is part of an overall strategy to attract consumers and new businesses as well as to support existing businesses. Operation Facelift is the mission critical-sounding name of a facade improvement program that has successfully encouraged these improvements. Since 2006, over 70 commercial property owners have applied, with 12 renovations already finished and another 30 or so under way. View the program description and application for Operation Facelift, as well as the Design Guidelines for Main Street Vineland and an application for the town’s Facade Improvement Program for Non-Property Owners. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

Assistance program boosts new and emerging events and promotions. To assist new and emerging events and promotions in downtown Grand Rapids, MI (pop. 197,800), the Downtown Alliance and Downtown Development Authority have partnered to develop a Downtown Events and Promotion Assistance Program. Requests and proposals for downtown events and promotions seeking assistance are accepted on a quarterly basis, and reviewed according to evaluation criteria presented in a seven-page application document View the events and promotion assistance program application form. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

April 15, 2009

Boosting long-term viability without detracting from small-town charm. A block-long building called The Plaza is the beginning of the 7.42-acre First Street Redevelopment Project, one of the largest undertakings in the history of St. Charles, IL (pop. 32,130). Opened last July, The Plaza looks like a traditional row of main street buildings but it actually contains a parking deck. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

The Plaza as seen from a bridge over the adjacent Fox River.

The Plaza facade as seen from across the street.

This flyer details The Plaza by numbers, and illustrates its views from all sides.

April 1, 2009

Three goals for today’s downtown leaders. Recently, Rich Bradley, executive director of the Downtown DC Business Improvement District, joined 12 other leaders of America’s top downtown organizations, as well as a leading real estate economist, to discuss implications of the global financial crisis on downtown management. Their conversations highlighted many initiatives that downtown executives from around the country are pursuing to adjust to the difficult times. View their full report, Downtowns and the Global Economic Crisis.

Capitalize on natural assets, and develop a critical mass of residents. In Sylvan Lake, Alberta (pop. 11,120), a lakefront redevelopment plan lays out strategies to capitalize on one of the best recreational lakes in the province. The plan presents a long-term vision for the downtown as a golf and spa resort. Already, by taking steps to improve its visual quality and pedestrian experience, Sylvan Lake is slowly attracting more and more retiree residents and large crowds of weekend tourists in the summer months. Read the Town of Sylvan Lake Waterfront Area Redevelopment Plan. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

BID showcases sponsorship opportunities in annual catalog. The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership in New York City is soliciting sponsorship funds from area businesses that will help facilitate the implementation of neighborhood improvement and marketing projects. Corporate sponsors receive brand recognition and logo placement that’s visible throughout the business district. They may choose to sponsor individual items or select “Adopt-A-Block” sponsorship packages that provide support for BID initiatives and yield maximum exposure for their brand and/or company. View the available sponsorship opportunities, as presented in the BID’s 2009 Sponsorship Program Catalog.(Downtown Promotion Reporter)

March 15, 2009

Help downtown improve its most important asset. The format of a walkability checklist should be compact and simple enough for people to check off what’s working well and what’s missing without much fuss. Walk San Diego has produced this fine example of one, with 25 questions covering four categories. Each category has one page in an 8.5“ x 5.5“ booklet, with room at the bottom for notes. (Downtown Idea Exchange).

March 1, 2009

With a more expansive board, BID looks to expand its service to members. After just five short years in existence, the Erie Downtown Partnership has remade itself to better serve the needs of all downtowners. The activities of the partnership include more than doubling the size of its board of directors to better represent the needs of all downtown business and property owners. As a result, the partnership has become far more effective and focused, its new director says. This year, the organization is looking at what it can provide its members beyond the usual events and marketing work that primarily serves downtown’s retail and entertainment industries. Read the recent Erie Downtown Partnership CEO Report to the public. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

Bring tourists and other travelers into downtown businesses. It’s imperative for downtowns to do all that they can to attract tourist and traveler dollars, says retail consultant Barbara Wold. To do this she advocates making a shopping trip downtown as enjoyable and memorable as possible. In other words, to make it refreshingly unlike the transactional, ‘get the commodities and go’-oriented sameness of shopping online or in a big box chain store. Wold presented her ideas on enhancing the value of downtown tourists in a webinar that is part of the Innovation Lab Series presented by the National Main Street Center. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

Why Tourists Shop — Log

Why Tourists Shop — Handouts

February 15, 2009

Downtown seeks growth through revitalized waterfront, and enhanced cultural offerings. In Westport, CT (pop. 26,640), downtown parking and open space beside the river have long been in too-short supply. Fortunately, Westport has a Plan Implementation Committee, as well as a year-old Downtown Subcommittee, to ensure progress is made in addressing those issues, and advancing various ideas and goals to enhance downtown. View the work of Westport’s latest planning effort, completed in 2007. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

February 1, 2009

Downtown organizations can help local businesses face turbulent times. What can downtown organizations do to support local businesses during these challenging times? Three key things, according to “Thriving in a Slow Economy,” a recent National Main Street Center Innovation Lab Webinar presented by economic restructuring specialist Todd Barman, a program officer with the National Trust Main Street Center:

  • Stay the course.
  • Help businesses keep pace with the market.
  • Monitor and report on economic performance.
(Downtown Idea Exchange)

Campaign helps to recover and rebuild. In June 2008, Cedar Rapids, IA (est. pop. 126,400), suffered a flood that was among the worst natural disasters in American history. In response to the disaster, the Cedar Rapids Downtown District quickly assembled the “Rebuild Downtown” campaign. It included full-page ads in Sunday editions of the city newspaper in August and October, listing businesses that were coming back, as well as a full-page ad in the area business journal. There were also radio ads, each featuring this intro and outro message, sandwiching three or four business owners declaring their intent to return downtown. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

To develop a brand for downtown think of her as a movie star. Developing a strong brand for downtown can help guide your promotions and advertising, as well as provide a touchstone for visitors to remember long after they’ve left. But before the promotions and ad campaigns begin, the downtown organization must craft a brand that highlights the best of what downtown has to offer. A recent podcast from Virginia Main Street shows the way. Download a worksheet for hosting a session to find your brand personality. (Downtown Promotion Reporter)

January 15, 2009

Site visits demonstrate value of modern streetcar. At least 40 cities are exploring modern streetcar plans, and more than a dozen have existing lines. One downtown exploring the idea is Fort Worth, TX (2007 est. pop. 681,800). Last year, the Fort Worth mayor and city council appointed a Modern Streetcar Study Committee to examine the feasibility of streetcars in the downtown core. The committee worked for six months, looking at previous studies, identifying favored routes for a starter corridor, estimating capital and operating costs along with potential funding sources, and proposing the next steps for city council to take. View the resulting Modern Streetcar Study Committee Recommendations. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

January 1, 2009

RFP ensures fair price for study of downtown parking needs. Following a request for proposals (RFP) process that yielded a wide range in bid estimates, the Brighton (MI, pop. 6,700) Downtown Development Authority is commissioning its first comprehensive parking study in a decade. When issuing an RFP for a study, “you really need to be very precise about what your expectations are,” in terms of the final product and the process used to achieve it, advises Piet Lindhout, CEO of Brighton architecture and engineering firm Lindhout Associates. (Downtown Idea Exchange)

Work with state DOT to lead visitors into downtown. Working with the state department of transportation, the Downtown Development Authority of Traverse City, MI (pop. 14,530), has hired hometown firm Corbin Design to create a comprehensive wayfinding and signage system for the downtown. Here’s a preview of draft designs for the system. (Downtown Promotion Reporter) -->


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