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Downtown Digest News • Web Extras

April 2015

Project restores historic paving, calms traffic, and rallies private support — Many of the streets in historic downtown St. Augustine, FL, have undergone transformations in recent months. The newly designed roads feature enhanced pedestrian and bicycle access, as well as a curbless design that reduces tripping hazards while increasing accessibility. Additionally, many of the oldest streets in St. Augustine, which celebrates its 450th anniversary this September, were restored to clay brick, based on the 1573 town plan. Read the St. Augustine Historic Downtown Streetscape Guidelines. ...

Ordinance changes, fee reduction, downtown improvements, spur housing boom — When the Downtown Area Plan for Berkeley, CA, was adopted in 2012, housing growth was a cornerstone strategy. In coordination with adoption of that plan were approvals of new design guidelines, new zoning, a Streets & Open Space Improvements Plan, and more. Below are links to the: • Downtown Berkeley business attraction brochure. • Downtown Area Plan for Berkeley. ...

Nationwide programs help downtown become more energy efficient — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have programs beneficial to downtown property owners and tenants. Click here to read the USDA Rural Development Program Guide. ...

Increase participation at downtown arts events — New data from the National Endowment for the Arts will help arts and cultural event providers develop strategies to better engage the public, and to quantify the financial and social value of doing so. Full information is available in the three reports below. • Why Don’t They Come? • States of Engagement: Arts Participation by U.S. Geography • The 2014 Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account: 1998-2012 ...

Tourism growth has positive effect on overall economic development — A recently released study, Destination Promotion: An Engine of Economic Development, demonstrates that community or state investment in tourism promotion and growth boosts broader economic development efforts targeting other industries. Click here to read the report....

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March 2015

Strategies for creating pedestrian-friendly city centers — When Gary Ferguson, executive director of the Downtown Ithaca Alliance in Ithaca, NY, studied small towns, he found a dozen similarities among successful city centers, including walkability. Read Ferguson’s report Characteristics of Small Towns, Shared Attributes of Outstanding Small, Mid-Sized Downtowns. Click here to see the West Palm Beach Walkability Study below and the Salt Lake City Mid-block Walkway Design Guidelines. Downtown Walkability Study ...

Guide to improved pedestrian safety — Cities may take advantage of this practical guide to complete their own Pedestrian Safety Assessments. ...

An alternative to free holiday season parking — Each Christmas season, downtowns across North America cover their on-street meters and entice shoppers downtown with free parking. But Donald Shoup has another idea, which he says will result in a positive use of parking revenue, improved access to on-street parking, and a positive image for downtown. Shoup explains in an article, in ACCESS magazine. ...

People flock to see flamingoes — In Richmond Heights, MO, after one couple with lawn flamingoes moved into the Yale Avenue neighborhood, the ornaments began mysteriously cropping up outside other residences, which generated a lot of media attention and visits from curious passersby. Video no longer available. ...

Encouraging residents to take advantage of all that downtown has to offer — To improve residential attraction and retention, the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore commissioned research to better understand who is moving downtown and how to make downtown living the best possible experience. Read the report, Demographic Profile of New Downtown Baltimore Residents. ...

Encouraging minority entrepreneurs — The annual Made in Lowell (MA) event highlights immigrant entrepreneurs, “for their contributions to a positive, vibrant, and diverse Lowell community.” Read the archive article, Business showcases highlight the city’s character, keep spending local. ...

Turning a negative into a positive — Non-locals are often challenged with the pronunciation of Bangor, ME. It’s Ban-GOR. Not Bang-ER. A local marketing firm created the video We are Bangor, which features well-known personalities from the symphony orchestra, a former state senator, radio and newspaper personalities, and of course, two economic development professionals. We are Bangor ...

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February 2015

Street music can be enjoyable, but complicated to provide — Classic holiday songs performed by live musicians can add a festive touch to downtown streets during the holiday season. But you must adhere to the music licensing requirements or you can face some stiff penalties. Below is information from ASCAP and BMI, two of the more prominent music licensing groups. ASCAP licensing help BMI music licensing for towns, counties, municipalities, and other local governmental entities ...

Efforts underway to attract ultra-high-speed Gig Internet networks downtown — Residents, businesses, and municipalities everywhere are seeking cheaper, faster, more reliable Internet services. Rather than waiting for service providers to come to them, some communities are reaching out to express their needs, quantify their customer base, and see what they can do to facilitate the arrival of more accessible, faster Internet service. Click here to view the RFQ and instructions for submitting a municipal addendum in Connecticut. For more information about the effort in Three Lakes, WI, read Broadband and economic development go hand in hand from the March 2013 issue of Downtown Idea Exchange. ...

Temporary project drives permanent change — The typical Better Block Project lasts a day, or at most, a weekend. These volunteer-based projects, create on a temporary basis the infrastructure improvements, business mix, amenities, and programming that residents would like to see on a more permanent basis. In St. Joseph, MO, this grassroots tactic has been so successful that it has become an annual event. Click here to view the Better Block of St. Joe vendor application. For more information about Better Blocks projects, read Demonstration project makes downtowns better from the April 2014 issue of Downtown Idea Exchange. ...

Facade improvement programs produce real economic benefits, study says — Increases in new customers, rental incomes, and property values were seen in a recent study of the impact of facade improvement programs. Read the study, An Analysis of Downtown Storefront Improvements. ...

Enhancing retail options in underserved communities, lessons for all — A new report from the Urban Land Institute explores factors that hamper retail development in some lower-income communities and offers solutions to overcome limited shopping options. Read the full report here, Retail in Underserved Communities. ...

Disaster recovery tool kit — The International Economic Development Council has created a new resource to help “disaster-impacted” communities recover in meaningful ways. Click here for the full report, Leadership in Times of Crisis. ...

“Legacy cities” can revitalize by building on assets — Enduring assets such as downtowns, parks, transit systems, and academic and cultural institutions are the key to revitalization for struggling industrial cities, says the report Regenerating America’s Legacy Cities from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. ...

Multi-faceted campaign aims to bring residents downtown — To overcome negative perceptions and geographical challenges that might discourage new residents, the city of Dundalk, MD, launched a branding campaign backed by an ambitious public engagement process, and featuring a new website, media partnerships, public events, incentives for home purchases, and more. View the My Town promotional video produced as part of the Dundalk: Live the Unexpected branding effort here. My Town promotional video ...

Turnkey gift card program can be customized for each downtown — A new gift card program in Fredericksburg, VA, drew $50,000 in sales this past holiday season. Finding the right card, customizing it to the downtown, and launching it with a community-wide art contest all contributed to the program’s success. Web page no longer available. ...

Restaurants keep pace with consumer preferences — Local sourcing, environmental sustainability, and healthful kids’ meals keep gaining steam as the top trends on restaurant menus in 2015 according to the National Restaurant Association’s annual What’s Hot Culinary Forecast. See the report here. ...

Giant shredder helps ring in New Year — December 28th is Good Riddance Day. A few days before New Year’s Eve the Times Square Alliance invites New Yorkers to bring mementos of bad memories, or to write their memories on the paper provided and then “shred it and forget it.” Watch a brief video below. Good Riddance Day in New York City ...

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January 2015

Disaster preparedness is key to excellent stakeholder service — Downtown organizations that resolve to work on emergency preparedness with their local governments are less likely to be left out of response efforts in the wake of disaster, says David Downey, president of the International Downtown Association. Click here to see the Lower Manhattan Update One Year After Hurricane Sandy. ...

Attractive window displays encourage shoppers to stroll, contests make it happen — A critical mass of attractive and interesting window displays can draw people downtown to stroll and enjoy the shopping scene any time of year. A window decorating contest may be just what’s needed to move window design to the next level and engage visitors. Click here to see the participant information sheet for Intown Manchester’s Spooky Storefronts Competition. ...

Downtown dining goes high tech — Several national restaurant chains are spending huge sums on new technologies. Most are aimed at millennial consumers who prefer quick smartphone interactions to standing in line to wait for an order or to be seated. If your downtown restaurants haven’t gone high-tech, it’s only a matter of time. Click here to read the National Restaurant Association infographic Restaurant Payments....

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December 2014

12 strategies that will transform your city’s downtown — Contributor John Karras shared his insights in the newsletter. Read an expanded version here. ...

Business contests yield multiple benefits — Holding a new business contest allows downtown organizations to make contact with, and provide guidance to, numerous entrepreneurs who could become downtown tenants. Read an archive article from sister publication Downtown Promotion Reporter titled, Contest promotes business attraction and expansion. ...

Grant program enlivens downtown sidewalks — With the downtown an economically stable commercial center, but, “totally dull,” the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership in Pittsburgh, PA, created a new grant program in 2007 to encourage restaurateurs to bring new vitality to city streets. Click here to view the Sidewalk Activation and Facade Improvement Matching Grant Design Guidelines and application. ...

A fictional identity gives community a real presence — A campaign built around a simple sock monkey is garnering accolades, awards, and plenty of public attention in Springfield, MO. Another fictional character in Winnipeg, Canada also stired up media attention. Read the archive article on Downtown Peggy....

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November 2014

Best Complete Streets policies cited as model for other communities — Communities nationwide are embracing Complete Streets policies that make roadways safer and more accessible for every type of user. According to the National Complete Streets Coalition, last year more than 80 communities adopted Complete Street policies. Read the executive summary of The Best Complete Streets Policies of 2013. ...

Honing focus on why downtown matters drives improvements — Creating a sense of community pride can lead to revitalization downtown. In Xenia, OH, the recession had brought the community nearly to its knees, yet a show of community spirit and a fresh coat of paint have launched dramatic changes for the better. Read the archive article, Contest rallies downtowners to support their communities in 2014. ...

Finessing the “Shop Local” message — The pre-holiday “Shop Local” message is being refined in numerous ways in an effort to reach more potential customers for downtown’s small businesses. Click here to see the Buy Local Currituck Marketing Plan for Currituck County, NC. ...

Online registration services attract, secure and maintain volunteer relationships — Finding great volunteers, matching them to the right downtown program or event, and managing them can require a lot of staff time. Luckily, online volunteer management programs are available to assist downtown organizations. View an online demonstration of the VolunteerLocal registration form. ...

Tips on promoting commercial real estate tours — With an upcoming tour of downtown vacancies for real estate professionals looming, Main Street Osceola in Osceola, AR, turned to other downtown professionals for advice via LinkedIn’s Downtown Revitalization discussion group. See the slide deck used to promote a tour of available spaces in Jefferson City, MO. ...

Simplify permitting process to encourage events — Streamlining a cumbersome event permitting process in El Paso, TX, resulted in a doubling of downtown events. View the Downtown Management District’s streamlined event permitting process....

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October 2014

Bicycle lanes, stations, and share programs becoming increasingly popular — As Americans become health and environment conscious, more commuters, as well as recreationalists, are learning the value of pedal power. As a result, projects to boost bike-centric amenities in city centers are flourishing. Read the Center City Seattle Bicycle Amenity Inventory and the Seattle Bicycle Master Plan. ...

Community vegetable gardens sprouting up in urban centers — Underutilized public space is being converted into community gardens in some city centers. These productive green spaces beautify downtowns, provide gathering space and public education, and are a source for locally grown foods. Learn 10 steps to starting a community garden from the American Community Garden Association. ...

To enhance late-night activity, consider pilot programs — As cities endeavor to balance growing residential uses with the promotion of late-night activity, they should not play it safe, or expect to get every policy right on the first try. Read Edward Glaeser’s Boston Globe article, Better nightlife through experimentation, in its entirety. ...

Sidewalk displays brighten downtown streets — The Sidewalk Display Program of the Downtown Development Authority in St. Louis, MO, was designed to, “create an ‘alive’ downtown atmosphere that attracts shoppers, encourages pedestrian activity and is eye-catching to car traffic.” See details on the program, the permit application, and Hold Harmless Agreement. ...

Underpasses as inviting gateways — Pedestrian tunnels passing under a road or railroad have a reputation for being dark, dingy, unwelcoming places. But in San Jose, CA, all that changed when a downtown underpass was re-imagined to include circles of LED lights that change color as pedestrians pass over the underpass. Click here to see photos. ...

Corporate-driven event benefits downtowns — Large corporations can often be overlooked during the search for event partners. But in Verdun, QC, Canada, the Yellow Pages Group is actually leading the way on a series of city center tasting tours. Learn about the Taste Your Neighbourhood Tours. ...

Tree sweaters, low-cost public art — First Street in downtown Livermore, CA, got a fresh new look in September when the trunks of 30 street trees were wrapped in unique and colorful tree sweaters. To create a Tree Sweater Forest see the project timeline and details....

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September 2014

Using urban green space to create connections — Ambitious projects to revitalize underutilized green space in Charlotte, NC, are improving the quality of life for residents, employees, and visitors. See the resources: video (below), master plan, and fact sheet. Charlotte, NC, Greenway ...

Streamlined permit process doubles downtown events — Cumbersome permitting requirements downtown can discourage event producers, who instead opt to host those crowd-drawing festivities outside of the city center. El Paso’s online permitting process has helped. ...

Green niche strategy brings more businesses downtown — Waynesboro, VA’s green business initiative stimulates interest in start-ups and provides expansionary loans. See a brochure on the program. ...

Dealing with multiple downtown vacancies requires perseverance and a plan — Like many older buildings, the “bookend buildings” in Burlington, IA, have suffered disinvestment and decay. But no longer, see the Bookend Buildings RFP, the Investment Proposal, and the Vision for Downtown Redevelopment report. ...

Preserving the federal historic tax credit — As the federal historic tax credit came under attack in congress, the National Trust for Historic Preservation commissioned research to look at the economic benefits of historic rehabilitation. Read Federal Historic Tax Credit: Transforming Communities. ...

Beyond Restaurant Week, promoting downtown dining year-round — While Restaurant Week and Dine Around Downtown promotions have proved wildly successful in many city centers, most small business owners need all the support they can get every day of the year. This article covered programs in Berkeley, CA, Pittsburgh, PA, Manchester, NH, and Baltimore, MD. See the resources: general dining guide, late night and weekend dining guide, and digital dining guide....

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August 2014

Survey allows rapid response to misperceptions — The Downtown Norfolk Council conducts a Usage and Perception Study every few years to gauge how residents throughout the region view the city center. View the executive summary here. ...

Crime deterrents boost economic development — In part, the success of the Billings [MT] Crime Watch for Business program, comes from announcing the program to would-be lawbreakers. Participating businesses receive window clings, and the downtown has signage designating it as a Crime Watch district. Additionally, brochures were printed containing safety tips, emergency numbers, and even the cell numbers of the downtown resource officers. See the Crime Watch brochure. ...

New tax will fund vital streets — As Grand Rapids, MI, embraced complete streets, two important documents were developed. • Vital Streets: A Vital Component of a Vibrant City • Vital Streets: Advance Investment Plan for Streets ...

Innovation districts offer live, work, play options to attract businesses and residents — Former industrial sites and other spaces in and adjacent to downtowns are being transformed into live/work/play districts attractive to innovative companies and their employees. Two reports provide useful background. • Innovation Districts: A look at communities spurring economic development through collaboration by New Jersey Future • The Rise of Innovation Districts: A New Geography of Innovation in America by the Brookings Institution. ...

Series of events to educate and engage the public follows merger of two downtown groups — Learn more about the merger that created REV Birmingham. ...

How to form a Tourism Improvement District — Whether a city is using state TID law or home rule authority, the TID formation process follows a fairly typical pattern. Civitas Advisors has worked with dozens of districts and outlines these five steps in TBIDs: Stable Funding For Destination Marketing. Also see TID locations across the country with this interactive map from TourismImprovementDistrict.com, and read the San Francisco State University Study, Tourism Marketing Districts, Creating Jobs, Growing Our Economy. ...

Customer service defines not just the business, but the downtown — Downtown organizations can help small businesses by offering mystery shopping and other assessment tools to identify strengths and weaknesses, training to help small business owners and their staff address knowledge gaps, and award programs to recognize service excellence. For more on the value of hospitality training, read Hospitality training boosts business downtown from the November 2011 issue of Downtown Promotion Reporter. ...

Creating an emotional bond with stakeholders — When the Salt Lake Downtown Alliance wanted to instill a sense of downtown ownership in their regional audience, one of many steps was the I am Downtown video contest. Learn more about producing a video contest and how to boost stakeholder attachment. ...

Heritage tourism makes an impact — In the Heritage Tourism Guidebook, the Texas Historical Commission notes the reasons for the growth in heritage tourism and provides step-by-step information on how to capture this market....

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July 2014

Report quantifies downtown’s value citywide — As a supplement to its annual report, the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, prepared a companion analysis, Downtown Baltimore: Its Impact on the City Economy. The report shows that the downtown more than carries its weight and propels the rest of the city forward. ...

Gen Y still likes to shop in stores — A new report from the Urban Land Institute, Generation Y: Shopping and Entertainment in the Digital Age, looks at the preferences of this group and has good news for downtown retailers. ...

Community-wide sales benefit customers, businesses, and organizations — In Dowagiac, MI, a coordinated community-wide garage sale entices customers downtown. View the participant solicitation/registration form....

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June 2014

Business retention and creative sponsorships fund programs and services — The Delray Beach Downtown Development Authority produces a Next Big Projects brochure highlighting development projects and providing a timeline and the dollar value of the work. The Authority funds its work, in part, through a creative Legacy Partners Program. Here is a copy of the one page program contract. ...

Real estate matchmaking provides service to BID members and prospective tenants — The Site Seeker program allows the Downtown Dayton Partnership to provide a valuable service to members while also attracting new businesses to the city center. This simple online application starts the process. ...

Program engages youth, beautifies utility boxes — The Out of the Box Mural project has been a success in downtown Stockton, CA. Here is the application form and utility box template. ...

Converting to two-way streets — A report from Louisville, KY, considers the advantages and disadvantages of converting downtown streets from one-way to two-way. Read the full report Downtown Louisville Two-Way Street Study. ...

Blended programming draws art lovers and locavores downtown — To help promote artisans and farmers, attract more visitors, and foster job growth, the Belfast Creative Coalition created a farm and arts trail. See the trail map....

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May 2014

Vibrancy plan is a living, evolving document — Publication of the Stowe [VT] Vibrancy Report, was just the beginning as local groups honed the recommendations and moved many of them into the implementation phase. See the full Stowe Vibrancy Report. ...

Providing simple seating drives change in public spaces — Making lighter, quicker, cheaper improvements can mean something as simple as providing seats in public spaces. See how Belfast, ME, is using seating to drive foot traffic through an expanding downtown business district. ...

Economic impact of winter weather — Severe winter weather in many parts of the country has taken a toll on downtown businesses. Learn how the Anchorage Downtown Partnership and others cope with snow removal. ...

New brand strengthens and grows local businesses — In 2010, Newport, VT, began promoting itself as being Genuine by Nature. That led to the 2011 roll out of the Newport. Fresh by Nature. campaign, which has helped local restaurants, farmers, and food producers to grow their businesses while strengthening the community brand and attracting complimentary new businesses. Below is a video about the community garden component of the project. Newport. Fresh by Nature. ...

Electronic tours highlight all that downtown has to offer — Whether you are promoting downtown to newcomers or to locals, an interactive electronic tour offers practical options. For example, Golden, CO, finds an interactive walking tour encourages locals to linger longer and explore new areas of the downtown. While in Midland, MI, a virtual tour enables potential visitors, residents, and business owners to explore the downtown before making an in-person visit. Take the virtual tour of downtown Midland....

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