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December 2015

Pedestrian safety over the holidays — The city of Seattle, WA, conducted a five-year Center City Holiday Pedestrian Safety Campaign to help meet its goal of eliminating serious injuries and fatal crashes by 2030. View the PSA for the campaign here. Seattle, WA, Center City Holiday Pedestrian Safety Campaign ...

Dedicated committee helps move pedestrian and biking issues forward — The city of Eau Claire, WI, has created a citywide Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan, which was adopted in 2010. The objective of the plan was to examine the current pedestrian and bicycle environment in the city, and outline initiatives that could be enacted over the next two decades to improve walking and bicycling. ...

Six lessons for developing upper-story housing — Adaptive reuse projects across Iowa are serving to repurpose vacant buildings, increase available downtown housing, get more feet on the street, increase property tax revenue, and spur additional nearby projects. Those were some of the findings of a recent report from the National Main Street Center. ...

Creating a unique urban asset — The city of Grand Rapids, MI, is revitalizing its Grand River to, “attract talent and elevate the city as a unique destination, a catalyst for development, and an amenity for the region.” Read the Grand Rapids Forward: Downtown & River Action Plan and economic benefits report here. ...

Grant program drives downtown improvements — Giving merchants a financial boost can encourage facade and other improvement projects that might not otherwise be affordable. The Destination Downtown Grant Program in Arlington, TX, was launched to help property owners make buildings more interesting by adding murals, landscaping, facade improvements, awnings, signage, and paint. View the Downtown Grant Program packet here. ...

Stroll downtown, get a cookie — In Oak Park, IL, a cookie walk began as part of the annual Winterfest nearly a decade ago, but quickly became the signature event. Watch a video of the event below. Oak Park, IL, Winterfest/Cookie Walk ...

Subscription boxes, school catalogs boost sales, highlight downtown offerings — Subscription boxes are a trendy new way for merchants to introduce themselves to consumers, and for downtowns to showcase what local retailers have to offer. To learn more, click the links below: • Read an archive article about subscription boxes. • See the blog post, How small town stores can start subscription box services and reap extra sales. • Check out the website, www.mysubscriptionaddiction.com. ...

Downtown, where everybody knows your name — The first Saturday in June is Nametag Day, a day to hand out name tags, wear name tags, and provide friendly greetings to “the strangers we see everyday” by name. View a video below. Nametag Day in New York City ...

Leveraging the holidays for higher visitor rates — To position Denver, CO, as a holiday destination and attract more overnight visitors, the Visit Denver Convention and Visitors Bureau created its Mile High Holidays campaign in 2004. Now in its 12th year, the campaign is still going strong. See a Visit Denver Mile High Holidays newspaper insert here....

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November 2015

Downtown uses micro-retail to connect to and activate the waterfront — To connect the downtown to the waterfront, the city of Greenville, SC, developed RiverPlace, a $65 million mixed-use project. Low-cost artist studios are an important part of the project. Watch a video about the studios here. Greenville, SC, RiverPlace ...

Tools for more walkable city centers — In creating the new report, The Imagining Livability Design Collection, AARP Livable Communities and the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute, developed a collection of short-, mid-, and long-term projects as well as planning and policy solutions to make communities “more walkable, welcoming, and livable.” ...

Primer on downtown retail recruitment — Improving Tenant Mix provides a step-by-step process for retail attraction in central business districts. ...

Personalized ads can attract new businesses — When the Downtown Sacramento Partnership in Sacramento, CA, wanted to highlight the city center as a great place for small business owners, it launched a number of initiatives around the theme of “Downtown Dreamers.” View an archive article about Downtown Dreamers here. ...

Innovative ways to build on Small Business Saturday — Since American Express launched Small Business Saturday in 2010, the campaign has grown to have a multi-billion-dollar annual impact on independent retailers nationwide. Some communities are coming up with innovative ways to take the best advantage of this promotional push each November. Click the link to see all of the Small Business Saturday tips provided by Downtown Colorado, Inc. ...

Tiny, white lights can have a huge impact — Communities debating the return on investment for holiday lighting programs may want to look to St. Augustine, FL. The Nights of Lights campaign, now entering its 22nd year, has grown annually, and has generated tremendous positive economic impact. Click the links below for more information. • Watch a video of the Nights of Lights • Read the program guidelines ...

Low cost advertising for festivals and events — The American Bus Association has released its annual list of the Top 100 Events in North America. See the report here....

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October 2015

Making downtown the place for aging residents — Macon-Bibb was the first community in Georgia, and the eighth in the nation, to be designated age-friendly. The Macon-Bibb action plan was developed by a 28-member Community Advisory Council, which identified areas of concern and potential improvement in each of the eight domains of livability established by the World Health Organization. ...

Providing property owners with redevelopment tools — The Connecticut Main Street Center says it has seen firsthand the power of its Come Home to Downtown program, “to change not just our physical infrastructure, but also the minds of building owners and others who mistakenly think housing isn’t feasible downtown.” See below for more information: • Come Home to Downtown program overview • 2013 final report • Fact sheet ...

The power of the arts — The Georgia Council for the Arts and the Georgia Municipal Association released a report which illustrates the positive impact of the arts as an economic development tool in Georgia’s communities. See the report, Leveraging Public Investment in the Arts here. ...

There’s no parking downtown — In a blog post for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Nathaniel Hood outlines how to respond to people who complain about a lack of parking. ...

Increase tourism without losing your soul — Writing in Virginia Town & City magazine, Edward McMahon, a senior resident fellow at the Urban Land Institute, points to nine important actions downtowns can take to increase tourism without, “losing their soul.” Read the article here. ...

Annual Home Tour attracts buyers, but also the simply curious — The Nashville Home Tour started as a way to promote downtown’s residential vacancies in Nashville, TN, and has evolved into a marketing event for downtown businesses, and an event for those who simply enjoy home tours. See the downloadable brochure that not only guides tour attendees to downtown residential units, but promotes nearby restaurants, shops, and galleries. ...

Mural event transforms downtown — This spring, Delavan, WI, added 18 murals in the city center in just five days. This feat was accomplished with a Walldog event. The Walldogs are an international group of mural painters who visit one city each summer to paint and promote tourism. See a video describing the event below. Delavan, WI, Walldog event ...

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September 2015

University Cooperative Extension programs provide revitalization resources nationwide — Partnering with your state’s Cooperative Extension program can provide downtown stakeholders with professionally facilitated workshops on a variety of topics related to small business survival, reports that may help make the case for new programming or funding, leadership and volunteer development programs, and more. Read an archive article about the University of Wisconsin-Extension First Impressions Program. ...

Underutilized park transformed to popular public space — What has been described as, “a worn-out, wasted space,” and, “a symbol of urban decay” in downtown Newark, NJ, is now an award-winning “outdoor living room” for city center residents, employees, and visitors. Read one of the weekly newsletters used to promote programming in Military Park. ...

Integrated infrastructure upgrades create a sustainable, attractive downtown — When the need to replace aging infrastructure loomed in West Union, IA, community leaders decided to pursue a new, sustainable approach. • See the study A Sustainable Vision for West Union: Integrated Green Infrastructure to Achieve a Renaissance of West Union’s Downtown District and Neighborhoods. • See a video about the West Union Green Streets project. West Union Green Streets ...

Ban on cars aims to reduce city center congestion — The Dublin (Ireland) City Council and National Transport Authority have proposed banning private cars from entire sections of the city’s downtown core. View the executive summary of the Dublin City Centre Transport Study. ...

Bringing what’s inside out downtown — The INSIDE OUT project was launched in 2011 by Parisian artist JR. The idea was to take residents’ personal identities and turn them into public art in the form of large black and white portraits pasted on the outside of downtown buildings. Installations have taken place in more than 100 countries in recent years. Hear a podcast and view pictures of Redding, California’s Inside Out project. ...

A series of timely campaigns promote entertainment district — To reach a wide variety of downtown patrons, the Toronto Entertainment District BIA in Toronto, ON, Canada, is using a mix of online and face-to-face campaigns this year. As part of the promotion, people were awarded gold medals for simply enjoying what the Entertainment District has to offer. See videos of the impromptu Toronto Gold award ceremonies. ...

Downtown-wide theme makes city center a destination — Choosing a theme and weaving it throughout the fabric of the community can create an attractive destination for visitors. That’s been the case in Dublin, OH, where branding is, naturally, based on the city’s name and Irish roots. Read the Irish is an Attitude brand launch document....

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August 2015

Municipal participation, investment, move downtown plan forward — The Our Move Forward plan in London, On, Canada aims to “knit” together spaces in the public realm. View the plan. ...

New development code built around public input — A new Unified Development Code in Lafayette, LA, is better aligned with the city’s comprehensive plan, provides more flexibility to developers, and guides the character of future downtown development projects. See the Unified Development Code. ...

Bringing entrepreneurs together with seed money and available space — The Motor City Match program in Detroit, MI, is meant to encourage new businesses in the city’s commercial corridors by providing support for landlords and entrepreneurs. Below are the guidelines for property owners and potential business owners. • Motor City Match guidelines for property owners. • Motor City Match guidelines for business owners. ...

Incentives reward/enhance business longevity — A new incentive program in Bloomfield, CO, aims to assist existing business owners with improvements to their properties. View the program description and application. ...

Placemaking lessons — With minor improvements scheduled for a downtown intersection in Berkley, MI, city officials decided to broaden the scope of work and consider creating a public gathering space. Click here to see Experimenting with Place in Berkley. ...

Cities up the ante to attract millennials — Cities across the nation are vying to attract and retain professionals aged 25-34. See the article, Attracting young professionals to urban centers....

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July 2015

Putting bike parking programs to the test — In Stamford, CT, metal slips able to accommodate two bikes each have been installed around parking meters at about 20 locations throughout the downtown. See a video showing the hitch in action. Stamford, CT, Bike Slips ...

Incentives attract businesses while improving buildings — The city of St. Charles, IL, has put together a trio of incentives aimed at improving the downtown building stock while also encouraging new and expanding businesses in ground floor spaces. View incentives brochure here. ...

Simplified program makes video production more accessible — Online videos continue to grow in popularity, but not every downtown organization has the skills to produce in-house or the budget to hire a production company. However, new programs for novice video producers are aiming to solve that dilemma. View a video made with GoAnimate below. Healthy Futures Greater Milford walking tour video ...

Cash incentives fill downtown event calendar — To entice more festival and event producers to its city center, the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ in Winnipeg, MB, Canada, launched the Host It Downtown campaign this spring. Click here to see the Host It Downtown details and application. ...

Using contests to raise your downtown profile — Getting named one of Budget Travel’s Coolest Small Towns of 2015 has Delhi, NY, basking in media attention and hoping for a spike in visits and downtown spending. Watch the winning video. Delhi, NY, Coolest Small Town of 2015  ...

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June 2015

City streets reopening to vehicular traffic — A nationwide study shows factors contributing to the success or failure of downtown pedestrian malls. Buffalo, NY, provides just one example of a downtown mall transitioning to a complete street. Read the related documents: • The Experiment of American Pedestrian Malls: Trends Analysis, Necessary Indicators for Success and Recommendations for Fresno’s Fulton Mall • 3-D animated traffic model (animation will download automatically) • New Road, New Rules public service announcements. ...

Grassroots group tackles historic building rehab — Residents in Windsor, NY, have banded together to raise funds to purchase and rehab an apartment building housed in a historic former hotel. Website no longer available. ...

Limiting formula businesses downtown — To preserve diversity and an interesting retail mix while also protecting the market share for small business owners, many downtowns are developing restrictions on chain stores. Click here to read San Francisco’s Formula Retail Guide. ...

Mobile workshops bring planning to the people — The city of Laguna Beach, CA, knows a thing or two about updating a Downtown Specific Plan. One lesson learned has been to gather as much input as possible in order to create the most buy-in, thus easing the approval process for the updated document. See the comment cards handed out at every planning event. ...

Quantifying growth adds to district’s powers of attraction — Last October, the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership BID in New York City hosted a broker breakfast at which it distributed its fourth annual Flatiron: Where Then Meets Now report, showcasing, “the significant development and growth of the commercial and residential sectors in the district.” The annual report, supplemented by a Flatiron District Market Snapshot report covering the first two quarters of the year, are used to pique broker interest, and more. ...

Public art that strikes a chord with pedestrians — Work to bring playable public art downtown in Denison, TX, has been ongoing since 2013 when Downtown Denison, Inc. presented its Musical Public Art for Downtown? proposal to the city council....

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May 2015

Development project connects downtown to waterfront assets — Creation of new live, work, play micro-districts is becoming more common nationwide. These mixed-use developments emulate vibrant downtowns, and when optimally located and connected, can enhance what downtown has to offer. That is the plan in Everett, WA, where the Waterfront Place Central development project is expected to highlight the city’s waterfront assets while providing jobs, public gathering space, housing, and essential connections between the downtown and the shoreline. Read the Waterfront Place Central Design Standards & Guidelines. ...

Cities look to streetcar projects to boost economic development — While some communities remain skeptical about the return on investment seen through streetcar projects, encouraging numbers from cities with completed systems have spurred others forward. Portland, OR, was the first to go with modern streetcars in July 2001. Click here to read Modern streetcars gaining in popularity from the November 2011 issue of Downtown Idea Exchange. ...

Food truck ordinance struggles continue — The balancing act between protecting brick-and-mortar restaurants and fostering start-up mobile food enterprises continues in many city centers. Read the National League of Cities report Food on Wheels: Mobile Food Vending Goes Mainstream. ...

Flexible spaces improve occupancy rates — The economies of sharing are becoming more attractive, as evidenced by bike-sharing programs, coworking spaces, and multi-function spaces. Groups such as the health-focused Change Lab Solutions are providing resources including shared space guides, memorandum of understanding templates, liability information, and more to organizations interested in creating flex-use space. For more space sharing resources, see Change Lab Solutions website. ...

Award winning master plan guides new development — The master plan for Casa Grande, AZ, calls for developing approximately 15 acres of vacant land that the city owns downtown. View their Life on Main Master Plan here. ...

Farewell to the 9-5 city — The 18-hour city comes of age. That is the number-one finding of the most recent Emerging Trends in Real Estate report . ...

Connecting downtown parks — With a ground-breaking ceremony in May, Salem, OR, moved a step closer to the goal of connecting three major urban parks to create a unified bicycle and pedestrian network. See the Salem Downtown Parks Connections brochure here. ...

Marketing grants promote what is unique about downtown — For the past six years, Downtown Appleton Inc., in Appleton, WI, has offered a Matching Marketing Grant program to its members. The funds have inspired additional support from local media outlets, allowed merchants to advertise more lavishly, and promoted Downtown Appleton and the city center. View the Appleton Downtown Inc. Matching Marketing Grant application and the organization’s media partner outreach letter....

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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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