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Each month downtown leaders turn to Downtown Idea Exchange for practical news reports, how-to information, and hundreds of real-world examples of how downtowns are growing and prospering.

We often have valuable background material, additional information, or related resources that we just can’t fit in the newsletter. The links below will take you to the full documents, articles, videos, websites, marketing materials, and more.


April 2018

Grant funding and event planning guide foster inaugural events —  The Rochester Downtown Alliance (RDA) has offered its Start-Up Grant program since 2013 to encourage first-time events in Rochester, MN. Read the complete First Time Event Planning Guide and the Grant Guidelines document. ...

Listening, encouraging, and creating connections helps launch more entrepreneurial projects — Uptown Works, a cowork space, will be located in the historic World’s Attic building in the heart of downtown Somerset, PA. Watch the Uptown Works Introduction video below. ...

Repurposed shipping containers offer flexible, affordable space downtown —  Shipping containers are providing retail and residential space downtown and creating an attention-grabbing alternative to more traditional development. Container Park, in Las Vegas, NV, is perhaps one of the most ambitious of these projects. Read an archive article about Container Park. ...

Active Frontages encourage lively streets —  The Town of Milton, ON, Canada, is taking steps to create a more bustling, pedestrian-oriented experience downtown. See recent amendments to the town’s strategic plan. ...

Gee wiz parking technology —  Read a Parking Today article about the Westfield Century City parking system in Los Angeles....

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March 2018

City encourages Tactical Urbanism —  The city of Fayetteville, AR, is encouraging citizen placemaking via workshops and a new Tactical Urbanism: Permitting Process, Application & Materials Guide.  And for more information, read the final report from the pilot mini-roundabout project. ...

Tongue-in-cheek marketing touts downtown’s live, work, play assets —  A series of humorous videos produced by the Chamber of Commerce in Chattanooga, TN, allow the city to boast about its high-speed Internet, strong job market, quality of life, and more. See them below. ...

A proven White Box model —  White Box programs are becoming increasingly popular as they prove effective at driving redevelopment in city centers nationwide.  Read the Milwaukee Choice Neighborhood Critical Community Improvements Plan.  The White Box Grant guidelines are on page 27. ...

Revitalization project yields flexible walk/bike/drive/event space —  The two-block retail corridor in downtown Kirkland, WA, was becoming less walkable as tree roots buckled sidewalk panels, creating unsightly tripping hazards. Thanks to  an ambitious renovation project, Park Lane is now a pedestrian-friendly gathering space, while remaining open to vehicles, as well. Watch a video about the project below. ...

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February 2018

Planning, investment, and incentives help fill housing gap —  The city of Wausau, WI, is developing about 16 acres of waterfront after a lengthy public input and planning process. • See a PowerPoint presentation on the East Riverfront Redevelopment Area. • Read an application for Live It Up Wausau, which provides home purchase down payment assistance to employees who will work in the area. ...

Welcoming seniors and encore businesses downtown —  A growing number of ‘encore entrepreneurs’ are seeking to launch income-generating ventures that make a positive difference in their communities,” says a recent report from Encore.org.  Read the Encore Entrepreneurship and the Built Environment’s Executive Summary. ...

Tax breaks for development on vacant lots —  Lynchburg, VA, is considering tax incentives for new development in select areas of the city, including downtown.  See the full Incentive Plan for In-Fill Development. ...

Senior-friendly open spaces —  A report from UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs recommends guidelines for senior-friendly open spaces. ...

Linking downtown’s parks —  The city of Bentonville, AK, is re-imagining its downtown open spaces to create a “Quilt of Parks,” each with a slightly different purpose. Download the report here....

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January 2018

Business contest attracts “second-location” retailers —   The Full Forward Business Competition in Florence, SC, is attracting new retail to the city center. See details below: • Competition rules • Participant disclaimer • Mailer • Application form • Score sheet ...

Program preserves in-town residential neighborhoods —  To preserve the integrity of historically residential neighborhoods, the city of Iowa City, IA, and the University of Iowa launched the UniverCity Neighborhood Partnership Affordable Housing Program. View the UniverCity Neighborhood Partnership brochure. ...

Event aims to attract talent and retain businesses —  The new Discover Your Future Career & Lifestyle Day events  in St. Charles, MO,  target young professionals from the neighboring state of Illinois, and provide not only job, but quality-of-life and housing information meant to lure new employees to St. Charles and its thriving downtown. See links below for more information: • e-book • Introductory Discover Your Future video • Health Care industry video • Manufacturing/Defense industry video • Police/Fire industry video ...

Ten things residents want —  Safety, economic health, and education/enrichment opportunities are the top three things that residents nationwide want in their communities. That’s according to the NRC’s 2016 review of data from The National Citizen Survey. Watch a video about the report. ...

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December 2017

Pilot project transforms medians into programmed green space — One goal of the 2025 Downtown Miami Master Plan is to transform the downtown stretch of Biscayne Boulevard into an urban thoroughfare featuring a pedestrian promenade, an emphasis on public transit, and bicycle-friendly infrastructure. View the Biscayne Green Full Project presentation. ...

Ambitious retail recruitment program includes many facets — In 2015, the Downtown Windsor Business Improvement Association (ON, Canada), realized that its “very lively and thriving hospitality district” was lacking in retail options. See their retail recruitment presentation and prospectus. ...

Study reveals motivations and barriers to downtown visits —The city of Scottsdale, AZ, is exploring ways to grow specific areas of the downtown. Marketing firm HAPI is creating a new campaign for the downtown that will include a new logo, website, color palette, ads, posters, and more. Read the Downtown Scottsdale Brand Perceptions Presentation. ...

Video series to promote downtown’s small businesses  — The Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce will feature unique small businesses in brief 90-second videos which will be part of the Downtown Spotlight Video Series. See the proposed format for the video below. ...

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November 2017

Pop-up matches entrepreneurs with resources to spur business creation  — The JumpStart StartUp is a free pop-up program in Philadelphia, PA, offering entrepreneurs information and mentorship for every stage of business startup and growth. View promotional videos about the program. ...

Phased Complete Streets project improves safety, accessibility, and more  — Millburn, NJ, adopted a Complete Streets program in 2014, outlining a series of goals and objectives to make streets safer for pedestrians, improve traffic flow, address intersection congestion, and calm traffic where appropriate. See Millburn’s Complete Streets documents: • Downtown Streetscape and Pedestrian Safety Capital Improvement Plan • Township Committee Presentation • Complete Streets Resolution ...

Community surveys help identify needs of rapidly growing neighborhood — The NoMa Business Improvement District in Washington, D.C., is rapidly transitioning from mostly office space to a popular mixed-use area. Read an archive article about the NoMa BID’s successful pop-up, The Lobby Project. ...

Green projects manage stormwater, improve aesthetics  — Fayetteville, NC, built its first green street in 2014 along a two-block section of a downtown thoroughfare already slated for redevelopment. Watch the video below and see a brochure about the Fayetteville Green Street. ...

To make the most of federal buildings, partnership is essential  — Denise Turner Roth, former head of the U.S. General Services Administration, in an article from Governing magazine, stresses the importance of strong partnerships between local community leaders and the federal government. ...

Market study aims to attract new businesses, inform existing business owners  — A new market study in Mankato, MN, is doing double duty as both a new business attraction tool and as a business retention tool. Read City Center Mankato, Information You Need to Invest with Confidence....

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October 2017

Walkability drives development, requires place management  — WalkUP Wake-UP Call reports have been generated for cities nationwide. See reports for the three cities below: • Washington, D.C. • Atlanta, GA • New York City ...

Grappling with short-term rentals  — The Neighborhood Planning Committee in St. Paul, MN, is working to balance the benefits of participating in the sharing economy with some of the negative impacts of short-term rentals via Airbnb and others. Read the full study memo. ...

Experts weigh in on event trends  — Downtown organizations constantly strive to keep events fresh and annual meetings engaging. Increasingly it is new technologies and the changing desires of attendees that are reshaping those events, say the authors of the special report, 12 Global Trends Shaping Events in 2017. (Registration is required.) ...

Fire hydrants transformed  — Everything from utility boxes, to dumpsters, to manhole covers, and outdated fire call boxes have been artfully decorated to beautify and engage the public realm. View the interactive map of artistic fire hydrants in Geneva, IL....

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September 2017

PARK(ing) Day events remain popular, lead to permanent installations — PARK(ing) Day, observed on the third Friday each September, sees parking spaces transformed into temporary public parks. • Read The PARK(ing) Day Manual: A Primer on User-Generated Urbanism and Temporary Tactics for Improving the Public Realm • View the Coral Gables PARK(ing) Day Guidelines. ...

Rotational Public Art Program defines and refreshes downtown’s “main street” — Fremont, CA, has lacked a defined downtown until recently. Now, implementation of the Downtown Community Plan adopted in 2012 is underway, and a strong public art program is integral to defining and enlivening the area. To read details of the program, see pages 90-96 of Fremont’s Downtown Community Plan. ...

Streetscape upgrade meets many goals — The streetscape project currently underway in Rosslyn, VA, aims to strengthen the city’s brand, decrease visual clutter, and improve the pedestrian experience. See the Rosslyn Streetscape Master Plan. ...

Welcome festival for college students proves beneficial for everyone  — The annual Get Downtown festival began as a way to orient new college students to what the city center has to offer and has grown into the largest and most beloved street festival in Lynchburg, VA. View the Get Downtown vendor application and sponsorship packages. ...

Stitching together a great downtown event  — March is National Quilting Month. To mark the occasion, many downtowns promote merchants who cater to quilters, or host quilt shows and classes. Read an archive article on producing a successful quilt event. ...

Year-long initiative expands and promotes public art  — In Chicago, IL, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events have declared 2017 the Year of Public Art with a new 50X50 Neighborhood Arts Project, creation of a Public Art Youth Corps, a new Public Art Festival, and more. Watch two videos about Chicago’s Year of Public Art. ...

Temporary art installation highlights best of downtown  — Each year the Detroit (MI) Auto Show draws upwards of 800,000 people to the city center. Hoping to keep those people downtown longer, the Downtown Detroit Partnership, Detroit Economic Growth Corp., and others brought LuminoCITY downtown. The art installation includes 16 illuminated pieces. See a video of the installation coming to life. ...

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August 2017

Streetcars see success despite naysayers — Successful streetcar programs like one in Kansas City, MO, have other cities planning expansions and seeing new development before their inaugural streetcar lines have even launched. Read an archive article about other streetcar projects. ...

Repurposed gas stations become vibrant public spaces — The reuse of old gas stations began to grow in 2002 when Congress authorized the Environmental Protection Agency to use brownfield funding for cleanup of properties with low-risk underground storage tanks, such as those used for fuel. Click here for more information about the EPA Brownfields program. ...

Extending Halloween’s drawing power  — The Emma Crawford Coffin Race & Parade in Manitou Springs, CO fills downtown streets on a weekend leading up to Halloween. View the Official Rules, Coffin Specifications, and Entry Form. ...

New festival and marketing effort mark Earth Day  — In Lowell, MA, the Annual Points of Light Floating Lantern Celebration is, “a spring celebration of unity and renewal that brings together the food, music, and traditions of Lowell’s diverse cultures.” See the Community Involvement Form. ...

Build events around the bling  — February is National Wedding Month and the Downtown Statesboro (GA) Development Authority presents an annual Wedding Walk, the region’s largest wedding vendor expo and fashion show. Watch a promotional video. ...

Integrated marketing campaign aims to attract new residents from neighboring city  — Going strong for more than a decade, the city of Berwyn, Illinois’s integrated marketing campaign was recently selected as a best practice case study by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning and is featured in the Homes for a Changing Region Toolkit. Below are links to the 5 sections of the Toolkit. • Process Guide • Data Analysis Guide (regional) • Data Analysis Guide (Illinois) • Outreach Guide • Recommendations Guide ...

Environmental art with a message  — The environmental art installation, Particle Falls, in Raleigh, NC, is a colorful digital light display that makes invisible particulate in the air visible in a cascade on the side of a city building. See a local news story about it....

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July 2017

New program aims to expand and support startup and creative community — A rapidly evolving small business scene in Dayton, OH, inspired the launch of the Start Downtown initiative last fall. View the Start Downtown Priority Recommendations report. ...

Videos attract startups — As part of the Start Downtown initiative by the Downtown Dayton Partnership, one volunteer task force focused on how to promote startup businesses. A series of one-minute videos featuring individual small business owners received over 160,000 views. See two of the videos here. ...

Supporting food-based startups fills vacancies, creates jobs, adds to the local dining scene — The National League of Cities’ new action guide, Food-Based Business Incubator Programs, offers an overview of both kitchen and farm incubator programs, as well as guidance on how downtown leaders can support emerging strategies that promote entrepreneurship and strengthen local food systems. ...

Downtown retail, ready for next chapter  — In downtown Madison, WI, the Central Business Improvement District has been studying the health of downtown retail. An in-depth report prepared for the group looks at industry-wide trends, the profile of downtown consumer segments, and the condition of the downtown market. ...

Tools and resources to address homelessness  — Cities of every size are grappling with increasing homelessness, lack of affordable housing, and often inadequate mental health and addiction treatment systems. Read the Association of Washington Cities’ report, Homelessness & Housing Toolkit for Cities. ...

March Madness inspires downtown dining campaign  — Downtown Madness in Pueblo, CO, is highlighting the city center dining scene and helping restaurants attract new customers. See one of the Downtown Madness television spots. ...

Giving young families a new read on the city center  — The Great Big Read event in Stockton, CA, brings a variety of partners together to host an event which draws hundreds of families downtown. Watch the Great Big Read promotional video. ...

Keeping an iconic event fresh  — The annual arts festival in Lewisburg, PA, offers up visual and performing arts, food, and drink, as well as a series of well-attended art workshops. See the brochure here....

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