Web Extras

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 2020

Visitors aren’t coming downtown? Send them outdoors — Tourism consultant Roger Brooks has a contrarian alternative for downtowns struggling with a dearth of visitors. Tell them to go camping, canoeing, or hiking instead. Watch Roger Brooks’ webinar, Dealing with the Coronavirus below.

“Support Your Neighbors” and other initiatives aid downtown businesses — When the coronavirus closed downtown Wilmington, NC, for business, Ed Wolverton thought back to the city’s hurricane of 2018. In the aftermath of that disaster, he telegraphed the message that downtown was open for business. See how Wilmington, NC, recovered after Hurricane Florence.

March 2020

In tiny towns, entrepreneurs find new uses for empty spaces —  Struggling downtowns are opening businesses and community spaces to cater to their underserved markets. Read William Ryan’s study on repurposing neglected downtown spaces. ...

After disaster, ad campaign helps bring back visitors —  Davenport, IA, suffered devastating flooding in the spring of 2019. To bring visitors back after the cleanup, they began an ad campaign that showed downtown as a vibrant place that had mostly recovered from the spring flood. See video ads featuring Downtown Davenport below. ...

Downtown Owner’s Manual, mentorship program, help new businesses succeed —  In one simple but powerful tool, Janesville, WI, created a Downtown Owner’s Manual that answers a common question: Who’s in charge of that? ...

Increasing outdoor seating —  Outdoor seating has been an indicator of vibrancy in the Philadelphia Center City District since sidewalk cafes were first authorized in 1995. Read the report, Outdoor Seating 2019....

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February 2020

Public art creates new energy in downtowns —  The 40 West ArtLine in Lakewood, CO, includes 70 works of art. Watch a video about the project below. ...

To bring back economic activity, hurricane-battered downtown broadens focus —  In 2009, the Cedar Rapids Downtown District responded and rebuilt after flooding impacted nearly 450 downtown businesses. Read the archive article, "Campaign helps to recover and rebuild." ...

Partnering with event venue spurs downtown spending —  See how the Downtown Windsor BIA partners with a local comic convention in the archive article, "Leveraging existing events to draw visitors." ...

Trends shaping downtown retail —  The team at Stores, the magazine of the National Retail Federation has published its annual consumer trends predictions for the year ahead. ...

Two downtowns team up to promote assets —  The cities of Sault Ste. Marie Michigan and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada, have established a new social media presence — Downtown Sault Ste. Marie Squared — as a way of promoting events and businesses in each city. Watch a brief video on the benefits of co-marketing below. ...

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January 2020

If your downtown struggles with a bad reputation, don’t fight it — embrace it —  Crime, panhandling, a lack of parking, graffiti — many city centers battle challenges to their reputations. How to respond? Savvy downtown marketers say the best approach is to swallow your pride and fully acknowledge your issues — preferably with a bit of self-effacing humor. See the BuzzFeed post, The 10 best drugs coming out of Baltimore. ...

Diversity, demographics will be driving forces for downtown development, study says — Demographic trends create both tailwinds and new challenges for downtown development, according to the 2020 Global Trends Report by Progressive Urban Management Associates and the International Downtown Association. ...

Pop-up retail fills vacancies, enlivens streetscape —  By providing small spaces to startup retailers for free, Downtown Memphis has helped incubate such businesses as a reseller of collectible sneakers and a purveyor of custom soaps. View the Open on Main guidelines. ...

Volunteer management best practices —  Read the Michigan Main Street Association volunteer tool kit....

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December 2019

Shared kitchens sprout nationally, fill vacant space and foster startups —  In Tucson, AZ, and Boston, shared kitchens have attracted dozens of entrepreneurs who run catering businesses and food trucks. Read The Food Corridor’s guide to community kitchens. ...

Holiday drawing drives traffic to downtown shopping district —  The Glebe Spree, hosted by the Glebe Business Improvement Area (BIA) of Ottawa, ON, Canada, is a program that runs from November 15 through December 31. Shoppers receive blank passports, and participating merchants stamp the passports each time a shopper makes a $15 purchase. Watch the Glebe Spree promotional video below. ...

Downtown opens doors to private restrooms —  Starting with 29 publicly accessible restrooms Minneapolis aims to reach 100 by encouraging private business and property owners to open their facilities during normal business hours and by adding portable facilities in locations where gaps exist.  For more ideas, read the archive article, “To make downtowns more attractive, embrace the power of public restrooms.” ...

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November 2019

Downtown offers incentives to breweries, restaurants —  Battle Creek, MI, is using generous incentives to attract tenants to its downtown district.  See their most recent request for proposals. ...

Help businesses thrive during road work —  Wiscasset, ME, undertook a sweeping redesign of Main Street that includes widening sidewalks, adding lighting, installing bollards, renovating sidewalks, improving drainage, and redesigning parking. To help local leaders around the state minimize the impact of such projects, MaineDOT developed Digging Maine, a guide to surviving road construction. ...

Chicago mayor proposes ban on downtown marijuana dispensaries —  In Chicago, landlords and cannabis entrepreneurs are gearing up for a new business opportunity presented by Illinois’ legalization of recreational marijuana. Read Downtown Idea Exchange’s coverage of cannabis stores downtown....

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October 2019

Cities embrace land banks as blight-fighting tool —  A land bank’s main goal is forcing ownership changes of buildings that have sat vacant for years or even decades, especially those held by owners who have died or disappeared.  Read Frank Alexander’s report on land banks. ...

Chalking tires of parked cars? You might be violating motorists’ rights —  The age-old parking practice of using chalk to mark the tires of parked cars faces legal scrutiny — and it just might be unconstitutional. See a federal appeals court’s ruling against tire chalking. ...

Business plan competition offers support, spurs growth —  The Downtown Sacramento Partnership runs an annual contest that solicits business plans from would-be retailers. The contest, Calling All Dreamers, gives one promising retailer a grand prize of $10,000 in cash plus more than $100,000 in services. Watch finalist videos from the contest below and click this link to see program guidelines. ...

Fire suppression incentives —  To encourage property owners to install sprinklers, the City of Frederick, MD, offers a Fire Suppression Incentive Program. See the details and application. ...

Public art encourages citizen involvement —  The Lafayette sign in Lafayette, LA, was erected in 2017 as an interactive public art installation. Local nonprofit groups are encouraged to paint its letters to promote community events and awareness. Read the art guidelines. ...

Parking rate structure encourages turnover —  The City of Spokane Downtown Parking Study presents a comprehensive package of recommendations designed to “facilitate growth and activity downtown, while making parking more convenient and user-friendly for residents, businesses, employees, and visitors.”...

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September 2019

Small city uses arts to drive decades-long renaissance —  Paducah, KY, has combined a quilting museum and a public mural project with local pride and a relentless place-building campaign to turn itself into a widely recognized arts hub.  • Read the LowerTown Neighborhood Plan. • Watch a video about Paducah’s renaissance below. ...

City scrutinizes parking patterns, adjusts rates based on findings —  Each spring, Seattle’s consulting firm dispatches researchers to count cars in every block, every hour from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Based on those results, Seattle adjusts hourly parking rates. See the Seattle Department of Transportation’s educational video below. ...

Millennial SWAT team identifies downtown assets and needs —  Springfield, MO, is working to attract millennials to live and work in the city center. Its secret weapon? A Millennial SWAT team. The city organized millennial residents into small teams and sent them into a variety of downtowns that boast features that Springfield might want to emulate. Read the Millennial SWAT team’s full report....

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August 2019

Growth of food halls continues —  The number of food halls nationally is poised to grow from just 120 in 2016 to 450 by the end of 2020, commercial real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield concludes in its Food Halls 3.0 report. ...

Amid shift to pedestrianism, shade takes on new importance —  Phoenix has embraced the need for shade. Read the City of Phoenix Tree and Shade Master Plan....

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July 2019

Rather than regulating chains, city imposes limits on the width of storefronts —  The “storefront conservation corridor” in St. Petersburg, FL, offers an unusual approach to regulating retailers in two busy business districts. Rather than limiting chains or banning them outright, the city created new rules that define storefronts based on the width of their street-level facades. ...

New 5G equipment creates conflict in downtowns —  Mirroring a national pushback against the new generation of “small-cell” wireless antennas, officials in Whitefish, MT, aren’t keen about the prospects of new devices popping up in a downtown known for its mountain vistas and buildings that date to 1919. See a National League of Cities report about 5G antennas....

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