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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.


Downtown Idea Exchange – Web Extras

December 1, 2020
Ice bars provide frosty entertainment — Hospitality venues in Lake George, NY, know a lot about how to entertain outdoors in frosty winter weather. When the temperatures dip, they open their ice bars. See a video produced by the county tourism department below. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9921lPCbrE ...

City uses consumer marketing, business grants to keep downtown active — In Chandler, AZ, city officials are combatting the coronavirus downturn by marketing local businesses to consumers. The “I Choose Chandler” ad below reminds viewers that the city’s restaurants, gyms, clothing boutiques, and barbershops are open for business.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SinS9wZckng&feature=youtu.be ...

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Downtown Idea Exchange – Web Extras

November 1, 2020
Goodbye suburban malls, hello walkable shopping districts — Even before the coronavirus pandemic, the retail landscape was changing dramatically. The COVID-19 recession has accelerated merchants’ move back to Main Street. Read about downtown bans on national chains in this archive article. ...

Design playbook showcases pandemic solutions — The Canadian Urban Institute and the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada have released the Main Street Design Challenge Playbook, a collection of design solutions that can be implemented during and after the pandemic. ...

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Downtown Idea Exchange – Web Extras

October 1, 2020
In one downtown, self-parking garage shows glimpse of future — In an initiative that promises to reduce the amount of downtown space devoted to parking, Ford, auto parts maker Bosch, and a prominent landlord in Detroit are developing a self-parking garage in that city’s downtown. See Ford’s video of its automated valet project below. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ok9ACzmGpUA ...

Outdoor kiosks breathe new life into long-dormant space — In downtown Muskeegan, MI, an empty block was filled with small businesses in pop-up chalets. Read the full story in this archive article.  ...

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Downtown Idea Exchange – Web Extras

September 1, 2020
Curbside commerce, vacant-lot dining: Coronavirus inspires creative concepts — The city of Baltimore’s Design for Distancing contest is a program created to elicit ideas for innovative responses to the COVID-19 recession. The competition brought more than 160 entries, many from architects and urban design firms.  Read the Design for Distancing Ideas Guidebook. ...

“Environmental design” can contain crime, to an extent — Billings, MT has turned to the concept of crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) to discourage loitering, public drunkenness, and vandalism. See the...

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International CPTED Association’s clear-eyed look at homelessness and environmental design . ...

Downtown takes cleaning, distancing seriously — but not too seriously — In Rosslyn, VA, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic has taken the form of purple stickers, signs, and banners placed throughout the 17-block Business Improvement District. Check out some photos of the ...

Rosslyn Ready signage . ...

Portable pop-up retail — Pop-up retail is part of the downtown development initiative in Sault Ste. Marie, Canada. The city envisions businesses popping up in refurbished shipping containers. Read an archive article about creative retail space using shipping containers. ...

Iconic spaces reimagined — Nine bold concepts for Washington, DC spaces were developed by regional architects and designers for Washingtonian magazine.  ...

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Downtown Idea Exchange – Web Extras

August 1, 2020
Downtown makeover includes improvements visible and invisible — Ottumwa, IA, has embarked on an ambitious program that includes new housing units, an overhaul of its streetscapes, and new attractions. This long-term work was supported by a Better Block initiative. Read the Ottumwa Better Block After-Action Report and watch the video below: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZG_ogpGJNDQ&feature=youtu.be ...

Urban density doesn’t lead to coronavirus transmission, study says — The consensus was: Urban environments exacerbate the spread of COVID-19. There’s a small problem with that conclusion, however. It might not be true. Read a study from the Journal of the American Planning Association. ...

Regional trail connects to downtowns —  Last year the Metropolitan Planning Commission released a plan update for the 54-mile Bridge to Bay Trail in the Port Huron region of Michigan. See the St. Clair County Trails Plan.  ...

Public art turns chain link into attraction — An area of construction in Eugene’s downtown riverfront is surrounded by chainlink fence. The city will reimagine the fence as, “a canvas for temporary public work(s) of art.  Learn more about the project and to see the RFQ. ...

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Downtown Idea Exchange – Web Extras

July 1, 2020
Downtown offers loans to struggling merchants — As the coronavirus shut down its city center, Memphis, TN, faced a mass extinction of small merchants. The Downtown Memphis Commission responded quickly, handing out short-term loans totaling $260,000 to 46 businesses. See Memphis’ application materials for emergency loans. ...

Eight low-cost ideas downtowns are using to spur their recoveries — The Kendall Whittier Main Street program in Tulsa, OK, wants to support businesses that are struggling with little or no income. To keep businesses viable, grants will be offered to help make rent or mortgage payments. If awarded, the grant will pay rent directly to the landlord. See the Kendall Whittier Rent Relief Program application. ...

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Downtown Idea Exchange – Web Extras

June 1, 2020
To reopen downtown, consider outdoor dining, “parklets,” and “flex zones” — The recovery from the coronavirus crisis threatens to be arduous and slow-moving. But architects Alan Pullman and Shannon Heffernan, of urban design firm Studio One Eleven in Long Beach, CA, urge cities to use “parklets” and “flex zones” to create spaces for outdoor dining. They also suggest transforming parking lots into al fresco seating areas. The National Association of City Transportation Officials offers guidance on Parklet design. ...

Parklet vs Pedlet — A play on the word “parklet,” a pedlet allows for outdoor dining on the sidewalk while the adjacent parking space is converted to a pedestrian way.  The video below shows modular pedlet installation in Great Falls, MT. https://youtu.be/jOZEUX0-ebY ...

Even after all-clear, downtown foot traffic might not return to normal — As the coronavirus pandemic has dragged on, it has become clear that consumers and merchants will take time to resume old behavior patterns, says Matt Wagner, vice president of revitalization programs at Main Street America. See Main Street America’s local resident survey questions and small business interview questionnaire. ...

Uber, Lyft increase congestion; here’s how one downtown copes — Before the coronavirus shutdowns silenced downtown Orlando, FL, city officials say designating locations for drivers to pick up downtown patrons improved traffic flow during the late-night rush hour, when bars closed and thousands of people tried to leave a small area at once. Read a traffic study commissioned by Uber and Lyft. ...

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Downtown Idea Exchange – Web Extras

May 1, 2020
How to keep your organization afloat in tough times — Many organizations were blindsided by the suddenness and severity of the downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic. To help coach downtown leaders through the turmoil, the International Downtown Association (IDA) and Progressive Urban Management Associates (PUMA) collaborated on a game plan that spells out steps to take in the coming weeks and months. See the full list of suggestions for stabilizing and then reviving your downtown. ...

Your downtown tenants are in danger; here’s how to help them — The coronavirus pandemic could permanently close millions of small businesses, including some that occupy storefronts in your downtown, according to a report by Main Street America. ...

In a sad reality for downtown leaders, pedestrian deaths keep rising  — Nationwide pedestrian deaths rose in 2019 to their highest level in three decades, even as the nation’s roadway crash fatalities overall have been falling, according to a report released in late February by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), a nonprofit that represents state highway-safety offices. ...

New park, new uses — A surface parking lot in the West End Historic District of downtown Dallas will soon be replaced with a modern new green space called West End Square. Watch the video below and take a virtual tour.  https://youtu.be/8oWJvbjgHTM ...

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Downtown Idea Exchange – Web Extras

April 1, 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.

Downtown Idea Exchange – Web Extras

March 1, 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. https://youtu.be/4MPugZbPchs https://youtu.be/00flxMmNYz0 ...

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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