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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

July 1, 2021
Billions are heading to states and cities; make sure downtown gets its share — The federal government is directing hundreds of billions of dollars to states and cities, a windfall that has downtown leaders nationwide positioning themselves to get a piece of the pie. Watch presentations from the Pennsylvania Downtown Association and the National Main Street Center below. https://vimeo.com/555865910 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmcDKb6sHcc ...

Six reasons to consider a form-based code — The little town of North Bend, WA, enacted a form-based code for its downtown in June, making it the latest municipality to embrace this type of zoning. See the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s guide to enacting a form-based code.  ...

Parking garage converted to apartments — The pandemic has accelerated two trends which significantly cut demand for parking. Both the increased use of app-based, ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft, and a rise in the number of people living within walking distance of their jobs have reduced demand. Learn more about the Broadway Autopark conversion.  ...

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Downtown Idea Exchange – Web Extras

June 1, 2021
City uses array of strategies to create bike-friendly vibe — Thanks to years of effort, biking is big business in Fayetteville, AR. The investment includes an expansive trail network, on-street cycling infrastructure, and ambitious biking initiatives. See Fayetteville’s Active Transportation Plan.  ...

Redefining formula restaurants — To preserve small businesses and local flavor, some cities are passing rules to limit the number of national businesses that can set up shop downtown. Read more about limiting formula businesses.  ...

Converting retail to residential — Many have predicted that a shift from retail to residential uses was a likely outcome of the pandemic. For more information, read the article, “As retail industry struggles, cities can encourage commercial-to-residential property conversions.” ...

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Downtown Idea Exchange – Web Extras

May 1, 2021
Push for 15 mph speed limits gains momentum — In an effort to reduce pedestrian fatalities, Virginia lawmakers passed a bill that would allow municipalities to drop speed limits in business districts as low as 15 mph. Read the Governors Highway Safety Association report. ...

Most mayors expect pedestrian-friendly changes to prove temporary — The COVID-19 pandemic led cities to reshape their urban landscapes. According to research by Boston University’s Initiative on Cities, the transformation of city streets appears unlikely to last. See Boston University’s report here. ...

Retail village boosts local economy — Kuna, ID, will launch a retail market village in June. The village will consist of 12 small shops in re-purposed garden sheds. Read the archive article, “Outdoor kiosks breathe new life into long-dormant space.”  ...

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Downtown Idea Exchange – Web Extras

April 1, 2021
Asphalt art projects combine pedestrian safety, urban beautification — The Bloomberg Philanthropies Asphalt Art Initiative gives up to $25,000 per locale for visual art interventions on roadways, pedestrian spaces, and public infrastructure. See the City of Monticello Business District Building Improvement Grant Program application and guidelines. Watch videos about public art in Kansas City, MO, and Saginaw, MI, below. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pa8xNx7Cjwk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBdRy0x7Gqg ...

System of sensors and signs helps improve parking  — When workers return downtown in a number of cities, they will be greeted by a range of new parking technologies. Watch a video about the parking garage management system below. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nfXlVldgjaU ...

Old style mall becomes modern food hall — The newest addition to downtown Milwaukee’s vibrant restaurant scene is the 3rd Street Market Hall, with a dozen restaurants and food businesses. Read the report, “Food Halls 3.0.” ...

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Downtown Idea Exchange – Web Extras

March 1, 2021
Why it might make sense to recruit individuals rather than businesses — Traditional economic development strategies focus on wooing corporations, the larger the better. But it makes more sense to focus on homegrown businesses. Read the archive article, “Small cities woo residents, workers with student loan assistance.” ...

Amid retail retrenchment and COVID slowdown, cannabis stores fill space — As downtowns everywhere struggle through the coronavirus pandemic, demand for downtown space has emerged in the form of state-regulated cannabis dispensaries. See the archive article, “Marijuana Dispensaries Create Demand for Space.” ...

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Downtown Idea Exchange – Web Extras

February 1, 2021
Small-scale development concept leads to “polite” new building that fits urban fabric — In Portland, ME, a local couple envisioned a three-story, mixed-use building in the city’s Deering Center neighborhood. However, such a building hadn’t gone up for years.  Learn more about Missing Middle zoning. ...

Considering a façade grant? Here’s how one award-winning program works — Wheeling, WV, was recently recognized by the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia for its façade grant program. See the complete façade improvement program guidelines. ...

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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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