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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

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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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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