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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 23, 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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Downtown Idea Exchange – Web Extras

February 1, 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. https://youtu.be/n-dPP6xkPkE ...

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. https://youtu.be/Qt4_dqr2qQ8 ...

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Downtown Idea Exchange – Web Extras

January 1, 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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Downtown Idea Exchange – Web Extras

December 1, 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. https://youtu.be/zEpuiFlEKYY ...

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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Downtown Idea Exchange – Web Extras

November 1, 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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