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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, 2022
After turnaround, long-empty space becomes hive of activity — For decades, a former furniture store and warehouse in downtown Swainsboro, GA, sat empty. Now it’s a thriving hub that’s home to an antique mall and a gallery featuring local artists. To find out more, see Lynn Brinson’s presentation, “Diamonds in the rough: Transforming underutilized spaces into downtown anchors.” ...

Locating bike share stations in crowded city centers — When new bike share stations were installed in downtown West Palm Beach, FL, they were located directly on city sidewalks. It’s an option that’s feasible so long as certain guidelines are met. Read the National Association of City Transportation Officials’ guide to bike-share stations. ...

Connecting with public art — At the height of the pandemic when cabin fever had set in and people were weary of travel restrictions. Two European cities found a way to create safe and meaningful interactions. Digital portals were installed in public plazas in Vilnius, Lithuania and Lubln, Poland.  Watch a video about the portals below. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRvbxiCj79E ...

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Downtown Idea Exchange — Web Extras

April 1, 2022
Recruitment program offers to pay down student loans — The rise of remote work has inspired localities to pay remote workers to move in from out of state. Now Van Wert, OH, is joining that group. See details of the Van Wert County Foundation’s Learn and Return program. ...

Nonprofit buys dozens of buildings in crumbling downtown — Following half a century of decline, the downtown in Van Wert, OH, is getting a major makeover. Watch a local television station’s overview of Van Wert’s project. ...

Light art enlivens downtown during winter — Cary, NC, just wrapped up another year of temporary outdoor light and technology installations downtown. Read about the Glow. ...

Getting back to the office — To better understand downtown workers’ attitudes toward work and the city center, the Greater Des Moines Partnership commissioned a survey of 5,200 people from 18 businesses in the area. Read the initial summary report. ...

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Downtown Idea Exchange — Web Extras

March 1, 2022
Downtown proponent breathes life into one small town, hopes to repeat feat — Downtown Bellefontaine, OH, was nearly knocked out by the arrival of national retailers on the outskirts of town in the 1990s and by the Great recession in the first decade of the 2000s. But the town is fighting back. See a case study about downtown Bellefontaine’s revival. ...

Downtown enacts three-pronged response to pandemic downturn — The pandemic dealt a number of blows to the once-thriving downtown in Sacramento, CA.  The Sacramento Downtown Partnership's recovery plan includes $200,000 for event activation assistance. Read more on event assistance programs. ...

Old cinema is revived as downtown cultural hub — For decades after it opened in 1930, the Soo Theatre was the place to see a movie in Sault Ste. Marie, MI. But when a multiplex came to town, the one-screen cinema struggled, finally closing its doors in 1998. Read the League of Historic American Theaters’ manual on theater rescue, restoration, rehabilitation, and adaptive reuse. ...

Flexibility needed to fill vacant storefronts — In an effort to fill vacant downtown storefronts, the City of Seattle temporarily relaxed limits on storefront uses. The legislation applies to specific areas including the city’s retail core.  See ordinance 126421. ...

Crokicurl: A new downtown activity — Memorial Square in Prince Albert, Sask., Canada, is drawing visitors downtown on even the coldest days. They are there to play crokicurl and maybe to linger for a warm drink and a little shopping. Check out Public City Architecture Inc’s instructions for setting up and playing crokicurl.  ...

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Downtown Idea Exchange — Web Extras

February 1, 2022
Event grants help fill downtown calendars — For downtown leaders who want the benefits of a full event schedule but don’t want to run events themselves, a downtown grant program is a useful tool. see the First Time Event Planning Guide from the Rochester, MN, Downtown Alliance. ...

Remodeled bridge reconnects downtown neighborhoods — For decades, the Main Street Bridge separated the core of downtown New Britain, CT, from the Little Poland neighborhood. The overpass was poorly lit, with narrow sidewalks, and the roar of traffic from below.  In 2019 all that changed when the bridge was renovated and re-named the Beehive Bridge. Watch a two-minute video of the Beehive Bridge below: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpPtYsT1OTw ...

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Downtown Idea Exchange — Web Extras

January 1, 2022
Facing years of construction, residents, leaders join forces — In Middlebury, VT, an infrastructure project was set to tear up roads and disrupt the downtown for six years. Read a full overview of Middlebury’s efforts to promote downtown during the disruption. ...

New downtown group works to broaden office district’s appeal — In San Fransisco, with white-collar workers staying home rather than going to their offices, pedestrian traffic plummeted in the Financial District during the pandemic. And fewer people meant less business for the restaurants and bars in the district. Watch the promotional video below for San Francisco’s public art show.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dimqa7wDWUA ...

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Downtown Idea Exchange — Web Extras

December 1, 2021
Lynn Lights wins praise for community involvement — A series of public art projects has helped Lynn, MA, shake off its malaise. Read an archive article about the Beyond Walls mural festival. ...

Gateway project creates strong sense of place — The Colorado Springs Gateways Initiative was a clear win for the city’s downtown. The new landmark signs at the entrances to downtown are eye-catching, and the project was honored with an award from the International Downtown Association. See an implementation guide and photos of Colorado Springs’ Gateways Initiative.  ...

To fight blight, agency buys downtown’s tallest building — To stop the decay of a downtown landmark, the Downtown Memphis Commission this spring deployed a creative — and risky — strategy. It paid $10.75 million for the entire block that’s home to 100 N. Main. Street. See a video tour of 100 N. Main St. below. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4i2W1J8TZ8k ...

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Downtown Idea Exchange — Web Extras

November 1, 2021
How one downtown is balancing outdoor drinking with family friendliness — The North Carolina Retail Merchants Association pushed for the state’s relaxation of alcohol laws, and cities jumped on board. Kannapolis has already approved a downtown social district. Wilmington and Charlotte are considering it. See the West Avenue Social District Maintenance and Operations Plan. ...

Downtown invests in ultramodern bathroom — Public restrooms pose a conundrum in downtowns everywhere. If you want to welcome visitors, you need clean commodes. But many a public washroom has been commandeered for uses that may make visitors uncomfortable. Read an archive article on public restroom solutions. ...

After five years, locally made branding campaign still hanging on — Back in 2016, New Haven, CT, launched a campaign to market locally produced goods by giving products a distinctive logo and promoting them under the Made in New Haven brand. Read an archive article on the launch of the Made in New Haven program.  ...

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Downtown Idea Exchange — Web Extras

October 1, 2021
City’s big bet on roundabouts pays off in the form of fewer accidents — Hoping to reduce severe accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists, many downtowns have tested traffic roundabouts as an alternative to intersections with traffic signals. Read the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study on Carmel’s roundabouts. ...

Vaccination appreciation promotions — As the pandemic continued to spread this spring and summer, inducements to encourage vaccination were everywhere. Watch the Somerville vaccine discount video below. https://vimeo.com/524629927/fab95a9dc9 ...

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Downtown Idea Exchange — Web Extras

September 1, 2021
TIF remains popular, but beware the pitfalls — Tax-increment financing (TIF)  is a common tool for cities to fund economic development. City leaders assume that TIF will spur new development, increase property values, and create new tax revenue that would not have existed otherwise.  Read more from David Merriman on Tax Increment Financing. ...

Five strategies downtowns are using to come back from the pandemic — the wave of downtown initiatives reinforces the resilience of downtowns, not to mention the crucial importance of city centers in communities everywhere. • The Rosslyn Business Improvement District in Arlington, VA, set up an outdoor office area. Watch the video below: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-CpxXnefU8&t=9s • Many downtown organizations are developing programs that focus specifically on providing support for black-owned and other minority-owned small businesses. See Building on Recovery for Urban Place Management from the International Downtown Association and Stantec. ...

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Downtown Idea Exchange – Web Extras

August 1, 2021
With many office workers still staying home, downtowns try to woo them back — City centers everywhere face a conundrum: Office workers have yet to return en masse, even as vaccines are readily available, coronavirus infections have dwindled, and local authorities have lifted restrictions on public gatherings. See McKinsey & Co.’s report on the future of office work. ...

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