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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.


May 2017

New mixed-use facilities an important piece of revitalization puzzle — In Atlantic City, NJ, the Wave Parking Garage & Mixed Use Center is a $30 million project strategically located to entice and welcome drivers from the nearby Expressway. And in New Brunswick, NJ, a new use is being constructed on top of a parking garage with the Gateway Transit Village. ...

Creating excitement is key to revitalization efforts — “The best way to bring life downtown is to bring lives downtown,” says Ron Drake, developer and author of Flip this Town, who believes that community restoration can happen in any town, as long as the right connections are made. View the promotional videos used in the Okmulgee, OK, revitalization effort. ...

New Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper toolkit is available — The Better Block Foundation has released the Wikiblock Library: A Toolkit for Creating Better Blocks, an open-source toolkit of designs for benches, chairs, planters, stages, bus stop shelters, beer garden fences, and kiosks. ...

Effective communication turns construction gridlock into downtown happening  — With the closure of a main thoroughfare looming in traffic-clogged downtown Seattle, WA, the Downtown Seattle Association launched its #WhyRushHour campaign aimed at turning traffic jams into an opportunity to miss the rush and enjoy the evening in the city center instead. Watch the campaign videos. ...

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April 2017

Flexible federal program promotes innovation, regional collaboration, and more — The Economic Adjustment Assistance Program aids cities suffering from a variety of adverse economic impacts, such as cutbacks by major employers, military base closures, natural disasters, and other harmful circumstances. Read more about the program, as well as other Economic Development Administration tools. ...

Trails connect downtown to the region, and to economic opportunity — Creating city-center greenways and trails that provide connections to surrounding neighborhoods, points of interest, and regional trail networks offer many benefits, say proponents of the Saratoga Springs Greenbelt Trail in Saratoga Springs, NY. See the Saratoga Springs Greenbelt Trail Feasibility Study for more information. ...

Leveraging existing assets to create a successful business cluster — One of the many tools used to position Lititz, PA, as a foodie mecca is this brief video. ...

Breaking a long-range plan into smaller strategic bites — The city of Troy, AL, has released its Vision 2026 plan after an extensive public outreach process, which included citizen meetings, an open studio workshop, online surveys, and more. ...

Dedicated group brings new visitors, unique experiences bring them back — Having successful neighbors can be a mixed blessing. That was the case in Panama City, FL, when businesses began relocating to Panama City Beach. To combat the outmigration, the city established a new revenue stream, formed a dedicated marketing organization, and began a strategic outreach effort. For more information, see the links below: • Destination Panama City Annual Report • Visitor’s Guide • The Tourism Development & Economic Opportunity Study ...

Cross-promotion and collaboration lead to more downtown events — In Bangor, ME, merchants organized a new marketing group last year. As a result of the improved networking and collaboration, downtown will see a much fuller calendar of events this year. Visit the group’s website here. ...

A rainy day enticement for city centers — The availability of paint that shows up only when it’s wet has inspired whimsical, low-cost “invisible art” projects on sidewalks nationwide. View invisible art videos from Rainworks and Arts Huntsville. Rainworks Arts Huntsville ...

Guided walk attracts locals and guests from around the globe — Each Sunday morning at 11 a.m., professional tour guides greet guests at the foot of the William Seward statue in New York City’s Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership BID for a free walking tour of the area. See the brochure and a promotional video. ...

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March 2017

Landscape arts masterplan helps shape new downtown district — The Sugar Hill district in Midtown Detroit, MI, has a storied history as an arts and entertainment district, but in recent decades has become associated “more with parking and its in-between spaces than as a place unto itself,” says the National Endowment for the Arts. But thanks to a five-year landscape arts masterplan, this perception is changing. ...

Strategic development attracts influx of millennials — A Demographics Report issued by the DDA of Miami, FL, notes that the city’s downtown population has grown by 150 percent since 2000, with 90,000 people now calling the urban core home. See the 2016 Greater Downtown Miami Demographicsreport. ...

Innovative libraries are a downtown asset — At the redesigned and expanded Lafayette Library and Learning Center in Lafayette, CA, a consortium of science and cultural institutions is keeping the library relevant. “The Lafayette community has taken ownership of its library and the number of people who come through its doors everyday has more than tripled,” writes Anna Pratt in a recent article for Sharable.net, a news site for the sharing economy. Read the article here. ...

Development boom spurs new marketing campaign — A new marketing campaign launched last summer in Danbury, CT, seeks to highlight the downtown’s desirability and affordability when compared to nearby city centers. View a We are Downtown Danbury video. ...

Public art plan guides city — The Athens (GA) Cultural Affairs Commission has completed work on a comprehensive master plan for integrating public art into the community. ...

Edmonton to light iconic buildings — Edmonton, AB, Canada, is joining a growing number of cities that are creating a sense of place and enhancing economic development with lighting. See details on the program, including the guidelines and application. ...

The future of downtown parking — Parking technology, the role of parking enforcement officers, and surge pricing are expected to take center stage as downtowns tackle the age-old question of how best to meet downtown parking demand. Read an article on page 36 of Parking Today by Kevin Dougherty. ...

Community branding aims to attract young workers, new businesses, and visitors — York, PA, has proclaimed itself to be America’s Industrial Art & Design Capital, and is using its creative assets to attract young professionals. Part of the re-branding effort is the Creativity Unleashed marketing campaign which includes recruitment materials, a website, and guided tours....

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February 2017

Report quantifies the value of the downtown — Increasingly, organizations are supplementing their State of Downtown reports with economic impact reports. Click here to view the Downtown Tempe Economic Impact Report. ...

Communities continue to seek public restroom solutions — Downtowns need people, and people need restrooms. However, the details of cost, maintenance, safety, and location continue to challenge downtown leaders trying to address this basic public need. Read an archive article on integrating public restrooms into downtown areas. ...

Welcome visitors with appropriate gateways — The Georgetown BID in Washington D.C. has requested design proposals for gateways to the historic district. Read their full RFP. ...

Downtown shows off its tech community — For the second annual A2 Tech Trek in downtown Ann Arbor, MI, local technology companies opened their doors to the general public with the goal of inspiring students to become future entrepreneurs, job seekers to find new opportunities, and for local residents to support and learn more about the entrepreneur community. Watch a video about the event below. A2 Tech Trek in downtown Ann Arbor, MI ...

Building successful Shop Local campaigns — When executed properly, campaigns to inform the public about the benefits of doing business locally can build a lasting culture of support for small businesses. • See the AIBA report Building "Buy Local" Campaigns that Shift Culture and Spending. • Read an archive article about the 10% Shift campaign which asks people to spend a bit more with independent local businesses. ...

Light hearted promotion spreads word, generates buzz — To promote the upcoming 375th birthday of Montreal, QC, Canada, Tourism Montreal is apologizing to their Toronto and New York neighbors for all the racket, and inviting them to take part in the festivities. Watch the video below showing Montrealers knocking on doors in Toronto. ...

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January 2017

Looking Ahead to 2017 — About one third of aging business owners plan to transfer their businesses to the next generation. Another third is hoping to sell to a third party. Read Main Street Wisconsin’s information sheet, Business Transition Planning 101. ...

Creative development model revives downtown neighborhood — Neighborhoods adjacent to downtown have significant impacts on the city center. Investments in these areas can yield a huge return on investment for the downtown, and provide successful models, as well. Read the Urban Land Institute’s Reaching for the Future: Creative Finance for Smaller Communities. ...

Lighting projects enhance downtown economic development, revitalization, and tourism — Case studies show significant social and economic impacts of light installations. See the report Ambient Light Empowers Places. ...

Walk audit engages and informs — AARP provides a downloadable Walk Audit Tool Kit and Leaders Guide that can be used by professionals or local citizen groups. ...

Big ideas, small ideas, fun ideas — The team at real estate blog Curbed has assembled 101 DIY ways that citizens and community leaders can improve their cities. ...

New facility provides parking and community space — An Automated Vehicle Storage and Retrieval System (AVSR) is helping the city of West Hollywood, CA, meet parking needs and provide desirable amenities in a much smaller footprint than a conventional parking structure with a similar capacity. Watch a video of the AVSR system in operation. AVSR system in operation ...

Drones are new stars of light shows — See a videos below of Intel drones setting a Guinness World Record and the Starbright Holidays Drone Show at Disney Springs. Intel drones setting a Guinness World Record Starbright Holidays Drone Show at Disney Springs ...

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December 2016

Facade renovation program covers entire blocks, and costs property owners nothing — In Rawlins, WY, 62 of 95 downtown businesses are undergoing grant-funded improvements all at once. See their RFP for architectural and engineering work. ...

Achieving facade renovations on entire blocks — In Fontana, CA, the city’s redevelopment agency offered to fund facade upgrades with no match required from owners. Read more about their facade improvement program. ...

Creative corridor spurs economic development — The downtown turnaround in the state capital of Little Rock, AR, is attracting investment to the long-neglected heart of the city. Click here to learn about the Little Rock Creative Corridor Plan. ...

Public financing tools and development incentives — The Urban Land Institute report Reaching for the Future presents six case studies that illustrate how communities have used partnerships and combined different sources of financing to bring about dramatic change in their communities. ...

Encouraging greening and public art — The annual Greening and Public Realm awards in Minneapolis, MN, aim to both recognize and encourage placemaking activities in the city center. See a brief video featuring several winners below. The Greening and Public Realm awards in Minneapolis, MN   ...

Keeping downtown streets safe — During October, improv actors dressed as the Grim Reaper frequented sidewalks around particularly busy intersections in Pittsburgh, PA, and engaged pedestrians in playful banter. Watch a video of the Grim Reaper in action below. Web Extras December 2016 ...

Holiday light displays attract crowds — An attractive holiday light display can be activated in mid-November and add to the festive atmosphere and drawing power of downtown every evening through January. Watch Baltimore, MD’s Power Plant Holiday Light Spectacular video below. Power Plant Holiday Light Spectacular video  ...

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November 2016

PARK(ing) Day continues to influence potential public spaces — PARK(ing) Day began in 2005 with one San Francisco business owner converting a single metered parking space into temporary public space. It has since grown into a global movement. • See the downtown Coral Gables, FL event guidelines and application. • Read an archive article about the Pavement to Parks program in San Francisco. ...

Regional business incubator locates downtown — A new business incubator in downtown Roanoke, VA, will provide work space, mentoring, and connections to investors. View the full strategic work plan. ...

Marketing plan calls for rebranding shopping district and aggressive promotion — The Sunrise MarketPlace BID in Citrus Heights, CA, is somewhat unique, in that its membership is primarily retail. Because of this, the BID dedicates a substantial percentage of its budget to marketing. Listen to their seasonal, holiday, and year-round radio promotions below. • Summer Spot • Fall Spot • Holiday Spot • Winter Spot • Spring Spot ...

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October 2016

Turning under-utilized alleys into liveable lanes — The Laneway Project in Toronto, ON, Canada, is an innovative urban design and planning organization striving to change the way people view and use city center laneways, or alleys. Click the links below to learn more. • CCBG Laneway Master Plan • Ryerson University design competition ...

Grant program makes businesses more accessible — The city of Durango, CO, has formed an Accessible Communities Team which offers grants for business owners to conduct accessibility assessments and make improvements. View the Accessible Communities Team program flier. ...

Data, outreach, and subsidies draw more retailers downtown — During the first 18 months of operation, a retail recruitment campaign in downtown Windsor, ON, Canada, attracted seven new businesses and has been credited with a 25-percent decrease in vacancy rates. See the Downtown Windsor Retail Recruitment Campaign project description. ...

Walkability drives development, requires place management  — WalkUP Wake-UP Call reports have been generated for cities nationwide. See reports for the three cities below: • Washington, D.C. • Atlanta, GA • New York City ...

Grappling with short-term rentals  — The Neighborhood Planning Committee in St. Paul, MN, is working to balance the benefits of participating in the sharing economy with some of the negative impacts of short-term rentals via Airbnb and others. Read the full study memo. ...

Experts weigh in on event trends  — Downtown organizations constantly strive to keep events fresh and annual meetings engaging. Increasingly it is new technologies and the changing desires of attendees that are reshaping those events, say the authors of the special report, 12 Global Trends Shaping Events in 2017. (Registration is required.) ...

Fire hydrants transformed  — Everything from utility boxes, to dumpsters, to manhole covers, and outdated fire call boxes have been artfully decorated to beautify and engage the public realm. View the interactive map of artistic fire hydrants in Geneva, IL....

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September 2016

New program aims to reduce homelessness — Downtown leaders throughout North America are seeking ways to address stakeholder concerns around homelessness. The ambitious Housing First Charlotte-Mecklenburg initiative in Charlotte, NC, is seeing success. Read the Housing First Charlotte-Mecklenburg Progress Report. ...

Grant funds create a more attractive outdoor dining scene — The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership in Pittsburgh, PA, has created the Paris to Pittsburgh Sidewalk Activation and Facade Improvement Matching Grant Program to encourage restaurateurs to bring new vitality to city streets. Read an archive article about the Paris to Pittsburgh program. ...

Attracting infill development — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released a report, Attracting Infill Development in Distressed Communities: 30 Strategies, which points the way for infill development. Read the report. ...

Inaccurate perceptions, and a lack of education and enforcement mask plentiful parking — A recent parking study in Turlock, CA, reveals that even though 50 percent of the 3,872 available parking spaces are underutilized, 72 percent of residents believe there is a parking shortage downtown. View the full parking study. ...

Gap funding drives new-home construction in historic city center — A new Downtown Residential Development Program approved in June in Henderson, NV, aims to create more density in the historic city center while also adding diversity to the types of homes available. See the Henderson Downtown Residential Development Program Guidelines and Application. ...

Non-traditional drivers of economic development — The report, Creating 21st Century Communities: Making the Economic Case for Place, demonstrates the relationship between eight community "assets" and economic prosperity. ...

Crowdfunding helps keep music festival free — The Lowell Folk Festival is one of the largest free folk festivals in the nation. The event draws about 150,000 attendees annually, yet, in recent years, raising the $1 million festival budget (about $500,000 in-kind and the rest in cash) has become more challenging. Read the Lowell Folk Festival crowdfunding pitch and watch a fundraising video below. Web Extras September 2016 ...

Light festivals drawing crowds — Baltimore, MD’s, inaugural Light City Baltimore, a festival of “light, music, and innovation,” took place around the city’s Inner Harbor this spring. The free, week-long event featured the BGE Light Art Walk, with more than 50 attractions. Watch a time lapse video of Light City Baltimore below. Light City Baltimore ...

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August 2016

Usage data helps public space evolve — The University City District in Philadelphia, PA, "humanized" a 33-space parking area in 2011 by adding a relatively modest and fully removable set of furnishings, along with programming. Wanting to demonstrate the need for vibrant public space, the District rigorously tracked usage patterns during warmer months at The Porch at 30th Street Station. For more information, click the links below: • Realizing the Potential of The Porch: A Case Study in Data-Driven Placemaking • Archive article, Data-driven revitalization allows users to guide design ...

Want more overnight visitors? Try a grant program — Since 2013, Tourism Nanaimo has offered grants to encourage community groups and businesses to attract overnight visitors to Nanaimo, BC, Canada, and the region. Read a report on the Nanaimo Tourism Development Fund here. ...

Build experiences into events to draw larger crowds — The weeklong Tulip Time Festival in Holland, MI, has been going strong for 87 years. Attendees are drawn to the city to see the 4.5 million tulips in bloom, as well as 55 Dutch dance performances, cute Kinder Dutch Dancers, and the Dutch Marktplaats. Click here to view the Tulip Time Festival Guide....

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