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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.


September 2017

PARK(ing) Day events remain popular, lead to permanent installations — PARK(ing) Day, observed on the third Friday each September, sees parking spaces transformed into temporary public parks. • Read The PARK(ing) Day Manual: A Primer on User-Generated Urbanism and Temporary Tactics for Improving the Public Realm • View the Coral Gables PARK(ing) Day Guidelines. ...

Rotational Public Art Program defines and refreshes downtown’s “main street” — Fremont, CA, has lacked a defined downtown until recently. Now, implementation of the Downtown Community Plan adopted in 2012 is underway, and a strong public art program is integral to defining and enlivening the area. To read details of the program, see pages 90-96 of Fremont’s Downtown Community Plan. ...

Streetscape upgrade meets many goals — The streetscape project currently underway in Rosslyn, VA, aims to strengthen the city’s brand, decrease visual clutter, and improve the pedestrian experience. See the Rosslyn Streetscape Master Plan. ...

Welcome festival for college students proves beneficial for everyone  — The annual Get Downtown festival began as a way to orient new college students to what the city center has to offer and has grown into the largest and most beloved street festival in Lynchburg, VA. View the Get Downtown vendor application and sponsorship packages. ...

Stitching together a great downtown event  — March is National Quilting Month. To mark the occasion, many downtowns promote merchants who cater to quilters, or host quilt shows and classes. Read an archive article on producing a successful quilt event. ...

Year-long initiative expands and promotes public art  — In Chicago, IL, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events have declared 2017 the Year of Public Art with a new 50X50 Neighborhood Arts Project, creation of a Public Art Youth Corps, a new Public Art Festival, and more. Watch two videos about Chicago’s Year of Public Art. ...

Temporary art installation highlights best of downtown  — Each year the Detroit (MI) Auto Show draws upwards of 800,000 people to the city center. Hoping to keep those people downtown longer, the Downtown Detroit Partnership, Detroit Economic Growth Corp., and others brought LuminoCITY downtown. The art installation includes 16 illuminated pieces. See a video of the installation coming to life. ...

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August 2017

Streetcars see success despite naysayers — Successful streetcar programs like one in Kansas City, MO, have other cities planning expansions and seeing new development before their inaugural streetcar lines have even launched. Read an archive article about other streetcar projects. ...

Repurposed gas stations become vibrant public spaces — The reuse of old gas stations began to grow in 2002 when Congress authorized the Environmental Protection Agency to use brownfield funding for cleanup of properties with low-risk underground storage tanks, such as those used for fuel. Click here for more information about the EPA Brownfields program. ...

Extending Halloween’s drawing power  — The Emma Crawford Coffin Race & Parade in Manitou Springs, CO fills downtown streets on a weekend leading up to Halloween. View the Official Rules, Coffin Specifications, and Entry Form. ...

New festival and marketing effort mark Earth Day  — In Lowell, MA, the Annual Points of Light Floating Lantern Celebration is, “a spring celebration of unity and renewal that brings together the food, music, and traditions of Lowell’s diverse cultures.” See the Community Involvement Form. ...

Build events around the bling  — February is National Wedding Month and the Downtown Statesboro (GA) Development Authority presents an annual Wedding Walk, the region’s largest wedding vendor expo and fashion show. Watch a promotional video. ...

Integrated marketing campaign aims to attract new residents from neighboring city  — Going strong for more than a decade, the city of Berwyn, Illinois’s integrated marketing campaign was recently selected as a best practice case study by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning and is featured in the Homes for a Changing Region Toolkit. Below are links to the 5 sections of the Toolkit. • Process Guide • Data Analysis Guide (regional) • Data Analysis Guide (Illinois) • Outreach Guide • Recommendations Guide ...

Environmental art with a message  — The environmental art installation, Particle Falls, in Raleigh, NC, is a colorful digital light display that makes invisible particulate in the air visible in a cascade on the side of a city building. See a local news story about it....

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July 2017

New program aims to expand and support startup and creative community — A rapidly evolving small business scene in Dayton, OH, inspired the launch of the Start Downtown initiative last fall. View the Start Downtown Priority Recommendations report. ...

Videos attract startups — As part of the Start Downtown initiative by the Downtown Dayton Partnership, one volunteer task force focused on how to promote startup businesses. A series of one-minute videos featuring individual small business owners received over 160,000 views. See two of the videos here. ...

Supporting food-based startups fills vacancies, creates jobs, adds to the local dining scene — The National League of Cities’ new action guide, Food-Based Business Incubator Programs, offers an overview of both kitchen and farm incubator programs, as well as guidance on how downtown leaders can support emerging strategies that promote entrepreneurship and strengthen local food systems. ...

Downtown retail, ready for next chapter  — In downtown Madison, WI, the Central Business Improvement District has been studying the health of downtown retail. An in-depth report prepared for the group looks at industry-wide trends, the profile of downtown consumer segments, and the condition of the downtown market. ...

Tools and resources to address homelessness  — Cities of every size are grappling with increasing homelessness, lack of affordable housing, and often inadequate mental health and addiction treatment systems. Read the Association of Washington Cities’ report, Homelessness & Housing Toolkit for Cities. ...

March Madness inspires downtown dining campaign  — Downtown Madness in Pueblo, CO, is highlighting the city center dining scene and helping restaurants attract new customers. See one of the Downtown Madness television spots. ...

Giving young families a new read on the city center  — The Great Big Read event in Stockton, CA, brings a variety of partners together to host an event which draws hundreds of families downtown. Watch the Great Big Read promotional video. ...

Keeping an iconic event fresh  — The annual arts festival in Lewisburg, PA, offers up visual and performing arts, food, and drink, as well as a series of well-attended art workshops. See the brochure here....

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June 2017

Unique twist on banner program generates partnerships and profit — The State Street Flag program in Santa Barbara, CA, sees 125 colorful flags flying from city lampposts. The city partners with 40 nonprofits on a rotating flag display. View the State Street Flag Program Policies and Letter of Agreement. ...

Strategic outreach efforts fill vacancies — In the wake of the 2008 economic crisis, downtown Colorado Springs, CO, faced years of high vacancy rates. Thanks to outreach to property owners, a vibrant pop-up program, and careful vetting of potential new businesses, today the city boasts a 2.8-percent vacancy rate. See the HolidayPop-Up application and the Quick Facts Restaurant & Retail data sheet. ...

A new approach to litter — Keep America Beautiful will be employing UK nonprofit Hubub’s Ballot Bin which uses custom designed ashtrays and a "voting system," to allow users to vote on predetermined questions by choosing one of two slots to dispose of their cigarette butts. See Hubub’s Idea Catalog. ...

Historic waterways to make city more accessible, active, vibrant — For years, the extensive canal system in Lowell, MA, powered the city’s mills. Today, the canals are bringing new vitality to the downtown and city as a whole. Read the Lowell Waterways report. ...

Coming to downtown streets, self-driving delivery robots — Autonomous robots may soon be making deliveries on nearby downtown streets. Watch a video of a robot in action. ...

Summer kickoff campaign includes video, photo contest, and daily themes — The week-long #LoveYourDowntown campaign in Fredericton, NB, aimed to draw locals and visitors downtown after the long Canadian winter. Watch the promotional video. ...

Delivering educational, entertaining, sharable reports  — The Downtown Fresno Partnership worked with a local production company to create a one-minute fly-over investment video to replace its traditional printed report. ...

Tours link local sites with public transit  — The Ten Toe walking program in St. Louis, MO, connects the MetroLink and MetroBus systems with, "your own ten toes" as participants ride public transit to designated tour locations. See the step by step guide to setting up a Ten Toe Express program and view a brief video presentation. ...

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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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