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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

August 1, 2014
Survey allows rapid response to misperceptions — The Downtown Norfolk Council conducts a Usage and Perception Study every few years to gauge how residents throughout the region view the city center. View the executive summary here. ...

Crime deterrents boost economic development — In part, the success of the Billings [MT] Crime Watch for Business program, comes from announcing the program to would-be lawbreakers. Participating businesses receive window clings, and the downtown has signage designating it as a Crime Watch district. Additionally, brochures were printed containing safety tips, emergency numbers, and even the cell numbers of the downtown resource officers. See the Crime Watch brochure. ...

New tax will fund vital streets — As Grand Rapids, MI, embraced complete streets, two important documents were developed. • Vital Streets: A Vital Component of a Vibrant City• Vital Streets: Advance Investment Plan for Streets ...

Innovation districts offer live, work, play options to attract businesses and residents — Former industrial sites and other spaces in and adjacent to downtowns are being transformed into live/work/play districts attractive to innovative companies and their employees. Two reports provide useful background. • Innovation Districts: A look at communities spurring economic development through collaboration by New Jersey Future• The Rise of Innovation Districts: A New Geography of Innovation in America by the Brookings Institution. ...

Series of events to educate and engage the public follows merger of two downtown groups — Learn more about the merger that created REV Birmingham. ...

How to form a Tourism Improvement District — Whether a city is using state TID law or home rule authority, the TID formation process follows a fairly typical pattern. Civitas Advisors has worked with dozens of districts and outlines these five steps in TBIDs: Stable Funding For Destination Marketing. Also see TID locations across the country with this interactive map from TourismImprovementDistrict.com, and read the San Francisco State University Study, Tourism Marketing Districts, Creating Jobs, Growing Our Economy. ...

Customer service defines not just the business, but the downtown — Downtown organizations can help small businesses by offering mystery shopping and other assessment tools to identify strengths and weaknesses, training to help small business owners and their staff address knowledge gaps, and award programs to recognize service excellence. For more on the value of hospitality training, read Hospitality training boosts business downtown from the November 2011 issue of Downtown Promotion Reporter. ...

Creating an emotional bond with stakeholders — When the Salt Lake Downtown Alliance wanted to instill a sense of downtown ownership in their regional audience, one of many steps was the I am Downtown video contest. Learn more about producing a video contest and how to boost stakeholder attachment. ...

Heritage tourism makes an impact — In the Heritage Tourism Guidebook, the Texas Historical Commission notes the reasons for the growth in heritage tourism and provides step-by-step information on how to capture this market. ...

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Downtown Idea Exchange – Web Extras

July 1, 2014
Report quantifies downtown’s value citywide — As a supplement to its annual report, the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, prepared a companion analysis, Downtown Baltimore: Its Impact on the City Economy. The report shows that the downtown more than carries its weight and propels the rest of the city forward. ...

Gen Y still likes to shop in stores — A new report from the Urban Land Institute, Generation Y: Shopping and Entertainment in the Digital Age, looks at the preferences of this group and has good news for downtown retailers. ...

Community-wide sales benefit customers, businesses, and organizations — In Dowagiac, MI, a coordinated community-wide garage sale entices customers downtown. View the participant solicitation/registration form. ...

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Downtown Idea Exchange – Web Extras

June 1, 2014
Business retention and creative sponsorships fund programs and services — The Delray Beach Downtown Development Authority produces a Next Big Projects brochure highlighting development projects and providing a timeline and the dollar value of the work. The Authority funds its work, in part, through a creative Legacy Partners Program. Here is a copy of the one page program contract. ...

Real estate matchmaking provides service to BID members and prospective tenants — The Site Seeker program allows the Downtown Dayton Partnership to provide a valuable service to members while also attracting new businesses to the city center. This simple online application starts the process. ...

Program engages youth, beautifies utility boxes — The Out of the Box Mural project has been a success in downtown Stockton, CA. Here is the application form and utility box template. ...

Converting to two-way streets — A report from Louisville, KY, considers the advantages and disadvantages of converting downtown streets from one-way to two-way. Read the full report Downtown Louisville Two-Way Street Study. ...

Blended programming draws art lovers and locavores downtown — To help promote artisans and farmers, attract more visitors, and foster job growth, the Belfast Creative Coalition created a farm and arts trail. See the trail map. ...

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Downtown Idea Exchange – Web Extras

May 1, 2014
Vibrancy plan is a living, evolving document — Publication of the Stowe [VT] Vibrancy Report, was just the beginning as local groups honed the recommendations and moved many of them into the implementation phase. See the full Stowe Vibrancy Report. ...

Providing simple seating drives change in public spaces — Making lighter, quicker, cheaper improvements can mean something as simple as providing seats in public spaces. See how Belfast, ME, is using seating to drive foot traffic through an expanding downtown business district. ...

Economic impact of winter weather — Severe winter weather in many parts of the country has taken a toll on downtown businesses. Learn how the Anchorage Downtown Partnership and others cope with snow removal. ...

New brand strengthens and grows local businesses — In 2010, Newport, VT, began promoting itself as being Genuine by Nature. That led to the 2011 roll out of the Newport. Fresh by Nature. campaign, which has helped local restaurants, farmers, and food producers to grow their businesses while strengthening the community brand and attracting complimentary new businesses. ...

Electronic tours highlight all that downtown has to offer — Whether you are promoting downtown to newcomers or to locals, an interactive electronic tour offers practical options. For example, Golden, CO, finds an interactive walking tour encourages locals to linger longer and explore new areas of the downtown. While in Midland, MI, a virtual tour enables potential visitors, residents, and business owners to explore the downtown before making an in-person visit. Take the virtual tour of downtown Midland. ...

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Downtown Idea Exchange – Web Extras

April 1, 2014
Giving residents a seat at the BID table — The rising popularity of urban living has pushed some business improvement districts to give downtown residents a “voice” in what has historically been a business-centered organization. See how the a SoHo BID in New York City handles assessments for residential members. ...

Micro-condos becoming part of the urban housing mix — For suburban homeowners, small is in. And the same may well apply to in-town living, with those smaller spaces sparking updated ordinances and new incentives to attract developers. But just how small are these new micro-apartments? ...

Task force initiatives lead to reinvestment downtown — Nine initiatives of the Downtown Eugene Safety Task Force have created momentum for improvements in housing, employment, entertainment, and education. See the task force recommendations in full. ...

Busker events are gaining in popularity, part one — Creativity is filling city centers with whimsical creatures, exciting acts, and potential customers who flock downtown to see buskers perform. See the Buskers in the Burg online application from Ellensburg, WA. ...

Welcome gifts connect new movers with downtown — Providing new residents with municipal information, marketing materials, coupons, and other incentives to visit downtown businesses works well as impressionable movers seek to establish new brand loyalties. See the business recruitment and sign-up sheet used for the Fairfax, IA, Welcome Packet Program. ...

Unified theme weaves blogs, videos, contests, and more into new image for downtown — The 2013 Downtown Dreamers campaign was so successful that a 2014 Calling All Dreamers contest is now underway. See more about promoting the contest and details on the complete prize package. ...

Co-op ads save retailers as much as $4,000 — Downtown Madison, the central business improvement district in Madison, WI, provides high-value co-op advertising opportunities to members. See all of the co-op advertising and marketing opportunities. ...

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Downtown Idea Exchange – Web Extras

March 1, 2014
Generating community engagement for future projects — The 150th anniversary celebration in Evanston, IL, included the Evanston 150 project, a yearlong effort to gather stakeholder ideas for 10 significant improvement projects. The program was based on a similar initiative in Dubuque, IA. See the 10 big ideas from Dubuque, IA. ...

Inviting millennials to settle down — Mentor, OH’s, multi-media advertising campaign, included a commercial and banner ad on Pandora online radio. Hear the commercial now. ...

Finding the best location for a downtown farmers market — The Downtown Farmers Curb Market in Lakeland, FL, operates right on the street in close cooperation with street-level businesses. ...

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Downtown Idea Exchange – Web Extras

February 1, 2014
Collaborative center meets multiple goals — In Durango, CO, the city, the business improvement district, a local college, and the tourism office have created a new welcome center that addresses each of their marketing needs, and more importantly, the needs of visitors to the city center. ...

Concise tagline creates buzz while telling the downtown story — Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21 launched its new Cya Downtown, Milwaukee campaign last May. ...

Put a name on it — Naming rights at downtown’s Windsor Castle Park in Smithfield, VA, range from $500 to $20,000 depending on the amenity selected. Here are all of the Naming Rights details. ...

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Downtown Idea Exchange – Web Extras

January 1, 2014
Small businesses will be going greener in 2014 — Up until recently, the primary focus of energy conservation programs was on larger buildings of over 100,000 square feet. Thanks to the research Preservation Green Lab has done, there is a rising awareness of some really significant energy saving opportunities to be had in Main Street communities, smaller neighborhoods, and commercial districts. Learn more at the Preservation Green Lab website. ...

Report highlights importance of citizen input in placemaking — A new report by a MIT Department of Urban Studies research team examines the interactions between placemaking, community participation, and the expanding ways communities are collaborating to make great public places. Read Places in the Making. ...

Bicycles are becoming more accepted on downtown streets — Concerns about the environment, rising costs for fuel and parking, and an interest in fitness are making bicycles a popular mode of transportation for many downtowners. Read the article Bike-sharing trend gaining traction downtown. ...

Special event bylaws create common framework — Ottawa, ON, Canada, has a well deserved reputation as a city of festivals and events. The city hosts multiple events each month that draw local, national, and international visitors. So when the city decides to revamp its event bylaws, other communities can learn from both the process and the outcome. Read the new Special Events on Public and Private Property Bylaw. ...

Festivals from around the world — Covering yourself in tomatoes, mud, water, and dye are just some of the ways people are celebrating at festivals around the world. See 23 World Festivals You Won’t Want to Miss. ...

Marketing to new business owners with an info session — The Downtown Committee in Syracuse, NY, is attracting new businesses through an annual event that highlights the resources available to potential retailers. See the event schedule. ...

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Downtown Idea Exchange – Web Extras

December 1, 2013
Saving historic theaters is an economic development mission in many communities — When the functions of a theater cannot be saved, the building can still be repurposed in ways that revitalize downtown. For example, the shuttered Fox Theater in Hays, KS, was reopened as an event space. Read the archive article from Downtown Idea Exchange. ...

Partnerships enhance annual retail recruitment event — The Downtown Committee in Syracuse, NY, is attracting new businesses to the city center through an annual event that highlights the resources available to potential retailers. See the Retail Recruitment Event brochure. ...

Leadership programs benefit businesses and communities — Offering a leadership training program can not only provide downtown businesses with more skilled employees, but the community with stronger civic leaders, and with skilled volunteers to complete city center projects. View the Leadership Frederick County Leaders on Loan program application. ...

No downtown organization is an island: Maximizing partnerships — Learn how your downtown organization can maximize the potential for partnerships. ...

Best practices for food truck integration — A new report from the National League of Cities shows municipal officials how they can incorporate food trucks into the city’s existing business community. ...

Downtown organization increases event schedule by sponsoring rather than producing events — View examples of the application form that is the first step in requesting funds and learn about some of the creative events. Application: Soundwalk Application: Film and Music Festival Application: Oktoberfest ...

Creating a successful downtown film festival — The Traverse City Film Festival in Traverse City, MI, has been going strong for nine years. See the organizations FAQ Sheet and details on its accomplishments. ...

Creative solution to need for public event space — A stunning example of adaptive reuse comes from the small town of York, MS. Lacking a central gathering area and performance space the city decided to create one on the site of a dilapidated single-family house. ...

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Downtown Idea Exchange – Web Extras

November 1, 2013
Container Park fills vacant space with entrepreneurial opportunities — To create a community gathering place, give entrepreneurs affordable space to launch business ventures, and bring new energy to the city center, the Downtown Project purchased one and one-third acres of land and designed a park complete with an interactive playground, public art, an outdoor performance venue, and more. Rather than incur the costs and time demands of new construction, the park features repurposed shipping containers and locally manufactured Xtreme Cubes. ...

Fostering artistic careers, building artistic neighborhoods — An innovative pilot program in Cleveland, OH, is providing affordable artist housing while building a stronger creative economy for the city. A low-cost weekend familiarization trip was marketed to the group’s database. See detailed information on the Collinwood project and background reports from the Rust Belt to Artist Belt conference. Picturing Collinwood From the Rust Belt to Artist Belt, Executive Summary From the Rust Belt to Artist Belt, Companion Report ...

Libraries: a valuable ally in economic development — In their bid to remain relevant in an increasingly bookless society and to survive municipal budget cuts, libraries are evolving into valuable downtown partners. Read the report Partners for the Future: Public Libraries and Local Governments Creating Sustainable Communities. ...

Art and teamwork are expanding the downtown footprint — Belfast, ME, boasts a Main Street organization, the Belfast Creative Coalition, a city economic development office, and the Belfast Area Chamber of Commerce. The leaders of the four organizations meet at least monthly to see how they can support each other, avoid duplication of effort, and maximize opportunities. They have even developed an Excel “cheat sheet” so that they can provide seamless service to prospective business owners. ...

E-commerce expands customer outreach — Having an online sales option enables brick-and-mortar retailers to promote products to customers outside their own communities, and also draws more foot traffic into downtown businesses. By sharing one website, each business can have its own fully functional e-commerce presence for a fraction of the cost of creating individual sites. See the Historic Quincy Business District E-Commerce Participant Agreement. ...

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