10 Strategies to Ensure Downtown Vibrancy

ARTICLE | Mar 27, 2015

Central business district, city center, and urban core are among the terms used to describe the downtown areas of local governments, and the good news is that these areas are being revitalized. In the April Public Management (PM) magazine article "Downtowns," featuring what downtowns can do to make redevelopment possible, author Michael Burayidi, chair, Department of Urban Planning, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana, provides these 10 strategies that can be used to ensure downtown resilience and vitality:


1. Realize That Image Is Everything in Downtown Development. Without a positive image, the private sector is unlikely to take the risk to reinvest in downtown, and it will be difficult to convince people to visit, much less live there.


2. Monitor Surrounding Neighborhoods. Civic leaders of resilient downtowns understand that a vibrant downtown cannot be sustained if adjacent neighborhoods go downhill.


3. Maintain an Active Daytime Population. Managers of resilient downtowns recognize the significance of civic and cultural amenities to increase the daytime population, so they redouble efforts to retain and attract such activities.


4.  Secure a Residential Population Base

Resilient downtowns have, at a minimum, 5 percent of a community’s housing units and the community’s population living there. This keeps the downtown lively at night when businesses close.


5. Reach Out to Immigrants. New immigrants to the United States can provide the population needed to revitalize a downtown if they are properly encouraged to live there.


6. Cultivate Functional Diversity. Resilient downtowns are multifunctional districts with a mix of residential, retail, office, entertainment, and civic and cultural amenities.


7. Leverage Heritage Resources. A community’s heritage can be concentrated in its downtown. Heritage tourism, therefore, has the potential to bring people downtown.


8. Develop Catalytic Projects. Resilient downtowns usually have one catalytic project that catapults the downtown from where it is to where it wants to be.


9. Nurture Quality of Place. Quality of place is a thread that knits successful downtown development projects together. By creating quality public spaces, resilient downtowns are able to attract and keep both businesses and residents because of their exemplary amenities.


10. Find Your Champion. In almost all cases of downtown revitalization, there is a person who rallies the crowd and mobilizes the community.


For details on each of these strategies, read “Downtowns: 10 Strategies to Ensure Their Resilience and Vitality” in the April 2015 issue.

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