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Thread: Ideas for downtown redevelopment in a little town?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Ideas for downtown redevelopment in a little town?

    Something caught my attention the other day. It was a site what is not too strange, but I still started to wonder. Here in a smaller town (under 20,000 sat an empty Wal*Mart, and an empty K-Mart. The town had seen better days, and was looking a bit rundown. Just out side of town was new development, low impact manufacturing, and sub divisions.

    We often hear about redevelopment strategies for larger towns, but what about small, traditional down towns? What redevelopment projects have been successful for little down towns? (please post pictures)

    Some years ago, I drove though Sturgeon Bay WI, and I was impressed with how the town looked. It was in the fall and they had Kale and Mums planted all along the main street. Each building had impressive “shop” windows, and parking was in the back or on the street. It was a Saturday afternoon, and there where a lot of people walking from one shop to another.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian thinknik's avatar
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    10 Strategies by ULI

    I hope this helps, I stumbled across it a while back while looking for a way to answer the same question in my own town .....

    **********************************************************

    Successful Neighborhood Retail Takes A Project “Champion”: ULI Workshop Creates Ten Principles for Development

    http://www.cyburbia.org/forums/newre...ote=1&p=171554


    The development of a successful neighborhood retail project depends on the ability of a project “champion” to build consensus among stakeholders in the project by working closely with neighborhood residents and business owners so the project is perceived as a neighborhood enhancement rather than an intrusion, according to industry experts assembled recently by the Urban Land Institute (ULI).

    It takes a vision—the vision must be shared by all the stakeholders: property owners, residents, the public and private sector; the vision should clearly establish short- and long-term goals.

    Great streets need great champions—Every revitalization project needs a champion- someone passionate enough to initiate the process and follow it through to completion. The champion will be a person (or a group of people) who recognizes the problem, and has dreams of something better. The champion will pull together stakeholders from the community to create a shared vision of the revitalization effort.

    Think residential—Retail follows residential, usually evolving from mainly local businesses to lower-end national retailers, followed by higher-end national firms. However it is not vital to attract national retailers to be successful, and no plan should depend solely on national retailers.

    Honor the pedestrians—Recognize that street patterns may impact the success of the project; allow multiple entrances to shopping areas so it is accessible from all sides. Sidewalks should we wide enough to accommodate outdoor dining with enough room to allow pedestrian flow.

    Parking is power—Balance pedestrian-friendly environment with car access; a clear distribution of parking is needed to supply urban retail. Recognize that transit alternatives cannot support high-density retail by itself. However, transit should be actively promoted by developers, retailers and employers. It brings diversity to the area, and also helps bring in retail workers. Promoting transit can help offset development costs of providing parking spaces.

    Merchandize and lease proactively—Establish a leasing and management agency; the leasing professional should be a part of the design team, so they fully understand the long-term vision of the project. This professional will recruit tenants in coordination with the design and plan. For the neighborhood street, the leasing strategy needs to be tailored to the specific community where it is located

    Make it happen—Use tools for revitalization and/or redevelopment, such as securing a designation as a business improvement district; obtaining tax increment financing; targeting locations in special taxing districts or special assessment districts; and pursuing use of eminent domain

    Keep the area clean, safe and friendly—Think of the street holistically, creating an ongoing entity to manage the area in perpetuity to ensure that infrastructure and appearance are clean and maintained. A high police visibility and tight security lend peace of mind for potential retailers and customers, particularly if the area had a bad reputation before redevelopment.

    Extend day into night—Create a presence during all hours to take advantage of various submarkets. The inclusion of restaurants, theaters, movies or other late evening uses helps attract people after business hours, and can offset limited use during the day by office workers. However, it is also important to stimulate activity by daytime workers during mornings and lunch hours. In addition, educational facilities can create parking during off hours. Shared Parking can accommodate the parking demand for all uses throughout the day. Coordinated shared parking can help eliminate the need for extra parking that sits unused at certain hours.

    Manage for change—Streets will grow and change on their own; often a retailer may be willing to renew their lease, but they no longer fit into the vision or image of the area. They are also subject to momentum, which can be fueled by the project champion. Public-private partnerships allow for property owners and retailers to control their identity with input from the local government; the key is to establish long term leadership that survives elections.

    The principles, as well as case studies of best practices in neighborhood retail, will be featured in a forthcoming publication from ULI.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    The following link is to the Yahoo EGroup we created for the Town of Dennis project to revitalize the historic Dennisport Village Center. I hope to post some of the photos here eventually when time allows.

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Dennis...illage_Center/

    Hope it gives you some ideas. The architectural guidelines are in the process of being finalized, the by-law has been approved at town meeting and is awaiting state attorney general approval.
    Planning is much like acting, as my old theater professor used to say, "If you sin, sin boldly, only you know if you are ad libbing." I follow this adage almost daily.

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    Cyburbian PlannerByDay's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis
    Here in a smaller town (under 20,000 sat an empty Wal*Mart, and an empty K-Mart. The town had seen better days, and was looking a bit rundown. Just out side of town was new development, low impact manufacturing, and sub divisions.
    Can you give me a rough geographic location or the name of this town you speak of?

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    Lots of smaller towns have greatly benefited from the Main Street Program- a National Trust for Historic Preservation program that works with communties generally over 5,000. Powell, wyoming (pop 6,000) has done a phenomenal job of using the template of the Main Street Program (don't remember them all, but they have to do with holding big events downtown, beautification projects, anchoring with decently sized stores, etc...). They managed to completely redo their downtown streetscape with new sidewalks, ped friendly streets, trees, plantings, etc.., they've got something like a 95 % occupancy rate in the stores, they've got a non-profit development corporation that goes out, buys land, builds structures, then teams up with the local community college to institute "business incubators" where people who want to start up businesses can use the space in the buildings and the technology provided by the college for a couple of years while they get their feet underneath them. Finally, they've their own community-owned department store downtown that serves as a co-op. Pretty cool. Google Main Street Program and/or Powell, Wyoming to see more.

    Rural areas also use organizations like RC&D's (Resource Conservation and Development organizations) to help economic development in small towns as well. Another little town in montana is Joliet, MT, located in south-central montana. Joliet is about 30 miles from Billings and has the greatest number of elderly people per capita than anywhere else in the state. All the old folks drive to billings to go to the doctor, then they stay and spend all their money at the walmart and sam's club. A huge drain out of town. The local RC&D has helped fund a huge drive to build a community center in town. They've only just completed it, but they've put a library, a head-start program and, most importantly, a part-time clinic in the buildings. the idea is that all the old folks can now get their check-ups and prescriptions at the clinic, and a good 75% of the trips to billings would be cut out. All those folks can now stay in joliet and, hopefully, spend money in town.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    This is a very common issue, but we tend not to hear about it much. Most of these communities are too small to have staff planners, or if they do, their attention is focused elsewhere. Economic developers, by and large, tend to ignore downtowns because they are too busy chasing after footloose companies to which they can give the community's money. Downtown revitalization falls to a small group of consultants (who often produce nothing more than look-alike streetscape plans) and dedicated non-professionals who tend to be business and property owners in the community.

    The approaches to downtown revitalization are varied, and they should be. To be successful, each program must address the needs and opportunities of the particular town. One key idea (that I usually find missing) is that what happens outside of the downtown impacts the downtown. If you don't want businesses opening up at the edge of town, then don't create huge commercial zones along the highway, but provide redevelopment opportunities in the core. If you build a bypass to speed up traffic, realize your plan may divert half of your downtown's customers somewhere else. If you fight off Wal-Mart and they build five miles down the road in the next city, expect to see "for rent" signs in most of your downtown businesses.

    I have many, many articles, books, case studies, and photos related to this topic, which is one I find particularly interesting. Is there anything specific you hope to find?
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  7. #7
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by PlannerByDay
    Can you give me a rough geographic location or the name of this town you speak of?
    Where Hwy 55 meets US 27. Roscommon on Houghton Lk.

    I also think that Bangor could be a great little city!

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis
    Where Hwy 55 meets US 27. Roscommon on Houghton Lk.
    Could you mean Houghton Lake/Prudenville, along the M-55 lakeshore east of US-127? It's in Roscommon County, but not to be confused with the village/city of Roscommon, the county seat, which is located 25 miles to the northeast, off Interstate 75.

    That area is heavy with vacation and retirement homes of middle-class autoworkers from Detroit/Flint etc. Classic "Up North" Michigan with a huge "Tip Up Town" festival held every winter on the frozen lake.

    But maybe you drove through some other town because both the Kmart and Wal-Mart in Houghton Lake are open for business. The latter is a super-center, so it may have replaced an older, smaller Wal-Mart. But Kmart sure isn't opening new stores these days.

    It's been a couple years since I drove through Houghton Lake. But I've never known it to have a downtown to speak of. It's more of a resort strip along the lakeshore. Roscommon does have a sad little downtown, but no big boxes. Not enough traffic and too close to Grayling, which sits at one of the more travelled highway intersections in northern Michigan.

    But the region is one of the fastest growing in the state, especially around Traverse City. It has a major mall and almost every big-box store and chain restaurant you can think of. Yet its downtown has remained healthy with specialty stores, niteclubs and new office and residential development. Of course, it also helps to have a mile of sandy beach and a marina just a block away from Front Street.
    Last edited by T Garth; 24 Oct 2004 at 5:18 PM.

  9. #9

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    As vaughan says, the National Main Street Center is the place to start. I presume that MI also has a state Main Street program. If you combine strong local leaders (without whom nothing will happen) with some education and assistance in the four Main Street principles - economic restructuring, design (the one planners tend to focus on, but often the least important at the beginning), marketing, and organization - there is a good chance of some progress.

    One of the best case studies I am aware of is Evanston, WY. It usually takes more patience in a small town, but a persistent effort can result in a healthy downtown.

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