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Thread: Downtown revitalization programs

  1. #1
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    Downtown revitalization programs

    I am writing a graduate paper which compares and contrasts municipal downtown "partnerships" against the Main Street USA program. I am coming to realize that each method presents its own sets of challenges, but conversely, its own benefits.

    I am curious to hear from anyone with downtown revitalization experience. I would love to know your insight regading these two approaches to creating culturally-vibrant and economically-healthy downtowns.

    This is probably a long shot, but I'm hoping that through the experience gained in your careers and your cities, I can find additional details and leads to chase (especially pertaining to leadership, community involvement, and program adminstration) which I've overlooked thus far.

    Thanks to all for any assistance! Take care.

    Moderator note:
    Duplicate thread in MNSP deleted. Please, only one thread per topic.
    Last edited by NHPlanner; 20 Nov 2006 at 11:46 AM.

  2. #2
         
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    I know about the Main Street program but you might define what municipal downtown "partnerships" means to you. I can guess but I may be wrong.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian biscuit's avatar
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    What Jefe said.

    I've found the Main Street approach to work very well, to some degree or another, when it is followed in it's entirety and the local organizations see it it's benefits beyond streetscape programs. How it compares to "Downtown Partnerships?" Well, I can't really say because I don't know exactly what that you mean.

  4. #4

    Main Street and Partnerships

    I have been a Main Street Manager for 13 + years and my experience is that successful Main Street programs are ones that are built on public private partnerships.

    Im nit sure I fully understand the question either unless youre asking about communities where the public/private partnership is between the municipality and a single private developer. In which case I think the biggest difference is that one is a programmatic partnership, and the other is more typically an incentive driven single project partnership.

    Id be glad to discuss this with you in more depth either on or off list

    Timothy Bishop, CMSM

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    It is very difficult to answer when the term is not identified. I have known several communities which have been successful with Main Street programs. Others have had equal success when using a different approach. They are least successful when the city tries to do it by itself, as was the model into the 1980's or early 1990's. All that got us were streetscape projects in front of vacant buildings, or "urban renewal."

    Perhaps what the question is getting at is "the big fix," where a community assembles a chunk of property and then recruits a single developer to come in and redevelop it. This seems to seldom work in small towns because the market is too small. In large communities it may work, but the result lacks the feel you get in a place which has developed as small buildings built over a length of time. Then again, there are the failures.
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    Attempt at Clarification

    Thanks for the interest, everyone.

    In our city of 60,000-ish, the leadership has elected to drop our membership in the MainStreet USA program and start a "downtown partnership." How it works for us (and I'm not certain how these things happen in other, especially larger cities), is there is a board comprised of property and business owners/tenants from our downtown area and respond to the vision offered by the director of the organization. It's more than simply sidewalk furniture and paint, though. They have made inroads to developing a master plan for the dowtown core. They have made property purchases, made improvements, then sold them at a discount. Lately, they have begun to pursue specific businesses in an attempt to recruit them to this area.

    This sounds great, but when the board is comprised of business owners, they can be rather self-serving. For example, will the owners of a retail clothing store or restaurant or drug store located downtown be willing to seek out competitors to join the area, even when that competitor may be something that's needed/desired as a contribution to the greater good? What about when the proposed vision calls for streetscape improvements like trees? We as planners know what street trees can offer to an urban mixed-use district, but when the board members of the partnership discuss the issue, invariably concerns arise about storefronts (window displays) being screened from view by passsers-by. Therefore, we have never gotten street trees downtown...

    My point it is, how does Main Street USA takcle these issues? And if anyone can help further, how do programs like these work around these issues in other cities?

    I hope this helps define my question a bit better! Thanks to all for any help that comes. Take care.

    wes

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    My 2 cents as someone who's not a professional planner/developer.

    Quote Originally posted by craiglow View post
    ...will the owners of a retail clothing store or restaurant or drug store located downtown be willing to seek out competitors to join the area, even when that competitor may be something that's needed/desired as a contribution to the greater good?
    It is widely recognized that, in many merchandise categories, a concentration of quality outlets brings in more business so that, despite the competition, everyone benefits. Indeed, this is reinforced by modern ease of transportation/internet shopping where local ional monopolies are less meaningful anyway.

    In the case of more mundane/practical businesses (say, dry-cleaners, basic drugstores, hardware store, etc.) the cluster effect is not really there but then again there may be less cope for competition to begin with.

    Quote Originally posted by craiglow View post
    What about when the proposed vision calls for streetscape improvements like trees? We as planners know what street trees can offer to an urban mixed-use district, but when the board members of the partnership discuss the issue, invariably concerns arise about storefronts (window displays) being screened from view by passers-by. Therefore, we have never gotten street trees downtown...
    I like nature as much as the next guy. However, from my US experience it seems to me that what the typical town of 60K is missing isn't proximity to nature but rather urban experience so...are the trees that vital? If you believe climate/environmental reasons make the trees important you could also try this: create a small corner/piazzetta which does have trees (on city property). See if the businesses in its vicinity benefit/suffer/are unaffected. In the 1st and 3rd case, you can then sell trees to the other businesses with more info under your belt.
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  8. #8
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    The quick answer is that being a Main Street community in no way changes the politics of the community. There would be a Main Street board, just as there is a downtown board, and it would probably be made up of the same people. Likewise, a debate about whether street trees are needed is unlikely to go away just because a different type of administrative structure is in place. I guess I would compare it to the differences between city administrations, such as a mayor/council or city manager form of government. Both provide management for a city, only with a different organizational structure.
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