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What are you doing about your downtown? (check as many as apply)

What is your city doing about its downtown?

  • We don't have a downtown.

    Votes: 7 16.7%
  • We are doing nothing, because downtown is in fine shape.

    Votes: 1 2.4%
  • We are doing nothing, but downtown could use help.

    Votes: 3 7.1%
  • We have made the usual cosmetic improvements, such as a streetscape.

    Votes: 23 54.8%
  • We are promoting historic preservation.

    Votes: 23 54.8%
  • We are promoting redevelopment.

    Votes: 24 57.1%
  • We have a number of business assistance programs for downtown businesses.

    Votes: 15 35.7%
  • We are actively recruiting new business to the downtown.

    Votes: 15 35.7%
  • Our downtown is primarily offices.

    Votes: 13 31.0%
  • Our downtown is primarily traditional retail.

    Votes: 3 7.1%
  • Our downtown is primarily specialty retail.

    Votes: 6 14.3%
  • We are trying to increase housing in the downtown.

    Votes: 25 59.5%
  • We are adding parks, trails, outdoor markets, or other attractions in the downtown.

    Votes: 16 38.1%
  • Other, explained below.

    Votes: 7 16.7%

  • Total voters
    42

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,080
Points
34
So many downtowns seem to be languishing as other parts of the city grow. As planners and economic developers, we are sometimes called upon to find the solutions. How is your city addressing the issue? Check all that apply.
 

donk

Cyburbian
Messages
6,970
Points
30
Our problem is that we have two competing downtowns from the previous towns that form our City, each with very different needs, strength and weaknesses.

One area has an active BIA group that we did a strategic/organization/land use plan for and is getting things done. (Slowly, but surely, they have been working on revitalization for almost 25 years).

http://www.historicwaterstreet.com


The other we did a draft plan for and never heard back from. They then complain that they can't get any work done and that the City won't invest in their area.

http://www.downtownmiramichi.com
 

SGB

Cyburbian
Messages
3,387
Points
25
As a county planning office in rural NY state, we provide assistance on request to our muncipalities on downtown revitalization issues.

We have one very small city (+7,400 pop.), 5 villages and 21 towns. I just started working recently with one of our villages on developing a downtown revitalization strategy, and plan on attending the upcoming National Town Meeting on Main Street conference in Cincinatti, OH.
 

Repo Man

Cyburbian
Messages
2,550
Points
25
We don't have a downtown, but the City is taking steps to create one. We have narrowed some streets and done extensive streetscaping to make the area more appealing and walkable. The next step is a huge redevelopment of our mall, which will include a mix of retail, office, and residential. Many of the stores will have street entrances and mall entrances. The City is trying to create a "downtown" feel. Even though it is kind of artificial, it will be better than what we have now, which is nothing.

Here are some very preliminary sketches (new ones are coming out soon).



 

Chet

Cyburbian Emeritus
Messages
10,624
Points
34
jtfortin said:
Here are some very preliminary sketches (new ones are coming out soon).
As a former north sider, I have been following that project closely. I like it, except for the ice rink. Ihn the words of my 16 year old niece, "Its stoooopid".
 

japrovo

Member
Messages
103
Points
6
Portland's downtown has long been a regional crown jewel for a lot of reasons, particularly growth management policies containing suburbanization. Arguably that is still the case in the current recession, but the politics of economic development in a downturn being what they are we have seen a lot of proposals floated to "perk up" downtown.

These have included failed proposals that would have added a downtown link to two linear parks to the immediate north and south of downtown and that would have added parking to the bus-only transit mall. City council did pass a sit-lie ordinance targeting aggressive panhandling.

Most recently a proposal has been floated to add a seasonal ice-rink to Pioneer Courthouse Square. That would alter a very unique space where the regional light rail lines meet. Pioneer Square includes a visitor's center and some small retail uses, but the area dubbed Portland's "living room" is primarily dedicated to a large brick open space. (Visit http://www.pdxplan.org/ for a good and quick elaboration of how that space came into being.)

The source for several of these proposals has been a new business organization that formed out of the merger of the chamber of commerce and a business improvement district. I'm curious as to whether in the current economy other folks are seeing a change in the sources or level of advocacy to "do something" downtown?
 

IPlan

Cyburbian
Messages
60
Points
4
Going for approval tomorrow night to proceed with a study! We are not in bad shape, just need to take a look at things and make some adjustments. Should be a fun process.
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,080
Points
34
I've been advocating for doing something about our downtown for several years. Until recently, my board wanted nothing to do with it, ironically, at the same time I was president of the state downtown organization. Now that its economic vitality has severely eroded, there is a group of downtown business people that have been advocating for something to be done. Fortunately, I got a couple new board members who are sympathetic, and the others have either come on line or shut up.
 

PlannerByDay

Cyburbian
Messages
1,827
Points
24
I live in Kalamazoo, Michigan (pop 80,000) and our downtown has seen significant growth and rebirth in the last 5-10 years.

The growth and rebirth has occured in many ways. Residential (loft type) housing is in significant demand and rents are $900 and up. New condos and lofts are entering the market and being occupied as fast as they can be built. For many years downtowns was mostly offices but now there is an increasing nightlife. They have created districts which at first seemed kinda useless but they are catching on. There is an art district, entertainment, antique etc. The city is using these to attract new businesses and it is working.

There are grants and incentives for property owners for facade improvement and expansion. All kinds of stuff going on.

Being a lifelong resident of Kalamazoo and a planner this rebirth is very exciting. The link below will take you to the Downtown Kalamazoo Incorporated (DKI) website. Check it out pretty interesting.

http://www.central-city.net/
 

BigCity

Member
Messages
3
Points
0
San Diego - Gaslamp Quarter

I have a real facination with what cities are trying to do to revitalize their downtown areas. In my opinion, a real success story is San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter. ... Very well done. Lots of hotels. Great restaurants... Good place to park and walk. Good night life. Too bad Phoenix's downtown hasn't quite happened yet. But it's showing signs of life.
 
Messages
5,353
Points
31
I've mentioned it in other posts, but the return of the streetcars to Canal Street in New Orleans will definitely serve as a catalyst in the continuing redevelopment of the downtown area.
 

michaelskis

Cyburbian
Messages
19,312
Points
43
JoshD said:
I live in Kalamazoo, Michigan (pop 80,000) and our downtown has seen significant growth and rebirth in the last 5-10 years.

The growth and rebirth has occured in many ways. Residential (loft type) housing is in significant demand and rents are $900 and up.... "



Great web site. I am in a city of the same size, and we are having all sorts of problems. I have been to K-Zoo a few times because my sister lives there now, but I was wondering how much of an infulence has the university been to the development of your down town, and do you have a regional plan where other municipalities work with you? Also if the univeristy is an influence, how do you get them involved.
 

Lee Nellis

Cyburbian
Messages
1,371
Points
29
Based on my travels, I would have to say that, while it sometimes seems doctrinaire, the National Main Street Center's program/approach works, and it seems to work best in places that begin by focusing on economic restructuring.
 

mike gurnee

Cyburbian
Messages
3,066
Points
30
I had a downtown citizens' committee that met weekly for about two years. Their agenda was: get a civic center downtown (sales tax already approved by the voters), a business improvements district, and a CDBG grant to make amenities improvements. Admirable objectives.

The vocal populus did not want the civic center downtown, and rather than the committee winning a sales pitch, at the next election the governing body was completey turned out to pasture for thinking such a thing. Four years since the bonds were approved, nothing.

I kept repeating that our staff would work on the business improvement district, IF the committee could come up with a certain percentage of property owners in agreement (not necessarily the 51% to get it done, but 30 or so percent to indicate general interest). That never got off the ground.

A professional grants writer was on the committee. He kept telling everyone that millions of CDBG $ were available for downtown redevelopment. I kept repeating that HUD looks for job creation, benefit to low-mod incomes, and elimination of blight. He poo-pooed me for months--until he went to the Lt. Governor and found out for himself.

At my insistence, the City Manager wrote a memo to the committee that they should explore Main Street. There were no meetings after that. "We tried that in the early 80s".

But I have not given up...just need to find a new committee.
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,080
Points
34
mike gurnee said:
A professional grants writer was on the committee. He kept telling everyone that millions of CDBG $ were available for downtown redevelopment. I kept repeating that HUD looks for job creation, benefit to low-mod incomes, and elimination of blight. He poo-pooed me for months--until he went to the Lt. Governor and found out for himself.
I can relate. I once had a woman - not a grants writer, but someone with an idea to build a medical/health center (and no experience in the field or even as a developer) - repeatedly get irate with me because there were all of these economic development grants she could get and I just didn't like her project or didn't want to do the work! I kept trying to explain that 1) grants almost don't exist, and the ones there are go to cities for public improvements; 2) while there was a significant public infrastructure cost, her project would not support a grant because as a developer she was not directly creating the jobs and she did not even have tenants who we might make a case for job creation with; 3) she did not get free government money just because she was a woman; 4) the project would not generate enough tax increment to justify the city subsidizing the costs of extending infrastructure, much else her construction costs, and 5) she did not qualify for any of our low-interest loan programs. It went the same way - she eventually talked to somebody from the state who told her to forget it.
 

Lee Nellis

Cyburbian
Messages
1,371
Points
29
One thing I have noted about the downtowns of some small cities where there are jobs is that they are currently being revitalized by (or at least becoming home to) immigrants: Laotion, Mexican, etc. So I thought I'd ask. Is that part of the reluctance to invest in downtown in Dodge City? or in other downtowns?
 

mike gurnee

Cyburbian
Messages
3,066
Points
30
Lee,
Yes, but the market dynamics should be studied. Downtown was going down the tubes, rents went down, then immigrants opened shop. I was working up a proposal to develop a "Little Mexico" type area near downtown...now I may make it part of the existing downtown. My next revitalization committee will have some accents.
 

PlannerByDay

Cyburbian
Messages
1,827
Points
24
michaelskis said:
Great web site. I am in a city of the same size, and we are having all sorts of problems. I have been to K-Zoo a few times because my sister lives there now, but I was wondering how much of an infulence has the university been to the development of your down town, and do you have a regional plan where other municipalities work with you? Also if the univeristy is an influence, how do you get them involved. [/B]
Michaelskis,

Not until the last year or two did the university (WMU) get involved in the downtown, and that involvement is minimal, although there is a lot of talk. We'll see what happens. At the present time the relationship between WMU and downtown is to develop a strategy to get the students to shop, eat and drink downtown. And right now all they are doing from what I hear and see is drinking and eating. Hey they in college what can you expect..

Perhaps the biggest commitment made by WMU right now is a new resturant/bar called "The Union." The Union is a bar has some sort of agreement with the owner or WMU is part owner, I don't really know, but the bulk (80%) of the entertainment comes from the university. As a result they have some good jazz, blues and other more mellow bands an it is all free.

As far as being involved with other municipalities. NOPE, not a whole lot in terms of their involvement with the downtown.

K-zoo is a good medium size town I enjoy it here.
 

jresta

Cyburbian
Messages
1,474
Points
23
Our downtown, over 100,000 residents and growing, is strong.

I think the Center City (bid) District has had a lot to do with that.
http://www.centercityphila.org/

the South Street/Headhouse Square (spec. serv) District
http://www.south-street.com

and across the river in West Philly the
University City District which is more or less dominated by Penn and Drexel. It's actually pretty amazing because Penn opened up the first Ivy League elementary school just off campus and the houses in the sending district are fetching 50% more than houses just outside of the district.
http://www.universitycitydistrict.org

The disappointing aspect is mostly how the city keeps sacrificing historic properties in the name of more parking. South St. doesn't have the best transit access so it's semi-understandable. The goal of the city seems to be to avoid public investments in transit by forcing people to make private investments now at the expense of their mobility later.

All new homes have to be built with "off-street" parking so we're seeing entire blocks of garage doors sprouting up even though many homeowners don't use them. A look through the Sunday classifieds will find these spaces being leased out to the tune of $1500 a year (depending on location)

University City now has, by far, the worst traffic in the city no thanks to their enormous investment in parking garages - despite being served by 5 trolley lines, 15 regional rail lines, a subway, and 5 bus routes.

as the saying goes - if you build it they will drive.
 
Messages
94
Points
4
Downtown Lakeland, FL has come a long way in the past 10 years, as far as streetscapes and parks go. However, I believe the downtown area could do alot better if the city commission and the downtown development authority (LDDA) would ease a couple of zoning restrictions to allow the district to diversify to the point where it would attract people of all ages and ethnicities. Its busy during weekday work hours, but its as dead as a door nail during the nights and weekends.

Most want more nightlife, entertainment and housing options to attract local residents, the "creative class" and empty nesters to town, but city leaders aren't doing the right things to get them here due to the fact that they don't want to offend the small but economically elite crowd who would like to see the area to go back to the way it was in the 1920's. Right now they continue to waste money hiring consultants that continously tell them what local citizens already know and have suggested for years.

For a city of 90,000 (500,000+MSA) the area is currently under developed due to restrictive zoning and urban renewal. Presently the commission will only allow 5 establishments in the district to serve alcohol, and the CBD is blanketed with a 60 ft height limit, which hinders the area from attracting the mid rise waterfront condos and office buildings that have become popular all over Florida. They also continue to allow street level surface parking lots, storefront churches, and office uses to locate on what should be major retail & dining streets. Due to the lack of entertainment, the majority of residents travel and spend their money in Tampa and Orlando. Several residents have suggested they should host more cultural events, and allow more nightlife and dining establishments to locate there instead of forcing them to the suburbs. Has anyone here ever dealt with a problem like this? If so, what are some things the city could do to diversify the CBD and make it become a 24/7 downtown?
 

Wulf9

Member
Messages
923
Points
22
This is a handout I developed to help downtown stay focused on pedestrians. (Monterey CA - 30,000 people. Trade area 120,000)



SUGGESTIONS FOR DOWNTOWN STREET, SIDEWALK, AND STOREFRONT DESIGN

1. Street, sidewalk, and storefront design should focus on pedestrians.

People must be on foot before they can become customers.
Prime parking spaces should be reserved for customers.
Pedestrian barriers (physical, perceived, and distance barriers) should be removed.
Pedestrians should have a defined and protected space to walk.
Traffic calming should be used to slow traffic so pedestrians feel safe.
Sidewalks should have a destination feature (kiosk, sculpture, fountain, etc.) every 400-600 feet.

2. Downtown streets should create a feeling of pedestrian safety. The best design features are:

Two way traffic, one lane each direction, and parallel parking on both sides.
Tree bump outs into parking areas.
Trees with substantial crowns. Don’t use wimpy trees.
Different materials for streets and sidewalks (e.g. asphalt streets, concrete sidewalk).
Physical features separating the sidewalk and street (e.g. frequent trees or light posts).
Overhead features starting from the street side of the sidewalk (tree canopy, hanging plants, etc.).

3. The ideal storefront is interesting to pedestrians.

Storefronts should have windows, even for non-retail uses, but retail is the best pedestrian activity.
A change of use or storefront every 25-100 feet gives variety at “walking” speeds.
Windows that show any kind of activity in the store are entertaining and keep pedestrians walking.
Storefront windows at the edge of the sidewalk give the best business exposure.
Recessed storefronts have lower pedestrian interest and reduce customer awareness of the business.
Recessed entry doors provide visual appeal and attract customers.
Storefronts without recessed entry doors don’t invite a customer to enter.
Pedestrian signage is essential.
(a) Fin signs perpendicular to the sidewalk give you 90-120 seconds of free advertising.
(b) Building face or window signs at eye level give you 10 seconds of free advertising.
(c) No pedestrian signs means that pedestrians won’t identify or retain your business identity.
Auto-oriented signage above the window area is less important in pedestrian areas..
Facades without windows or with obscured windows discourage pedestrian flow.
Vacant lots, at-grade parking, and parking structures often stop pedestrian flow.

4. Parking is for customers

Lack of parking is rarely the reason a downtown is not vital.
Ideal distance to parking is one block per hour spent shopping or eating.
15 minutes = 1/4 block, 1 hour = 1 block, 2+ hours = 2-3 blocks.
“Shopping” at multiple stores without a single destination = 2-3 blocks.
Parking is most effective if tailored to the above time patterns.
Upscale restaurants need 90-minute parking for lunch.
A key role of special events is to show future customers where parking is available.
Parking control progression is (a) time limits, (b) parking fees, (c) time limits and fees.
Employee parking in prime customer spaces can be limited by
Time limits of 90 minutes or less with enforcement from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Parking meters.
Shared parking is the most productive for downtowns.
Parking should be designed to put pedestrians on the street, not directly into an individual business.
Exclusive parking (parking lot for one business only) is not desirable.

5. The ideal downtown street pattern is short blocks with two-way traffic.

Short blocks allow customers to “drive around the block” to find parking or businesses.
One-way streets are intended for high speeds and high traffic flow, not business access.
One way couplets bypassing a downtown usually destroy downtown business activity.
Street closures and pedestrian malls have not been successful in many cities.
One way streets can be “super calmed” as pedestrian streets but lose traffic capacity in the process.
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,080
Points
34
Wulf9 said:
This is a handout I developed to help downtown stay focused on pedestrians. (Monterey CA - 30,000 people. Trade area 120,000)
Very nice.

Have you attended any IEDC events? I am wondering if I have met you.
 

Wulf9

Member
Messages
923
Points
22
Nope. I haven't gone to IEDC meetings. Downtown was a subsdiary part of my job in Monterey, so I wasn't sent to any downtown meetings.

Monterey downtown was fun. We went from 20% vacancies to no significant vacancies using a Main Street approach. The primary need to start out was organization (merchants, property owners, and the City Council were somewhat at odds). We solved that with discussion process that resulted in a BID board with 1/3 merchants, 1/3 owners, 1/3 appointed by the City. CA main street told us that wouldn't work - but we did it anyway. Now it is one of the models they suggest to cities.

I'm in a post-Monterey life now. I might get to some downtown meetings. Cloverdale downtown is still a subsidiary part of the job, but I get to choose which meetings I attend.
 

michaelskis

Cyburbian
Messages
19,312
Points
43
where did you start

For your community group, where did you start off. We are going to be getting a new bank building in our town square, and right now, there is limited shopping. But there is the promise of a night club going in, we have a new sports area / center, and a redone performing arts center all with in a few blocks of our downtown center. The down fall is no one wants to move in, because there is no organization right now.
 

Suburb Repairman

moderator in moderation
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
7,333
Points
30
no downtown...yet

My city has only been incorporated for six years. It's really a combonation of five even smaller cities that voted to merge together, resulting in a fragmented city with no real discernable town center/downtown. We only have 4300 residents, but high growth in the area may result in 15-20k by 2010.

We've just begun putting together our city's first comprehensive plan. Some of our main focuses are developing a town center and economic development. Personally, I'm hoping the city encourages an active traditional downtown. Some cities, like Southlake, TX, have made new "old style" downtowns with a town square using TIFs. I hope we can get some residential uses mixed in with the commercial so it becomes a 24-hour place to be.

Hopefully all will go well.
 
Messages
37
Points
2
Ski Town Development

This is sorta sidetracked from the whole thread, but has anyone dealt with any of these issues in a ski town...or a similar resort town. I am currently interning in Aspen for the summer and one project I will be working on soon is a study into how to increase spending (i.e. get more people into the CBD) downtown. IF anyone has had to do reasearch on this type of project I am curious into how you tackled this task. I have been looking through similar town websites to see how they promote thier shopping, eating establishments, arts and recreation, and also I have been walking around and using my personal feelings on what the downtown is missing to try and brainstorm ideas on ways to increase the number of people in town. Any random thoughts, ideas, sites or related web resources I should check out? Many of you probably know that Aspen is not a typical town. There are many homes here in excess of 10 - 20 million. Your average resident carries their Chihuahua in their Prada or Gucci handbag, and there are more Porsche SUV's in this town then in the entire Chicago Metropolitan Area.
 
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