Downtowns & Centers
Save the heart first.
The central focus of a city or town’s retail, housing, employment and civic identity must not be lost to fringe suburban districts or adjacent communities. A downtown must be more than simply a collection of specialty retail shops and civic uses. The best downtowns have thriving retail, restaurants, and evening entertainment. The downtown investment environment is significantly eroded when these uses leave and the downtown is hollowed out.
The good news is that market and demographic conditions have not been better for revitalizing downtowns in many years. Large or small downtowns can attract expanding markets only if they have a bold yet realistic strategy that meets the fundamental needs of these market segments.
A large downtown without a revitalization strategy is like an orchestra without a musical score: harmony and success do not occur.
Effective plans involve more than economic strategies or promotional campaigns. Successful downtown planning establishes physical plans and prioritized implementation strategies that maximize retail, housing, and employment opportunities while integrating supporting transportation facilities.
Labeling a downtown a collection of ‘mixed use districts’ is not good enough; colored land use maps and a laundry list of policies are not sufficient. Additional detail is required. Fundamental real estate siting requirements must be met to attract investor interest. We employ these criteria as a central component of our downtown planning efforts.
Competing edge uses can destroy a downtown.
Small cities must build off their existing assets. Protecting and enhancing the historic character of a community is good for business: visitors are attracted, investment is stimulated, and the community develops a sense of pride in their unique environment. As in large downtowns, fundamental real estate siting requirements must be met to attract investor interest.
Create a retail hotspot by capturing hidden market demand.
A full downtown plan may not be necessary in all cases. Retail is the most important, and the most difficult, land use to get right. A retail strategy that addresses the fundamental requirements can attract development. Our formula for success includes:
- The right retail configuration.
- Attractive storefront presentation.
- High-quality pedestrian environments.
- Shopper-friendly parking.
- Convenient automobile access.