Revitalization Downtown projects are all the rage in fact the “Main Street America Project” is making significant headway as cities and towns share information. The communication of information of what worked and why as well as what did not work in a given demographic is now available to those who dare to take back their downtown areas. Urban flight and suburban sprawl has been tough on America. The people have chosen to live in the suburbs; unfortunately this hurts small businesses and jobs in the downtown areas. Americans are finding a better quality of life and higher standard of living while pursuing happiness in the less congested areas.
The key to a successful redevelopment of any downtown area is to improve the image. Cities need to clean up the street crime, panhandling, graffiti and filth. This of course is the first step, but such Spring Cleaning is only the first step. Fire hydrants, bus stops, trash receptacles and yellow, red and white zone curbing must be painted. Next comes the up lifting of small businesses, consistency of sign ordinances. The next and probably the single most important thing you can do; is start adding landscaping, curvy sidewalks, brick pedestrian crossings or simulated stone. Center medians with landscaping is also important and advised where space allows. This makes downtown look walk able and inviting. Without the image the business owners will not step up to the plate to invest or re-invest in their storefronts, patios or upgrades. Without the signs of increased sales of people coming back and additional foot traffic; it is nearly impossible to get the businesses to pony up. The businesses want to see a return on their investment and feel comfortable in their attaining future profits.
The redevelopment committees must be careful not to waste too much time or expect business owners to embrace the plan until the downtown image starts to change. When they see the street crime leave, graffiti free areas, cleaning up of trash debris, homeless panhandlers and inviting landscaping these small businesses will then join the team to help with the downtown revitalization. There will be little “buy in” until then and the image issues are problems and challenges, which involve police, planning departments, traffic flows and community volunteers. Once the effort becomes a reality instead of talk, committee members should not be concerned of small business owners not showing up to meetings.
Entrepreneurs are a completely different animal and should not be forced to sit for hours of idle chitchat. The plan will not work without their help, true enough, but without some progress they will just feel it is more of the same promises from the Blob of local bureaucracy, which impedes their businesses at every turn. Additionally, having remembered the hassles of getting building permits, treatment from code enforcement and attitudes of city officials with all their myriad of rules and ordinances, which often conflict with county, state and federal laws and regulations the last thing a small business wants to do is sit in a committee for redevelopment. And if they do show up do not be surprised to get a hostile team member on your committee.
The best bet is to treat all small businesses as if they are from Missouri and “show them!” Once they see your cleanup and new landscaping, they will be convinced that you are walking your talk and your committee is serious about redevelopment of downtown. Think on this.
“Lance Winslow” – If you have innovative thoughts and unique perspectives, come think with Lance; www.WorldThinkTank.net/wttbbs