Creating Resilient Small City Downtowns
From Rosa Soliz-McKelvey on May 4th, 2017
Many small city downtowns throughout the country continue to struggle with shuttered storefronts, deteriorating buildings, and a disconnected mix of commercial tenants. Most are still ignored by major chain store site selectors, while edge – of – town development continues to migrate outward.
Despite these challenges, there are many resilient downtowns that have achieved turnaround by recognizing and building upon their assets. These small cities have reclaimed the importance of downtown to the broader community. Downtowns represent the central place in a community. They also offer a sense of place with history and character that cannot be replicated by cinderblock buildings on the edge of town. Finally, a vibrant downtown represents a healthy community, positioned to attract new investment and business development.
So what is
Extension’s role in creating resilient downtowns? Most of our states have Main
Street programs that provide a comprehensive approach to downtown development.
However, in most states, only selected cities and villages are designated Main
Street communities. Extension does not offer comprehensive “main street-like
assistance.” However, it does offer a depth of research and resources in
specific topics relevant to downtown development. These topics contribute to the
efforts of Main Street and other downtown development groups. Extension offers
objective, research – based programs and resources that contribute to the
creation of vibrant and resilient downtowns in small cities. Examples of
relevant areas of specialty in Extension include business development, customer
service, leadership and organizations, marketing, place making, planning, real
estate and financing, research, and tourism.
Presented by: John Mann, Scott Loveridge and Jason Parker (Michigan State University)