Today, I listened online to an audio presentation from Smart Growth America on their new guide to revitalize downtowns.
Chris Zimmerman, VP of Economic Development for Smart Growth America moderated the event. As a former elected official in Arlington VA, he noticed there were little resources for those trying to recreate, or just create, downtowns in communities geared towards the automobile.
Mr. Zimmerman had a 7 step approach to downtown redevelopment.
1. Understand your community.
2. Create an attractive, walkable place.
3. Diversify the downtown economy.
4. Build in equity.
5. Improve government regulations and processes.
6. Finance projects (eg. Create a catalytic investment reality).
7. Establish on-going place management.
Representatives from Macon Georgia, Missoula Montana and St. Paul Minnesota (what, no Westlake Ohio?) gave presentations of what their communities have done towards redeveloping their downtowns. The thing that stands out is the creation a light rail called the Green Line built in the Eastern region of the Minneapolis/St. Paul area as presented by Will Schroeer Executive Director of East Metro Strong and efforts to revitalize a ten mile strip; which would be like redeveloping Euclid Avenue from East 115 St. to the Lake County Border in the Cleveland area. I fully agree with his comment that having traffic going through an area isn’t enough. They have to stop, get out, and feel comfortable to do so.
The Building Blocks for these plans are nothing new. I remember years ago at a workshop the planners for the City of Hudson used the same points such as “Community Engagement” and “Building Equity” when discussing their downtown plan. Perhaps, this presentation shows how all this just went up one more level in development and can provide a blueprint for such suburban places like Parma to create a real downtown.
Overall, it was very interesting even for a layman. I might even look at the guide.