Downtown Revitalization A Must!

Andy Warhol rightfully said, “When people are ready to, they change.  They never do it before then, and sometimes they die before they get around to it. You can’t make them change if they don’t want to, just like when they want to, you can’t stop them.” In today’s challenging economic environment, the case for a strong downtown revitalization effort has never been greater. The return or ROI of revitalization will never be higher.  The stakes for a methodical and strategic downtown revitalization effort might possibly never be more important than today.

Many communities across the country focus and spend massive resources on courting corporately owned, big box and chain businesses.  However, smarter more forward-thinking community leaders are looking inward at their own downtown or Main Street infrastructure seeking internal strategies of bringing back the heart, soul, vibrancy, and individuality to their downtown communities.

Studies show tax and private dollars invested in a community’s downtown have an approximately 30% greater return than those dollars invested elsewhere throughout the community. With the need for every tax dollar spent to return the absolute maximum value possible, the return on this critical investment should never be overlooked.

A recent National Main Street organization study showed for every dollar invested in various downtown or Main Street districts throughout the country, it returned between $3.00 in additional tax revenue in Massachusetts, to a whopping $12.73 in additional tax revenue in Washington.  As is expected, each state’s tax structure certainly weighs into this number.  Nonetheless, returns are outstanding across the country and would be in your community as well.

Just as important as the tangible financial return on a community’s investment might be the intangible return on your investment. This oftentimes dwarfs the tangible benefits.  Courting corporately owned businesses, while sometimes necessary and tangible, they should only be looked upon as such, and as the least important building block to enter the tourism or consumer attraction game.  Most notable communities already have plenty of, or access to many big boxes and chains.  Strategic leaders understand corporately owned businesses only continue to create a sea of sameness.  This does nothing to set your community apart from the thousands like them across the country.

What are the intangible benefits?  That is the process of returning the heart, soul, vibrancy, and individuality to your community.  What truly sets you apart from other communities is escaping the world of mundane, and the ability to innovate and create those unique experiences and ambiances not found elsewhere.  Each community must find their niche and their own identity.  What is right for one community may not play well in another community.

Creating intangible experiences and the atmosphere it brings will draw new tourists and consumers willing to spend money. Of course, by bringing those willing to spend money on unique experiences also leads to more tangible and measurable financial returns.  Additionally, as an added benefit, these changes will excite those residents from within your community as well. They will embrace and show pride in their community and as this occurs, they will then invest more of their time and resources in the local community.

Revitalization of your downtown, while not an easy task, will set you on the path of uniqueness.  Revitalization of your downtown allows you to create a sense of heart, soul, vibrancy, and individuality found lacking in so many communities around the country. Many are flooded with big boxes and chains creating nothing unique and found in every town USA.  Revitalization of your downtown builds a robust sense of community pride not found with the national boxes and chains.  With this newfound pride, the effort then spreads beyond the boundaries of downtown or main street to other areas throughout the community.

Lastly, many smaller communities are losing their younger generations to the urban lifestyles.  Revitalizing your downtown is a magnet for the younger generations. They crave uniqueness and experiences.  They are also showing signs of being supportive and attracted to their local community if the community offers that uniqueness and experiences. Revitalization of your downtown creates those experiences and gathering spaces enjoyed and attractive to all demographic groups.  Revitalization of your downtown isn’t only a nice thing to do; it is a task that we must undertake to be relevant in the new world that is approaching much faster than many of us might realize.

John Newby is a nationally recognized Publisher, Community, Chamber, Business & Media strategic consultant & speaker. His “Building Main Street, not Wall Street,” column runs 60+ communities around the country. The founder of Truly-Local, he assists communities, their businesses and local media to build synergies, thus creating more vibrant communities. He can be reached at:

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