Downtown’s are beginning to thrive again. Across the country we are seeing a revival with the addition of new boutiques, restaurants and stores entering empty or unoccupied storefronts, town beautification projects and plenty of collaboration between downtown partnerships, local government and chambers of commerce. All have the same goal in mind – making their towns not only a tourist attraction, but someplace their residents can be proud of. It’s all about keeping the dollars local.
Here are just a few ways to help make your town shine and promote a sense of community with residents and visitors.
Image Courtesy of: Make Danville Shine
1. SPRUCE IT UP
Take a walk through your town with a visitor’s eye. Or better yet, call an out of town relative and invite them for a visit. Ask them to walk through the town and take note of both the positive and negative aspects of it. Sometimes, it is hard for those of us who are so close to something to see what others might see.
For example; Is there trash laying around the sidewalks? Are the light poles and curbs clean and removed of damage or clutter? Organize a neighborhood cleanup or do what the town of Danville, VA did and brand it as an event. “For the last six years, we have been doing Make Danville Shine, which is a program and encouragement for neighborhoods and neighborhood groups to get together and make repairs to their homes,” Danville Community Inspections Director Jerry Rigney said.
Around 25 vendors specializing in everything from HVAC to gardening will be on hand.
“They’ll be talking about home improvement. They’ll be talking about plants, how to plant plants, what plants to plant and vegetable plants,” Rigney said.
Organize a Neighborhood Cleanup
Danville Neighborhood Development Corporation Director Ernecia Coles said the expo is the first of several events being held this month to encourage residents to take an active role in making the city shine. “Sixty groups are going to participate in neighborhood cleanups. Public Works is providing dumpsters for people to be able to haul out debris or large appliances from their home,” Coles said.
Renovating all the light poles, sidewalks and curbs through your main street or town square can make a huge difference in appearance. Not only can these things be unsightly, but hazardous if there are chunks of concrete missing from a sidewalk or curb.
2. OFFER FREE PARKING
In Bridgeport, West Virginia, City Clerk Andrea Kerr said many factors are contributing to the city’s success downtown, but business is one of those key contributors. “There are a lot of factors that have gone into making downtown Bridgeport what it is today,” Kerr said. “First and foremost, the business owners. A number of businesses have been located in downtown for many, many years. They are faithful to the city, and we are thrilled that they continue to keep our downtown alive.”
“Offering free parking gives people a reason to want to walk up and down the streets and visit different businesses,” Kerr said. “We have free parking all throughout downtown. This helps business owners and their patrons not have to worry about meters. The upkeep of the buildings, their distinction and charm, draws people from all over the state to visit our downtown. We are proud that our Main Street continues to grow.”
Image Courtesy of: Visit KC
3. HOST A THIRD THURSDAY OR FIRST FRIDAY EVENT
Think of this as an extended happy hour if you will. Invite shops and restaurants to stay open late and offer great specials. Kansas City has been hosting their First Friday events in the Crossroads Arts District for years and it is a huge success. It’s all about the experience, thousands of residents and visitors fill the sidewalks of the Crossroads in Kansas City, enjoying what has become the city’s liveliest and most popular event. Arts organizations, galleries, studios, and a wide variety of local businesses feature regional and national artists as well as live entertainment starting at 5 p.m.
Best explored on foot, the First Friday tradition continues to grow with up to 10,000 attendees. Most make it an evening, with dinner and drinks from a colorful array of restaurants and entertainment venues.
Image courtesy of: City of Gardner
4. CREATE A BEAUTIFUL GREENSPACE
People love being outside, no matter what time of year it is. And people especially love to socialize with their friends and neighbors. Encourage a sense of community with a beautiful greenspace.
Green Spaces Are Crowd Pleasers
For example, the Canadian town of Newmarket, Ontario plans to create a Central Park inspired green space. The town’s vision is to create an iconic community park/outdoor green space with inspiration from Central Park in New York and outdoor skating trails.
“With unanimous support by Council, the vision is to secure this large, rare, natural property now, to become our Central Park, to service existing and future residents,” said Mayor Tony Van Bynen. “As intensification takes place over the next two decades on the Yonge Street corridor, this oasis – so, connected by trails and transit – will serve as a community meeting space for the people of Newmarket.”
The town’s vision includes walking trails and a one kilometer skating trail throughout the site that could be programmed with lights, fire pits and market vendors, plus an outdoor skating rink.
5. BRIGHTEN IT UP
While the holidays are a perfect time to decorate your town with lights, think outside the box and dazzle your community by leaving warm white lights up all year long. Hang them in the trees or light up the town square gazebo. This creates a warm, safe feeling and encourages people to linger a bit longer. It’s all about the experience!
For the holidays, go all out! Kick off the annual tree lighting with a Christmas Parade and invite area businesses to join in the fun. Incorporate a walk-through holiday display park, play music (or better yet, invite your local high school choir to sing!) and serve hot cocoa for the kids – they will love it and look forward to it every year!
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