Rural Downtown Development: Guiding Principles for Small Cities

Small city downtowns are often in need of the same revitalization efforts larger urban centers benefit from. The issues surrounding small city development are complicated because of rural downtown’s great diversity in population size, location and economic base. This diversity, and the obvious disparity in scale, means that one cannot simply apply urban development techniques to small city projects. To address the lack of small city development guidelines Kent Robertson, professor of Community Development at St. Cloud State University, developed five principles to inform revitalization in rural and small city downtowns. This article is a summary of these principles.

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Downtown Redevelopment Efforts in Selected Midwest Cities

While recent downtown revitalization efforts in larger cities may not be transferable, they do demonstrate the variety of ideas being used to serve three important market downtown segments:  residents, office workers, and tourists.  These examples illustrate how downtowns can serve multiple segments in dynamic, mixed-use environments.

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Characteristics of Successful Downtowns

What characteristics or attributes are shared by outstanding small and mid-sized downtowns? Research by Gary Ferguson of the Ithaca (NY) Downtown Partnership addressed this question in a recent study of successful downtowns. The cities selected for study all have reputations for outstanding downtowns. They include: State College, PA, Burlington, VT, Providence, RI, Northampton, MA, Portland, ME, Madison, WI, Ann Arbor, MI, Boulder, CO, Charlottesville, VA, Chapel Hill, NC, and Wooster, OH. Ferguson’s findings are summarized in this article following 12 downtown characteristics.

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Reclaiming the Waterfront

People have been drawn to water since the dawn of civilization, but American cities and towns have had a complicated relationship with water. “Water is a powerful draw and can help instill a strong sense of place,” observed Kent Robertson, Director of Community Development at Saint Cloud State University in Minnesota. “The fact that many downtowns are built near a body of water is a tremendous asset that should not be wasted” . This artcle discusses how communities can develop the waterfront into an energizing environment that benefits all.

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Developing a Downtown Stategic Plan

Downtown is one of the largest mixed use developments in a metropolitan area (and perhaps the largest in many small cities). However, there is rarely a strategic plan for downtown, nor any formal management of it. By contrast,
the typical regional mall, a much smaller and far simpler development, has a comprehensive strategy for the positioning of the mall and 24/7 oversight. Leinberger offers a comprehensive approach to strategic planning that creates “walkable urbanity,” the appeal of traditional downtowns that sets them apart from their suburban competitors. These strategies fall into ten categories.

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Smart Downtown Parking: Core Principles to Support Downtown Development

The majority of downtown visitors arrive by automobile making it essential to balance a pedestrian-friendly setting
with the continuously increasing public demand for convenient parking. SDP fully comprehends the valuable role parking plays in a strong downtown economy, but advocates that parking be planned, designed, and located intelligently, keeping the pedestrian in mind. After all, every driver becomes a pedestrian once the car is parked. Seven core principles contribute to the essence of Smart Downtown Parking.

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So You’ve Survived Road Construction – Now What?

Dealing with the after-effects of road construction frequently requires careful planning and implementation to help restore a community’s vitality and perhaps help it expand beyond previous levels. A good dose of creativity and perseverance are also useful elements. Several strategies that can be considered, based on the experiences of several Wisconsin communities that have successfully dealt with the after-effects of road construction, are summarized in this issue.

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Economic Restructuring Activities in Downtown Revitalization

The Main Street Four-Point Approach includes organization, design, promotion and economic restructuring (ER). Economic Restructuring involves strengthening and diversifying the economic vitality of the business district. It is the ultimate goal of all Main Street revitalization programs. This article summarizes some of the ER activities and their use and effectiveness. It is based on literature from the National Main Street Center
as well as recent research by Kent Robertson at St. Cloud State University.

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Seven Keys to Main Street Success

At the 2004 National Main Street Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, keynote speaker Kennedy Smith, departing director of the National Trust’s Main Street Center, discussed seven keys to success for Main Street districts in the years ahead. Smith has been Director of the Center for 13 years and has been instrumental in using historic preservation as a tool for community revitalization. Her insights are valuable to most all communities including those not directly affiliated with the Main Street Program.

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Can Downtowns Survive?

The gut reaction of many, particularly in the development community, will be that “of course” downtowns will survive. But an economist’s eye on recent trends suggests the future of the downtown is anything but certain. This article takes a look at the “bad news” as well as some survival skills for downtowns to use.

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