Downtown Storefront Improvements: Analyzing Return on Investment

Downtown Economics Newsletter – MARCH, 2015.  A team from University of Wisconsin-Extension and Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation examined 24 case studies of storefront improvement projects in Wisconsin over the past 15 years.  These case studies ranged from rural Wisconsin to urban metropolitan areas.  The types of capital improvements were just as vast, ranging from less […]

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Downtown Internet Connectivity

Embracing the internet can help downtown businesses grow and compete. This article summarizes the responses to a survey concerning access to and use of broadband in downtown districts. The sample consists of the 35 responses received from downtown development and Main Street professionals in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Ohio. This was not a rigorously scientific survey, […]

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A Profile in Wisconsin’s Small Town Downtowns

Downtown districts in Wisconsin’s small cities and villages have significantly different demographic and economic characteristics from those in larger cities.  This article profiles small town downtowns from the perspective of who lives downtown, who works there, and what businesses operate in the commercial district.

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Downtown Financing Options

Economic incentives are often necessary to stimulate the type of development and reinvestment a downtown needs.  From traditional to unusual tools and sources, communities are experimenting with new economic development tools for their central commercial districts.  This article summarizes a presentation by economic development professional, Kristen Fish, and explores a variety of options for development […]

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Public-Private Partnerships

Public-Private Partnerships are collaborations between government and private sector companies to fund and operate a project.  This article summarizes a presentation by economic development professionals Naletta Burr and Quasan Shaw and provides an overview of public-private partnerships,  successful case studies, funding mechanisms, and development agreements. Read the article here: Public Private Partnerships (2 pages)

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Who Lives in Wisconsin’s Downtowns?

Housing has become an important element in comprehensive downtown revitalization efforts. Downtown housing contributes to an active environment that extends activity beyond traditional business hours. Downtown residents who live within a half mile of the middle of a downtown provide a captured market for convenience retail and services. Demographic data provides a foundation to help downtown business operators understand the nearby resident market.

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Employment in Small City Downtowns

Downtowns are sometimes dismissed as distressed and struggling retail districts that are disconnected from the economic mainstream of our communities. Underutilized buildings and vacant storefronts often send out notice that the downtown economy has been forgotten. At the same time, economic development initiatives often bypass downtown with lofty goals focused on luring new companies to the edge of town. Research from Wisconsin provides information to help understand current downtown employment in small cities as a basis for economic development activities that retain and create jobs.

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Retail and Service Business Mix in Wisconsin’s Downtowns

What can we do to increase business activity in our downtown? Are there certain types of retail and service businesses that still make economic sense in our downtown given the proliferation of largeformat stores in other locations? What types of downtown businesses are in similar-size communities? What do we have that they don’t? One way to begin to answer these questions is to analyze the business mix in other communities with similar population. This article summarizes a University of Wisconsin–Extension (UWEX) staff paper titled Retail and Service Business Mix Analysis of Wisconsin’s Downtowns which analyzes the number and types of downtown establishments in over 300 of the state’s cities and villages. It provides a snapshot of business activity to stimulate ideas about business expansion and recruitment.

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Creating Third Places – Places where Communities Gather

Third places differ from the places where we live and work (first and second places); they are the places where communities gather. Third places take many shapes. But, it is not the physical nature of the place that makes it a third place. Instead, a third place is characterized by social interaction. This article discusses the characteristics and significance of third places within town.
~Thumbnail by Bruce Richter of UW Wisconsin

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Creating a Local Food and Culinary Tourism Niche in Your Downtown

Over the last decade, communities have experienced tremendous changes in the way food is produced, distributed and eaten. In light of these changes, many communities are re-connecting with their agricultural roots and culinary traditions as a way to revitalize downtowns, promote economic development, and build a stronger more resilient local food system. Increasing consumer and tourist interest in local, sustainably raised as well as “authentic,” place-based food and cultural experiences may represent a significant new market niche for downtowns. This issue provides an overview of best practices for communities to address food systems issues and capture dollars created by new trends in local foods and “culinary tourism.”

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