Downtown Revitalization: Take a Deep Breath and Begin

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October 2, 2015

I was looking through the conference line up for next week’s Heritage Ohio conference, and it reminds me how diverse the subject of Downtown Revitalization really is.  Heritage Ohio has done a great job to offer trainings in each of the trademarked Main Street Four Points (Organization, Design, Economic Restructuring/Business Enhancement, and Promotions).

Heritage Ohio does wonderful and important work, but looking at the conference sessions makes me remember just how daunting Downtown Revitalization can seem for newcomers and even for veterans of the movement.  I visit so many downtowns across the state, and each of them has the same questions:  Where do we start?  How do we find the money to do the things we want to do?  There’s so much that all needs to be done all at once, how can we get it all done?

The best advice I can offer each community is to take a deep breath and begin.  Do small things, but do something.  Stagnation is the biggest enemy, seconded closely by lack of funds.

But as one former mayor in Brazil puts it, “The lack of resources is no longer an excuse not to act.  The idea that action should only be taken after all the answers and the resources have been found is a sure recipe for paralysis.  The planning of a city is a process that allows for corrections; it is supremely arrogant to believe that planning can be done only after every possible variable has been controlled.”

So each community can (and should) create a plan.  It’s the only logical place to start.  And each community can (and should) implement that plan once it is finished.  It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should take into consideration the larger context (buildings within the Downtown, Downtown within the community, community within the region), it should be comprehensive (in that it addresses the physical, economic and social environments as well as attaching a funding strategy and volunteer recruitment plan to help implement the projects), and it should be relevant to the community undertaking the effort (just because your neighbor did their sidewalks doesn’t necessarily mean you should do your sidewalks right now).

Know the reasons behind each of your actions.  And don’t give up.  Ever.  Even when it’s difficult (and it will almost certainly be difficult).  Downtowns didn’t decline overnight, and they won’t be brought back overnight either.  “Worthwhile” and “easy” are rarely used in the same sentence.  But anyone who has the will to do it can achieve positive results and sustain positive momentum.  If you’re stuck, call us: we can help.

SteinhauserD-blog

Danielle Steinhauser, CMSM
Community Development Specialist

Ms. Steinhauser serves as the Community Development Specialist and Project Manager for CT Consultants.  As a lifelong preservation advocate, she has worked in dozens of communities throughout Ohio to plan and implement revitalization strategies.  Danielle enjoys working with both public and private sector organizations and their representatives to build long lasting partnerships and strategies.  She is also closely involved at home in Toledo and client communities with historic district commissions and design review boards to protect important historic resources.  Her extensive includes downtown planning, project implementation, grant writing, grant administration and technical support for clients, and downtown marketing.  Danielle can be reached at dsteinhauser[at]ctconsultants.com or at (419) 469-5465.

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