Sustainable downtown commences with being able to walk the streets in a safe manner. This means, walking without the risk of personal injury. You may think this is trivial, but it isn’t. Walking around the downtown safely will help create traffic around the store fronts. This is being dealt with and over time, will improve. Much more is needed, such as better public transportation, parking, culture and entertainment, as well as community events to draw people on a consistent basis.
Outlined are seven suggestions on how the downtown can be revitalized:
Suggestion #1 – Recognize there is a problem and develop a plan (or plan to fail)
There needs to be a concerted attempt to recognize the downtown needs repair. This has already been acknowledged by various stakeholders in the community, with some stores are receiving a much needed facelift. But the difference is the people of the town need to believe that the revitalization has an honest chance of succeeding. The community needs to think of the downtown and its past glory. Looking at old pictures really inspires me to see how vibrant the downtown was in the old days. If you don’t have a plan of action, the downtown is as good as a lost cause. The plan needs to deal with what the character should be, what retail stores should be in the core, culture, public infrastructure, and what role the community plays. Groups need to be formed to make this happen at council, if not done already.
Suggestion #3 – Form Partnerships to re-establish the historical meaning of the downtown
The plan will not work if all stakeholders are not involved. This means having the right mix of public and private partnerships. No one person can do this on their own, and no single organization.
Suggestion #4 – Get a Business Improvement Area going
Having a Business Improvement Area association is vital. This association should be accountable for the stewardship of the plan to make the downtown viable again. This is done by implementing the agreed action plan, essentially where more of the doing is done. Other responsibilities are possible once the association gets going. Some suggestions are:
Making sure the downtown stays clean.
Coordinating downtown festivals (such as Carrotfest and others)
Marketing the downtown to the populace, to improve overall image
Suggestion #5 – Set up a corporation to oversee economic development of the downtown
Most companies don’t have the funds, experience or money to come downtown. The issue is that even if there was demand, companies will not move in because there is market risk. What I mean by market risk is that companies don’t really know if they will make money by locating downtown. The corporation would help with the real estate and development of the downtown, and working with companies to make it happen.
Suggestion #6 –Establish Entertainment and Housing goals
Within the limitations of the space, develop the infrastructure. Get the town offices downtown to get people to visit as part of their daily lives. Get some retail that the big box stores could never provide. Get some more street festivals.
Housing needs to be handled in two phases. The first is a rental market to draw young people to the downtown. The second over a period of time, is to gradually turn the rentals into owned properties to attract the more affluent. The first wave gets people downtown and creates demand for stores.
Conduct a study to see if any of the existing buildings could be used to support housing redevelopment. Phase two of this strategy would be to turn the rentals into units that are owned, to attract the more affluent which in turn, increases land values.
Suggestion #7 – Get office space rented by Companies
The vacant office space after the first six steps will gradually fill in. In a small down like Bradford, smaller businesses may be a better fit, start ups, etc.
The above suggestions will not be easy to implement. But it is a pathway to success. I hope this blog has at the very least created awareness of what should be done. Some of the suggestions are already in progress, which is good news for all of us.