Drawing on the lessons learned from success stories from across the country, here are some of the key activities that can help you regenerate your downtown.
With their rich legacy of built heritage, Canada’s historic downtowns reflect the unique social and economic evolution of their communities.
Yet many have been in decline for decades as they face challenges from ‘edge of town’ commercial developments and more recently from new on-line competition.
Creative solutions exist to counter those challenges, and communities are recognizing that their historic downtowns can capitalize on their assets and become economic incubators and drivers, to create vibrant and livable downtowns.
Successful regeneration initiatives involve leaders from key stakeholder groups, who work collaboratively to champion the downtown. These include:
The National Trust’s proven Main Street Approach offers a set of core principles for achieving a successful downtown regeneration initiative. These include:
Embrace diversity. Downtowns offer space and opportunities for people of all talents, ideas, and cultural backgrounds to participate. Look at who makes up your community and be open to all to contribute to the vision for turning around downtown.
Downtowns make significant contributions to local economies. People need to earn a living from downtown’s businesses and properties. It is critical to research, compile the data, and develop strategies that effectively market and strengthen the downtown economy.
Recruit a healthy mix of housing and accommodations in downtown spaces, and as well as pedestrian and cycling amenities, and essential services such as grocery stores.
Downtown infrastructure – private and public – represents a major contribution to our environment – in building materials and utilities. A conservation approach to adaptive re-use of existing buildings, of “greening” downtown through seeking energy efficiencies is important. Ensuring that downtown is a safe and welcoming environment, and that all those who interact with downtown are housed, and provided with essential services is increasingly a role that downtown regeneration initiatives must accommodate.
Downtown, as Jane Jacobs, noted urbanist stated, “Is a stage set with a colourful cast of characters and activities”. People intrinsically want to experience downtown’s setting, its architecture, and social, and cultural events. Every community has considerable creative talent, no matter the size. Invite the arts, heritage, cultural groups and individuals into your downtown regeneration program. They will respond in wonderful and enriching ways!