What features make a successful downtown?

1. Successful downtowns need to have a critical mass of like businesses.

2. To be a successful community, you must have at least one or two anchor businesses, ones that people would drive an hour - or more - to visit.

3. Seventy percent of all consumer spending (both locals and visitors) takes place after 6 pm.

4. Outstanding destinations have a strong brand and a successful, vibrant retail core.

5. Residential drives retail. What comes first? A downtown that people will want to live in. This includes businesses open AFTER 6 p.m., entertainment, all in a pedestrian-friendly, attractive downtown setting - a “Third Place:” the place we want to live and hang out.

6. Every downtown effort requires tireless pioneers and those who will champion the cause. Enthusiasm is contagious and is an essential ingredient for every revitalization effort.

7. They started with just one or two blocks - a “demonstration project.”

8. Angle-in parking generates increased sales over parallel parking.

9. Restrooms should be in the heart of spending districts. Once visitors get out of the car, you have a four-times greater chance of getting them to spend money.

10. Turn parks into plazas.

11. Signage at city limits should be directional signage to key downtown districts. For instance “Downtown Anywhere - 1 mile.”

12. Every community should develop and implement a signage plan and program: wayfinding, gateways and entries, billboards and marketing displays, amenity identifiers.

13. Downtown gateways create a “sense of place” and arrival. They can also promote a sense of group pride among the merchants downtown, helping to foster group cooperation with beautification and marketing.

14. Develop perpendicular or “blade signs” in core downtown districts.

15. Sidewalk cafes and intimate surroundings.

16. They invested heavily in retail beautification.

17. They provide activities and entertainment: bring downtown to life!

18. They gave downtown districts a name. 

19. Always sell a feeling: not buildings and the physical environment. 

20. Successful communities start with a plan. 


Roger Brooks, renowned tourism specialist, surveyed 400 successful downtowns and downtown districts (big and small) throughout the U.S., Canada, and Western Europe. His team at DDI (Destination Development, Inc.) wrote a white paper on the 20 things successful downtowns have. More details can be found at rogerbrooksinternational.com


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Deadline: Friday, noon


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