(Re)Building Downtown

Downtowns, Main Streets, and city centers across the country are witnessing a renaissance. As more Americans chose the convenience and connectivity of walkable neighborhoods, communities are seeing new businesses, restaurants, and shops open in areas that were formerly vacant or economically distressed.

This movement presents an economic opportunity for communities. Creating a vibrant, walkable neighborhood can help attract and retain talented people and the companies that want to hire them. It can expand economic opportunity within your community, and create a culture of engagement. It can help your region grow without compromising open land or working farms. It can also make your town or city stand out within your region as a destination to shop, dine, visit, move to, or invest. It’s a chance to celebrate your community’s diverse history, create new opportunities for long-time neighborhood residents, and to achieve the triple-bottom line of a more equitable community, stronger economy, and protected environment.

If your town or city already has a Main Street or neighborhood business district waiting for reinvestment, fantastic. You have great context for the strategies outlined in this guidebook. If your community does not have this kind of place, don’t despair. These strategies can also be applied to places like suburban shopping centers, former industrial parks, or other underused places with the potential for redevelopment. Each is an opportunity to create a long-term, resilient, economic asset for your community.

(Re)Building Downtown: A Guidebook for Revitalization is a resource for local elected officials who want to re-invigorate and strengthen neighborhood centers of economy, culture, and history through a smart growth approach to development.

This guide uses Smart Growth America’s seven-step approach to downtown redevelopment:

  1. Understand your community
  2. Create an attractive, walkable place
  3. Diversify economic uses
  4. Plan for equity
  5. Improve government regulations and processes
  6. Finance projects
  7. Establish on-going place management

These seven steps are fundamental to fostering a successful downtown district. Your community may decide to use some or all of them, depending on where you are in the (re)building process. This guidebook will discuss each of the above steps in detail, and provide specific ways for communities to implement each.

Any community, of any size can use this approach. Through public engagement, strategic planning, public commitment, and ongoing support, you can create a place that unites your community, attracts visitors, and supports businesses for years to come.