Regional Rev Up: Opportunity Analysis – Effective Design

How can your downtown function better for residents, merchants, and visitors? And how do you identify opportunities in the physical environment to make your town a destination, drawing customers and revenue to the area?

On Oct. 11, 17, and 18 in Bristol, Blackstone and Gloucester, the fall edition of the Regional Rev Up promises to load you up with the tools you need to implement a people-centered downtown design process.

Effective downtown design supports a community’s transformation by enhancing the physical and visual elements of downtown while capitalizing on the unique assets that set the commercial district apart.  As a community, you need to bring together your stakeholders to plan what physical amenities will bring energy and dollars to the area. The type of design choices you make, and the variables that you weigh for making your decision, is the process known as opportunity analysis.

This workshop will explore a range of issues that impact the physical characteristics of downtown and provide you with a road map for navigating the opportunities involved in implementing holistic design principles to ensure they complement the overall strategy for your downtown.

Join us for this half-day workshop that will be educational, inspiring and fun!  Kathy Frazier, Principal of architecture and planning firm Frazier Associates, will lead the discussion and activities.

Registration is only $15 to cover lunch from a local eatery.  Registration for each Rev Up session closes one week prior to the event, register now to reserve your spot!

Register now! >>>

Tips for a Wonderful Experience at Downtown Intersections, Staunton, Virginia

Guest Blogger Julie Markowitz, director of Staunton Downtown Development Association, started with Main Street in 2006, armed with 10 years of experience in mall marketing and promotions. Staunton Downtown Development Association is delighted to host the first inaugural Virginia Main Street Downtown Intersections workshop in Staunton, Virginia on July 11-13, 2016.

VMS-intersection-final

Welcome to Staunton, Main Street friends! I am so excited to have all of you here in our fair city. I hope you get a chance to enjoy shopping, grab a locally-brewed beer or a glass of wine or experience one of Monday’s field sessions, so you can enjoy all of the new businesses and cultural happenings that Staunton has to offer.

We tried to select some activities that will give you a chance to relax, wander aournd and get acclimated before the event begins.  Like most Main streets, Mondays are quiet, but there is still plenty to do in and around downtown. If you want to grab lunch or dinner on Monday, here are some options:

  • American Café (lunch only)
  • Baja Bean Company
  • Bricks Restaurant and Pub (dinner only)
  • Byers Street Bistro
  • Cranberry’s Grocery and Eatery (lunch only)
  • Clocktower Restaurant and Bar
  • Depot Grille, Mill Street Grill (dinner only)
  • Sorrell’s Lounge at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel
  • The Split Banana for locally-sourced gelato

There are several different areas for shopping and site seeing within our downtown.  You can start by checking out the train station, then climb the stairs to the Sears Hill Bridge for the best view of downtown.  After the view, wind your way down to the Wharf and the Byers and Lewis Streets shops, where you will find Sunspots Studios and Glassblowing. Walk a short block past Wilderness Adventure to the Lewis Creek Market, then double-back to Pufferbellies Toys and Books and the shops on Beverley Street. End your stroll by heading up Augusta Street to visit LTD 7, a unique, cooperative gift store.

You will get your exercise and along the way, you will find charming shops and restaurants, beautiful views and friendly people. I hope you enjoy your visit to Staunton!

Get the complete list of stores and a handy map here.

 

VDDA Hot Topic Luncheon focuses on traditional downtown design

Nestled at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and located on the edge of the Washington, D.C. suburbs, the Town of Purcellville has worked to maintain the small town characteristics that have defined the community for centuries.  New downtown construction projects and infill developments fit right into the local, historic charm.  This achievement made the town the perfect location for the most recent Virginia Downtown Development Association (VDDA) Hot Topic Luncheon, held Thursday, August 19th.  The topic: How do traditional downtowns fit in to a growing New Urbanism movement?     

Attendees enjoyed the food and rustic ambiance of Magnolias at the Mill, a former downtown seed mill, and were captivated by speaker Kennedy L. Smith, of Community Land Use and Economics (CLUE) Group and former director of the National Trust Main Street Center.  Smith used humor and striking images to deliver the message and stir conversation.      

The message, New Urbanism, a revival of traditional, late 19th and early 20th century community design principles for both urban infill and greenfield development, in the past has been perceived as adversarial to the historic preservation movement.  Essentially it was thought that New Urbanism abandoned the older, historic town core to create sanitized replicas in the suburbs. 

However, the two movements aren’t really mutually exclusive.  As Smith explained, they share a fundamental conviction; they both support the development patterns of successful, older neighborhoods and small towns that integrate housing, shops, workplaces, parks and civic facilities into close-knit communities that are both charming and functional.   Downtown Purcellville is an excellent example of this cooperation in action.

If you have questions or would like to become a member of VDDA, call or e-mail the VDDA office at: admin@downtownvirginia.org or (804) 754-4120.

Mapmaker, mapmaker, make me a map

Maps make sense of the world around us.  They are both descriptive  (think of the elevated ridgelines of topographic maps) and prescriptive (the Google maps navigator telling you how to get from here to there). 

And they don’t always match reality.  As this Slate slideshow of strange maps demonstrates, maps may not fit so much into neat categories of right or wrong, but  they do shed some light on our perception and experience.  At right is one of the classics of perceived landscape, Saul Steinberg’s 1976 New Yorker cover, “View of the World from 9th Avenue.” 

Maps also tell stories. In The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet, Reif Larsen’s recent novel of a boy cartographer who maps everything from the concentration of Chicago litter to the flight paths of bats above his family’s Montana Ranch, the maps show what exist and they propose what might. Spivet’s earliest vision is a six-year old’s map to God.

Maps can help you see your downtown anew, and  they can point to the vision of what it could be. Try it.

As a conversation starter at your next design committee meeting, consider doing a cognitive mapping exercise.  On blank sheets of paper, have each person draw a  mental map of their downtown— the buildings and streets as they experience them.  Then discuss them.  How are they different?  How are they alike?  How is a young person’s different from yours?  What places aren’t part of anyone’s downtown at the table?  Who else should be invited to draw their downtowns? Are their obvious natural districts? 

Your discussion is sure to be be rich and specific, and  best of all, fun.  Send us imagesof a map or two and we’ll share your results on the blog.

Take the Holiday Retail Poll

Turning the economy on its head

Fast Company reports that Facebook is increasing its staff by 50 percent.  The nearly 500-employee increase is substantial in a good economy, and in current recessionary times, it’s a flat out boon.  But why, at a time when ad revenues are down, would an expansion like this make sense

For one, costs of doing business can be lower.  The talent that Facebook is hiring is in abundance on the market.  New hirees will work for less.  There’s a good lesson there; transfer it downtown. While construction costs are lower, properties are bringing less rent, and an empty space eliminates the major opportunity cost of construction, it may just be the time for a property owner to reinvest. 

Of course Facebook is in at an impressively expansive point in consumer adaptation as well, and it wants to expand its services to advertisers to capture the market. There’s something, too, to be said for striking while the iron is hot.  With trendwatchers capturing the steadily growing fashionability of downtown living, shopping, and working, what is your community doing to make the most of that most of your opportunities today?

New York rethinks Broadway

As the song says, if you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere.  If the Big Apple can make a park-like setting out of one of the city’s busiest streets, what’s to stop your town from making a pro-people shift  in one of your important spaces? 

Of course we need cars and trucks, delivery access and shopper convenience, but as the New York experiment suggests, it may not have to require multiple lanes and acres of asphalted parking directly in front of stores.  (If that were the case we could just replicate  the clogged arteries that lead to a big box strip mall  near you.) 

For an alternative, check out this streetfilm from streetsblog, an initiative of the Liveable Streets Initiative:  Carmaggeddon avoided as Broadway comes to life.  

Streetsblog's Mark Gorton gives a video tour of the new Broadway.

Streetsblog's Mark Gorton gives a video tour of the new Broadway.

As a temporary measure, Times Square put cheap lawn furniture in the newly pedestrianized area.  The pink and blue chairs had a lot of fans, and the space felt like a big neighborhood block party. 

What would a similar, albeit smaller scale experiment look like in your community?  You could try it (with the cooperation of transportation planners) on a temporary basis.  With signage and some orange cones, you might be on the way to building community support for expanded sidewalks, fewer lanes, and space for the al fresco dining space  that can bring your streets to life.