Revising Downtowns Post Recession


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Revising downtown economic development strategy - post recession.

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Revising Downtowns Post Recession

  1. 1. Downtown Idea Exchange Essential Information for Downtown Revitalization July 2011 Perspectives Revising downtown efforts for the post-recession economy By Charles Eckenstahler economic development process, while others are consulted when the need arises to address Over the past year, I have been con- specific downtown development matters. ducting an informal survey of friends and col- Regardless of the role of the downtown organi- leagues responsible for downtown revitaliza- zation in the overall economic development tion throughout the Midwest. All of those strategy, there are several trends that will interviewed acknowledged that local commu- reshape the work that downtown organiza- nities cannot rely totally on federal and state tions/community planners contribute to the stimulus programs to replace lost businesses economic development process. and jobs. Leaders in every community believe • Oversupply of retail space will focus site an active downtown revitalization program selection decision making on positive demo- will be mandatory in the future. These pro- graphic and household income growth. The grams must address a new and different post- role of population and socio-economic forecasts recessionary local economy, the one now will become the “community calling card” — being formed right before their eyes. notifying the marketplace about the number of Aggressive communities are responding households and the growth of their income, fore- to the challenge of this new economic envi- casting the ability to support new retail business- ronment by working with local/regional lead- es, especially in downtown locations. ers reviewing past economic development • Unoccupied retail, office and industrial efforts, and discussing ways to transform buildings will be pursued by developers local/regional economic development strate- for re-purposing due to deflated purchase gies and programs in response to their vision prices. Comprehensive plans and zoning of the post-recession economy. regulations should be modified to allow To fast track growth of the local economy re-purposing of former industrial and commer- at the first sign of economic recovery (which cial buildings. may now be happening), they are actively • Decreasing property values will retooling downtown revitalization strategies, increase pressure to use land for its highest adapting the best traditional tools, and identi- economic potential, which equates to the fying new economic practices. greatest tax valuation. This will encourage Some downtown organizations are active- designating more easily-developable higher- ly involved on a daily basis in the community value land, and support its quick development. This article was reprinted from the July 2011 issue of Downtown Idea Exchange.Interested readers may subscribe to the monthly newsletter by visiting or phoning (973) 265-2300. © 2011 Alexander Communications Group, Inc. All rights reserved.No part of this article may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior written permission of Alexander Communications Group.
  2. 2. • Lender financing for front end costs Large developments will be broken downrequired to obtain approvals has vanished. into smaller phased increments, size matchedDevelopers will seek public help in funding to reduced market demand and availablethese, plus assurances of timing and decision financing.certainty before undertaking new development • Development regulations requiringprojects. Costs and expenses incurred in the installation of infrastructure in advance ofdevelopment approval process should be need in large-scaled multi-year develop-streamlined. ment projects should be reconsidered, • Increased incentives will be required especially when infrastructure installationto recruit private developer interest. guarantees or performance bonds are required;Expanded incentives may be necessary to and creative public funding assistance shouldattract private investors in community-devel- be explored when such infrastructure is crucialopment sponsored projects that would likely and cannot be guaranteed by the viewed as unattractive in today’s private Downtown development and planningreal estate investment market. will assume greater importance in the overall • Quality of life factors and job proxim- community economic development strategyity, especially in central business districts, due to the need for greater high-value realwill play a greater role in the selection of estate, increased incentives, and expandedplaces to live, especially for young people inducements to attract commitments for pub-just finishing their educations, bringing to lic sponsored development projects.downtown certain skill sets sought by busi- At no time in history have communitynesses that have future growth and expansion leaders faced the economic development chal-capabilities. lenges of today. There is no doubt that profes- sional downtown developers and community Placemaking efforts to increase communi- planners will have an increased role in thisty quality of life, especially in the central strategic economic development district, will become a top priority in Author note: This paper was originallyefforts to increase population growth, espe- prepared for presentation at the 2010 Purduecially of young talented workers and families University North Central Topics in Regionalwith children. Economic Development program. • Speed and certainty in processing Chuck Eckenstahler (AICP Retired), semi-retiredgovernmental approvals will distinguish in 2008 from a 35-year career as an active full-timedevelopment-friendly communities. Speed municipal planning, economic development andand certainty will be used as recruitment tools real estate consultant. He can be contacted atto entice development interest. or (219) 861-2077. DIX © 2011 Alexander Communications Group, Inc. All rights reserved.