Dogs and downtown: Growing demand for pet-friendly spaces

06/26/17

As the number of downtown residents and pedestrians increases, the desire for pet friendly spaces has also grown. This has created a conflict in many communities, where downtown green space is at a premium, and not everyone agrees that pets are a welcome user group for these spaces. However, several trends point toward pet-friendly community policies as a potentially vital element of future downtown revitalization.

Effective design review in historic commercial districts

05/22/17

As most of us who deal with downtown and community development know, it is the historic character of the central commercial district that sets one neighborhood or community apart from others. That visual appearance and character affects what people think about the entire area, and can aid in business recruitment and retention, and make it attractive for people to invest, spend time, or even live in the district. Preserving that character, however, doesn’t happen on its own. Communities of all sizes have enacted local tools to aid in protecting this irreplaceable asset. Things like historic preservation ordinances, landmark or preservation commissions, financial incentives, design guidelines, and design review are all common and effective tools.

By proclamation, Governor Scott Walker declared August 22, 2017 Wisconsin Main Street Day. The day included the announcement of the newest Wisconsin Main Street Program participant, Milwaukee’s Historic King Drive, as well as celebrations and ribbon-cuttings in 11 other communities: Ashland, De Pere, Fond du Lac, La Crosse, Port Washington, Princeton, Ripon, Shullsburg, Tomah, Viroqua and Wausau.

Promotion positions the downtown or commercial district as the center of the community and hub of economic activity, while creating a positive image that showcases a community’s unique characteristics.  -Main Street America™

During New Director Training, I spend a considerable amount of time helping new directors consider their district brand. In this article, I’ll walk you through some of the considerations we go over during the training, to serve as a refresher (or for those who may have gone through this training some time ago).

Wisconsin Main Street directors and volunteers, as well as Connect Communities representatives and even a few Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) regional economic development directors, gathered in Madison on July 31 and Aug. 1 for a training for new Wisconsin Main Street directors. While this day-and-a-half-long training is required for any new directors of designated Wisconsin Main Street programs, it is also open (on an optional basis) to volunteers and local Connect Communities participants. The first day is filled with an in-depth exploration of the Main Street Approach, sharing the history and breaking the Four Points™ (design, economic vitality, organization and promotion) into easy to understand concepts peppered with examples from the downtown development team’s years of experience.

Too often, community enhancement conversations start with a conversation about elements that are perceived to be missing. For example, discussions might center on how to fund a new pool, splash pad, bike rack or parking lots—but seldom do these conversations include an assessment of the utility of existing infrastructure: How are the existing streetscape and built infrastructure performing? What is the potential for past investments to evolve and reflect current needs? Can we get more use out of these items before we add something new? It is all too easy to overlook the existing infrastructure, but as the examples below prove, examining it with fresh eyes can result in unexpected and impactful projects.