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Tips For Revitalizing Your Town's Downtown

City of Port Arthur Downtown Revitalization Plan

As an Urban Planner, we’re often tasked with the great responsibility of helping a community revitalize a neighborhood, a public gathering place, a downtown area, etc. In doing so we try our best to maintain the community’s character while elevating their existing qualities and remaining competitive.

Here are some things for cities to keep in mind as they give new life to their downtown:

Assess Your Community’s Character

Community character refers to the distinct identity of a place. It is the collective impression a neighborhood or town/downtown makes on residents and visitors. A community’s character is defined by its “ingredients” or assets: natural features and landmarks, visual and aesthetic qualities, and demographics.

To break it down further:

Natural Features and Landmarks

  • Bodies of water
  • Topography
  • Museums, theaters, plazas and parks

Visual and Aesthetic Qualities

  • Architecture and historical structures
  • Streetscape and landscaping
  • Public spaces
  • Signage
  • Public art

Demographics

  • Population distribution
  • Household size
  • Educational attainment
  • Household income

 

Protect Your Community’s Character

So how do you protect a community’s character?

  1. Build plans around its existing assets and enhance them. It’s important to educate and communicate to residents and developers the community’s character as they themselves may not know what it is.
  2. Establish a regulatory framework that communicates the development intent and helps implement the vision.
  3. Continuously market and brand your downtown to further reinforce the vision. This can be done through signage, public art, community events, etc.

 

Remain Competitive

In order to grow and attract future residents or tourists, you have to remain competitive. Knowing what similar communities are doing can not only help spark some ideas for your own community but also help you remain ahead of the competition. But having cool and unique assets doesn’t cut it. You need to have the support of the community because they’re the ones who add character to your town or city. Listening to their needs and wants can help immensely in creating a vision for your community that they’ll support.

Protecting a community’s character and remaining competitive will require some level of investment. Freese and Nichols’ Urban Planning + Design Team and I have helped numerous communities in creating a vision for their city or town that future generations will enjoy. We can help you invest in your community and its needs.

 

Shad Comeaux is a Freese and Nichols urban planner in the Pearland office.

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Tagsurban planning, urban design, downtown revitalization, landscape architecture, streetscape,