No doubt about it, special events drive pedestrian traffic, but the once-a-year festival does not always result in sustained visitation over the long term. These events are also time and resource intensive, and can drain a downtown organization of the energy to take on other initiatives. An alternative approach to the once-a-year event is offering free entertainment on a regular basis that helps build your district ambiance. Ambient entertainment makes a visit to your district exciting and a place to visit – not just for the stores. Ambient entertainment encourages visitors to your district to linger, and the longer they stay, the more they window-shop, browse, and ultimately spend. In one community I visit frequently, local businesses have come to depend on the regular evening bocci tournaments that drive visitors. The pure joy of going to buy an ice cream and watch the old Italian men play bocci with my son in tow is one of my favorite summer activities.
As you consider ways to drive pedestrian traffic in your district, consider opportunities for both sanctioned and unsanctioned ambient entertainment, and take care to ensure that the entertainment you are offering is in line with the clientele likely to patronize local businesses.
With that, here are some of my favorite examples of ambient entertainment. Enjoy!
|The Carousel in Bryan Park, NY is maintained by a local Business Improvement District.|
|The twice-hourly light shows in Grand Central Station, NY make it a must-visit stop for residents and visitors alike, who then can’t help but eat and shop in local stores!|
|More from Grand Central….|
|Sidewalk artists are a great way to get people walking on the street…this community created a sidewalk artist competition.|
|My favorite…bocci at “Spagetti Park” in Corona, Queens. An ice cream goes perfectly with a stop by the courts to see the men in action.|
|Portrait artists are fun to watch, even if you don’t buy!|
|Fanieul Hall, in Boston, MA takes street performers seriously!|
|Tango performers in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In a city known for tango, this ambient entertainment is a perfect fit with the city’s brand.|
|Acrobats in action, Washington Square Park, NY|