Here are a few of the findings, as well as some practical takeaways on the impacts and actions that might be necessary….
Take away: Has your community sought to address issues of housing affordability? Do your housing incentives support the creation of affordable housing, for people from both low and moderate income bands? Does your downtown zoning framework outline a clear and transparent process for development, one that offers developers the ability to ascertain costs and development timeline with some degree of precision?
Takeaway: We still don’t know what this means, and quite frankly in my opinion, our zoning framework is probably not prepared to accommodate these changes without significant alternations. Keep your eye on what cities of your ilk are doing as they respond to the changing dynamics of parking.
Infrastructure investments are critical, but don’t hold your breath for public money to solve the problem. The need to invest in downtown infrastructure has never been more acute. Deferred maintenance on things from the water supply and distribution, road and bridges, rail and public transportation access, etc. will be our undoing. The cities and downtowns that address these issues will retain a competitive advantage over those that don’t.
Takeaway: Is your city positioned to take advantage of this trend? Food destinations are usually places where food offerings are clustered. The experience of choosing a place to eat become almost as interesting as the meal itself. In some places these are called “restaurant rows”, though food trucks are muscling in on restaurant territory in some places. Is your organization marketing your food options adequately through social media? Do your events give food establishments opportunities to introduce themselves to new customers? Have you found ways to add complimentary experiences – including street buskers, nice places to stroll after dinner…what I call ambient or impulse entertainment? Since most dining happens at night – what is the arrival experience? Is parking adequate and is it safe and comfortable to walk to and from a car? Can you encourage retailers to remain open later on some nights to give diners another thing to do before or after they eat? The list goes on…
Takeaway – Don’t despair, this means that regional banks will likely fill in the gap. Have you developed relationships with your local regional banks? Do you have access to – or can you create – dedicated lending tools to help promote development and investment in your district? Projects in the $20 million to $50 million range are what ULI suggests are the sweet spot for smaller investments. Have you looked at your district with an eye towards cultivating developers and projects – either new development or reuse – that meet this criteria?
Finding a way to incorporate these trends into downtown and commercial district strategic planning efforts will remain critical in the coming years. So good luck!
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