Why does downtown matter?
I’ve been asked why downtowns matter to small towns. Why should you invest your time and money into revitalizing your downtown? What makes it more important than any other area of town? What about that highway frontage? Or the edge of town where the discounters locate?
In our Survey of Rural Challenges, people ranked downtown as one of the top challenges, 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2021. It doesn’t matter whether you call it your Main Street, High Street or town centre, you’re not alone if it’s a challenge.
Joe Borgstrom with Place and Main said that your downtown is your front door, barometer, recruiting tool and collectively a large employer.
Don’t miss those last two: collectively, your downtown is both a recruiting tool and a large employer. Make sure downtown businesses have a seat at the table for economic and community development decisions.
Downtown matters because it represents your town as a whole. One mayor said downtown is like the core of an apple. No one wants a mushy core.
If your downtown buildings are mostly boarded up windows or empty storefronts, that represents your town to everyone who drives through town. If your downtown is busy with lots of businesses, that represents you, too. And you have the power to change your downtown from empty and boarded up to busy and full of life.
Downtown is a symbol of the social connections we yearn for.
We have a drive to be better connected with other people. We want to belong to something. We want to be able to trust our community members. We want to be social. That’s easiest to imagine happening on downtown sidewalks and streets, not highway frontage or discounters on the edge of town.
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