Friday, November 22nd, 2019

Downtown revitalization topic of Lunch ’n Learn

Posted: Friday, September 6, 2019

Economic development in large and small communities hinges on a healthy downtown according to the Urban Land Institute, based in Washington D.C. The institute’s studies show that downtowns are the heart and soul of any community.

In accord with this idea, the Huntington County Chamber of Commerce will hold a Lunch ’n Learn on Wednesday, October 23, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The seminar will feature John Bry, Principal Planner from the Oakland County, Michigan Main Street Program, and will be held at St. Peter’s First Community Church, 206 Etna Avenue.

The Oakland County, Michigan Main Street Program is the only county-wide Main Street Program in the nation, and encompasses 25 communities in the Metro Detroit area. The program includes downtown Detroit and the communities in the surrounding areas. Bry’s program is titled “Keeping Downtowns Vibrant in the Digital Age.” He will explain to those attending how to take steps to revitalize downtown areas.

Bry will teach his four tenants of revitalization of communities including Design, Organization, Promotion and Economic Vitality (DOPE). He brings 20 plus years of experience in community revitalization to the program.

Experts in downtown revitalization believe that people stay longer, come back more often and spend more money in a place that attracts their affection, and the community’s unique identity adds social and economic value to a place. Studies show that since 2006, 20 percent of shopping malls have closed and community leaders should think about how people are spending their money.

The same studies include active transportation, and show communities should work toward creating walking and biking options to get to a downtown center. This encompasses people who walk or bike to an area returning more often, and spending more time and money in the area.

Development is not about one big thing it includes many little things. Renovation of historic buildings, comfortable and predictable lodging, the reemergence of small retail, restaurants and an art presence were all a part of the study. A survey done by a large hotel corporation found young people, to include the millennial generation, were more interested in authenticity. As a result, hotels are beginning to build hotels in historic buildings in downtown areas.

Leaders in Huntington are currently focused on the revitalization of the downtown area. Rotary Centennial Park began the beautification process and investments have been made in several buildings and building storefronts toward future business occupation.

The restoration of the UB Block buildings is almost complete and promises to bring 37 market rate apartments, an art center, an entrepreneurial program, a commercial oven for the culinary arts, small retail spaces, businesses and more.

Nationally, leaders are optimistic about the future of cities and towns. They are coming back to life all over the country.

Those interested in learning more about revitalization of downtown areas, should contact the Huntington County Chamber of Commerce at (260) 356-5300 to RSVP for the event. The cost to attend is $10 and includes lunch. Download the flyer by clicking here.