The most recent issue in the Planner’s Portfolio series focuses on Revitalizing Downtowns.
The idea of a “downtown” brings images of bustling shops, outdoor seating, and community events to mind for many people. It is often a walkable destination integrated into the surrounding neighborhoods; they can be found in both Mature Neighborhoods and Growing Suburbs (for more information on Mature Neighborhoods and Growing Suburbs, see Issue 1 of the Planner’s Portfolio Series—Character Areas). Streets typically have improved pedestrian amenities, such as wider sidewalks, benches, and enhanced crosswalks. Mixed land uses, with a range of building sizes and density, lead to unique character and identity for these areas.
Real estate trends in recent years show an increased desire for homes within or near a vibrant and walkable downtown area. The Central Places, or downtowns, of Delaware County generally developed around mass transit hubs or intersections of roadways. This historical development patterns gives these communities a distinct advantage in a market with an appetite for walkable downtowns. Communities can look to other downtowns in the region as models of success and follow similar steps toward improvement.
In all of the case studies highlighted in this document, the efforts taken by the community and nonprofit organizations have inspired growth and bustling downtowns. It is important to note that different communities are nearly always at different stages in this progression and that a thriving downtown does not occur overnight, but rather an accumulation of efforts over time.
In Lansdowne Borough, for example, the Lansdowne Economic Development Corporation (LEDC) formed in 1998 to address a decline in business and increase in vacancy. The group worked to streamline improvement efforts by unifying a vision for the community and acting as the coordinating organization for all of the stakeholders involved. In the spring of 2011, LEDC worked with Lansdowne and Yeadon Borough to start an Elm Street Program to apply similar revitalization efforts to the surrounding residential neighborhoods.
These case studies are a brief summary of how each downtown has taken steps toward positive change over the years, which may serve as a model for your community.