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The New Normal for Downtowns Series of Articles on the Downtown Curmudgeon

It  has become readily apparent to us that most downtowns across the nation are facing a “new normal” in which many of them are prospering, but consumer behavior, retailing, office use and development, participation in entertainment activities, housing, parking and mass transportation use have changed significantly. Consequently, beginning in October 2013, all of the articles appearing in our Downtown Curmudgeon blog have focused on this subject. We expect that this new normal series will last well into 2017. We have described the characteristics of the new normal, including, the expectation that downtowns will succeed, their lower crime rates and their far greater popularity as places to live and spend quality time with friends and family. Also detailed were the new challenges the new normal is bringing to retail, office and housing development. Attention then shifted to the growing importance of downtowns as Central Social Districts. In many downtowns, the performance of these functions  will surpass the importance of their Central Business District functions.

Here are the articles in that series:

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Small Town and Suburban Revitalization Strategies

DANTH’s president, David Milder, will be giving several presentations at The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission’s Roundtable Series: New Normal for Downtowns in Philadelphia, PA on Friday, March 31, 2017

He gave several presentations at the IIRA 28th Annual Rural Community and Economic Development Conference in Springfield, IL, on March 8-9, 2017

DANTH teamed up with SEH, an architectural and engineering firm, on a project to develop a market-driven revitalization strategy for Sherwood, WI, (population about 2,700) that covered retail, office, residential and entertainment growth. Though Sherwood’s population is relatively small, it has had an exceptional growth rate and that, combined with a number of demographic and geographic characteristics, meant that this project was both challenging and interesting. You can download the report from here . The firms again teamed up for a similar project in downtown Gering, NE.

DANTH’s president David Milder and Andrew Dane of SEH gave a presentations about the Sherwood project at the APA conference in Chicago on April 17, 2013. They also authored an article, “Some Thoughts on the Economic Revitalization of Small Town Downtowns,” based largely on their experiences on the Sherwood project. It can be downloaded from the website of the Economic Development Journal of Canada. They followed up with “Some More Thoughts on the Economic Revitalization of Small Town Downtowns: Financial Tools,” also published by Economic Development Journal of Canada in November, 2014. It can be found here

David also posted two in-depth articles to our Downtown Curmudgeon blog that were heavy on content about small town downtown revitalization. The first, “Three Informal Entertainment Venues in Smaller Communities” appeared in December , 2014,  and analyzed Division Street Plaza in downtown Somerville, NJ; Central Park Plaza in downtown Valparaiso, IN, and Mitchell Park in downtown Greenport, NY. It can be found here .

That was followed in February of 2015 by “Restaurants: the Cornerstones for Strong Entertainment and Hospitality Niches and a Vibrant Central Social District.”  It had a section focused on restaurants in small downtowns. It argues that small downtowns can have what seems like a surprising number of eateries and watering holes because the market share they need to capture to have financial viability is much lower than most other retail operations and their rents and labor costs are often relatively low. On the other hand, their profit potential is usually too low to attract really good operators, a critical factor for a restaurant to succeed.  The article can be found at:  http://tinyurl.com/otbjfg4

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Multichannel Retailing

Based on our downtown trends analyses and our recent projects in Morristown, NJ and Long Island City, NY, DANTH has expended a lot of time and effort to develop a comprehensive approach to downtown multichannel retailing. This approach includes a lot more than admonishments to merchants to get on the web and use the social media. David Milder has written a Research Paper on it that is available from the Downtown Revitalization drop down menu above.

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The Continuing  Reassessment of Our Own Use of the Internet and Social Media

As our recent update of our website shows,  we are committed to a periodic program of reassessing our own e-commerce activities. David Milder has written an article, “E-Marketing: How EDOs Can Help Independent Downtown Merchants Engage Effectively in E-Marketing,” based on our experience during this reassessment process. It was published in the Summer 2013 issue of the IEDC’s Economic Development Journal. IEDC members can download it here.

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Potential for Growing a Restaurant Niche

Increasingly, restaurant niches are critical revitalization engines in downtowns of all sizes and in all types of geographic locations   We have completed a very thorough assessment of the growth potential of the restaurant niche in the Queens Plaza commercial core for the Long Island City Partnership. This turned into a much more complex and interesting project than we expected because of the sizable new office worker, residential and hotel guest markets that had to be researched and because the most important trade areas are very close-in, defined by walking distances, not drive times or mass transit travel times. This report’s executive summary is available here on our website at: http://www.ndavidmilder.com/danth-reports .