Downtown Revitalization

Through publications and public presentations, David Milder has had a long-time policy of sharing his research and program development findings with other professionals involved in downtown and neighborhood revitalization efforts. He believes it is part of his responsibility as a member of the downtown revitalization community because he has learned so much from other members. Many of these documents and Powerpoint presentations are presented below and can be downloaded at no cost. All of these documents were done by David as the owner and founder of  DANTH, Inc.

In recent years, David’s attention has had a strong focus on downtown Central Social Districts (CSDs). Arts and entertainment functions are strong CSD elements. Their impacts are too often misunderstood, especially in smaller communities, say those with population below 25,000. See:  The Impacts of Arts Events Venues on Smaller Downtowns  published in the IEDC’s Economic Development Journal (EDJ). David has also been concerned about how smaller downtowns can develop stronger downtown public spaces. In his article, ” Strengthening downtown public spaces in our smaller communities,” , published in the Journal of Urban Regeneration and Renewal  (JURR), he analyzes the importance of their location, their potential user segments, and how they mesh with other important downtown functions. 

David has also been paying a lot of attention to how modern technologies are impacting our downtowns today  and may impact them in the future. One concern has been the growth in remote work that has been sparked by the Corvid19 crisis and how it may influence our urban, suburban and rural downtowns in quite different ways. See: “Remote work: An example of how to identify a downtown-related trend breeze that probably will outlast the COVID-19 crisis,” that was published in the JURR.  Another concern has been automated vehicles: when they really are likely to appear, and why their adoption as a public transit mode may be very difficult to achieve because the key to AV success is ride sharing, something that has not been all that popular in the past, and promises to remain unpopular in the future. Of course, there’s also the issue of how we will get rid of over 256 million legacy combustion engine vehicles. See David’s article in an earlier issue of the JURR,  “Let’s get real about self-driving cars: The transition will take a significant amount of time.”

Over the past decade, David has paid a substantial amount of attention in his Downtown Curmudgeon blog to the creative destruction occurring in the retail industry and how that has been impacting our downtowns. The Covid19 crisis has accelerated these changes, and what downtown retail will look like as we emerge from this crisis. See his article “LET’S GET REAL ABOUT DOWNTOWN RETAIL COMING BACK.” 

Crime and Revitalization. In the early 1980s, David, working with Regional Plan Association and the Citizens Crime Commission of NYC, developed a program to address the adverse impacts the fear of crime was having on downtown revitalization. The project was funded by the National Institute of Justice and many major corporations such as Mobil, Time, Chase, etc. Urban Land published an article about the project’s major findings which can be downloaded by using the above link.

Unfortunately, in the past few years, public disorder has again reared its ugly head and again threatens the socio-economic well being of our downtowns, be they large or small, or urban, suburban or rural. Today’s public disorder problem is more multi-faceted and complex than it was in the past, and that is making it far more difficult to face and resolve.  See David’s article “The Accelerating Resurgence of the Threat of Public Disorder for Our Downtowns,” that was published in The American Downtown Revitalization Review (The ADRR).

Toward a General Strategy for Small Town Economic Development. Since 2010, David has been trying to figure out a viable approach to stimulating meaningful economic development in our smaller communities that: considers current realities, leverages likely local assets and does not threaten the scale and lifestyles that make these communities attractive to close to 70 million Americans. This is a major research paper — 32 pages long — that brings together his work on Central Social Districts, quality of life residential and business recruitment, contingent workers, and small business e-commerce capabilities. Teaming up with Bill Ryan, David also explored the power of live-work as a downtown revitalization strategy in smaller cities with populations between 25,000 and 75,000 in seven states in the Midwest. Housing is recognized as a powerful growth engine for our larger downtowns, especially the variant that involves people who both live and work in the district. Looking at downtowns in 259 Midwestern cities, those in the suburbs have had some residential growth, though they have low numbers of live-workers, while those that are in rural regional commercial centers have had practically no growth, yet have live-work levels on a level equal to most of our largest downtowns, though certainly not the levels of the superstars. A key factor is the residents’ preferences for rural and suburban lifestyles. See: “Living and Working Downtown: IS IT A POPULATION GROWTH ENGINE FOR SMALL CITIES?” that was also published in the EDJ

Downtown Multichannel Retailing. This is a major research paper on the challenges multichannel retailing is posing for independent downtown merchants and what downtown organizations can do to help them transition into this new retail world. Today, over 80% of all retail sales involve the Internet and merchants not in on the search are unlikely to be in on the sale. Not all merchants will be impacted, but those that are either need to adapt or be left behind. That said, their online presence often need not be complex or costly, but it should be based on the merchant’s marketing objectives, financial resources, and skill sets. See David’s article in the EDJ:  “E-Marketing: How EDOs can Help independent Downtown Merchants Engage Effectively in E-marketing.”

Niche Revitalization Strategies. This PowerPoint presentation is a comprehensive update to David’s 1997 book, Niche Strategies for Downtown Revitalization, but it can be fully understood by those who have not read that book. Niche strategies are a basic component of David’s approach to downtown revitalization.

Downtown Business Recruitment Book.  Most downtown organizations of all sizes should be doing business recruitment and they can if their personnel know what to do. This book is designed to empower district managers, their staffs, and even board members to successfully engage in business recruitment while avoiding a number of common pitfalls. In more recent years, David has been looking a business recruitment in our small cities and towns and found that areas with strong quality of life assets can be quite effective in attracting residents with creative occupational skills, and that often open new businesses. See his article in the EDJ “Quality-of-Life Based RETAIL RECRUITMENT.”

Downtown Trends. Another important component of David’s approach to downtown revitalization is his knowledge about the key economic and social trends that are impacting upon the revitalization process. To this end, every five years he conducted an assessment of these trends. This link will take you to a page where you can download several of our working papers from our assessment for the 2008 to 2013 lustrum.  The research on multichannel retailing and the deliberate consumer presented elsewhere on this page are also products of our trends assessment. David now does the trends analysis on an ongoing basis and publishes his findings in his Downtown Curmudgeon blog.

The Deliberate Consumer.  This presentation is about one of the most defining characteristics of the new normal that downtowns are now facing, a consumer who is less impulsive and more deliberate in making expenditures, often because of fewer financial resources and greater feelings of financial insecurity.

The Superstore Quandary.  This is one of the few really well-researched articles on the impact of “superstores” on a downtown. David looked closely at what happened when a downtown shopping center in Rutland, VT was revamped and brought in a Walmart, Price Chopper and TJ Maxx.

Ethnic Downtowns. This slide presentation is the result of many projects that David did in such places as Jamaica, NY, The Bronx, West New York, NJ and Elizabeth, NJ. He was among the first to identify the strong consumer spending power that could be tapped by merchants in these districts and to detail the national and regional retail chains that like to do business in ethnic downtowns.

Perspectives Columns.  The Downtown Idea Exchange has published a number of Perspectives columns written by DANTH’s president David Milder. Several of them are presented here that cover such topics as retail raptors, time-pressured consumers, hair and nail salons, the politics of downtown development, etc.

Facades.  While managing the Town Center SID in Bayonne, NJ, David helped develop the innovative Jump Start facade improvement program. Some information about it is available by clicking on the link. David also has collected many photos of retail chain facades and formats that are downtown friendly.  These can be very useful when the chains, developers or landlords need to be “convinced” into creating a more downtown friendly store.