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.


Central Social Districts / Central Social Functions Downtowns and Modern Technologies Downtown Retail Crime and Downtown Revitalization

Central Social Districts/Central Social Functions

In recent years, David’s attention has had a strong focus on downtown Central Social Districts (CSDs) and am update of that concept, Central Social Functions (CSFS). Here is a listing of links to the related articles and presentations.

CENTRAL SOCIAL DISTRICTS. This article provides David’s fullest presentation of his ideas about Central Social Districts with detailed examples of their major functions and venues. He argues that CSDs are just as an important component of strong downtowns as their CBDs, and their relative strength is growing.

Let’s Recognize and Leverage the Opportunities the Covid Crisis Has Given Our Downtowns.  Since the early stages of the Covid19 crisis, our downtowns, especially the larger ones, have been pictured in the media to be either in serious decline or on the verge of failure. While there have been strong analyses that refute such arguments, there has been little recognition of the fact that a robust crisis can not only be destructive and create serious problems, but also new or expanded opportunities for our large downtowns to grow and prosper. Many of these opportunities are associated with a downtowns Central Social Functions. These growth opportunities also are appearing robustly in many suburban downtowns. The intent of this article is to attract attention to some of these crisis generated growth opportunities – such as reverse remote work, and downtown havens for hybrid offices –so downtown leaders and stakeholders can start to take meaningful positive active steps to help their districts recover. Published in IEDC’s Economic Development Journal, Fall 2022.

Strong Central Social Districts: The Keys to Vibrant Downtowns. This article provides David’s briefest presentation of his ideas about Central Social Districts

A Search for a Clearer and More Useful Vocabulary for Talking About and Analyzing Downtowns. In this article, David argues for the use of clearer language about our downtowns in order to avoid a number of conceptual confusions, and to pay more attention to downtown functions than its geographic districts or subdistricts. CBDs and CBFs are parts of their downtowns, along with CSDs and CSFs — but CBDs and downtowns are not interchangeable terms or synonyms.

The power of central social districts. This is the first part of a very probing interview of David by Rob Steuteville, the editor of CNU’s Public Square journal, about CSDs.,movie%20theater%2C%20and%20nine%20restaurants.

Supporting evolving Central Social Districts. This is part 2 of Rob’s interview of David.

The Strengths of Some Central Social Functions in Our Largest Downtowns as We Recover from the Covid Crisis. David assesses the strengths and weakness of CSFs as downtown recovery unfolds.

Are the Challenges Our Larger Downtowns Now Face Properly Scoped Out? Properly scoping out these challenges places CSFs and CBFs in a better and more actionable  prospective. Too many of the putative problems are still poorly scoped out.

Toward a General Strategy for Small Town Economic Development.  The strengthening of their downtown CSF venues are a key part of this strategy. And even prior to the Covid pandemic David was stressing the growth potential of remote work for these communities.

  About 15 Minute Geographies

These 15-minute geographies can mesh nicely with strong downtown CSF functions and venues, so David has paid a good deal of attention to the discussions and analyses of them.

Non- Autarkic, Easy to Define, Pedestrian Friendly, and Residentially Centric 15-Minute Neighborhoods/Cities? David identifies a number of conceptual issues that have led many analyses of these geographies astray, and recommends that in addition to walkable 15 minute core areas, 15 minute areas accessed by other transportation means should be considered. He also argues that low auto presence is not a defining characteristic of a 15 minute neighborhood, but of a preferred, desired or highly esteemed type of  such a geography.  

A 15-minute city in rural America. David and Bill Ryan  show how rural Laramie, WY, is a 15 minute city, with a core walkable 15 minute downtown. Viable 15-minute geographies are not limited to dense urban areas.

The Vibrant 15-minute Geographies of Suburban Morristown, NJ.  Counter to some claims, David and Bill Ryan show that a suburban town can have a strong walkable 15 minute downtown area and a strong 15-minute access area accessed via auto use. This article also demonstrates that viable 15-minute geographies are not confined to dense urban areas.

Public Spaces

Strengthening downtown public spaces in our smaller communities. There is a surprising paucity of vibrant well activated public spaces in our downtowns, especially in our suburban and independent rural cities. David outlines three major functions that strong public spaces perform and then details strategic steps that will make them viable in our smaller downtowns. Among them are: sufficient shade and seating, having a strong location; knowing and targeting programing at t most likely visitors/users of these spaces, and adding features that do not require full-time staff for visitors to use them.

Bryant Park: The Quintessential Downtown Informal Entertainment Venue – Part 1. This is the first of a three part series in which David analyzes Bryant Park as a model “informal entertainment venue.” In such venues, visitors are both the entertainment performers, and the audience, and people watching is king.   

Bryant Park Part 2: a comparison to other entertainment venues on attracting tourists, user frictions and costs to create or significantly renovate. This article shows how Bryant Park can draw more visitors than most of Manhattan’s acclaimed cultural and entertainment venues. It also argues that these informal entertainment venues cost less to create, less to operate and have fewer user frictions than the formal entertainment venues such as theaters, museums, arenas, etc.

Bryant Park: Part 3: a comparison to other entertainment venues on annual expenditures and annual expenditures per visitor. This article supports the contention that informal entertainment venues have much lower annual expenditures per visitor than do the formal entertainment venues.

Three Informal Entertainment Venues in Smaller Communities: Bryant Park Series, Article 4. Downtown Curmudgeon Blog. in this article David uses much of the analytical framework he applied to Bryant Park to look at three well activated public spaces in the smaller cities of Greenport, NY, Valparaiso, IN, and Somerville, NJ.

Formal Arts and Entertainment Venues

Their Legacy Layer of Challenges Structure How Our Entertainment and Arts/Cultural Venues Are Coping With the Covid19 Crisis. Crises have a way of making pre-existing problems far more severe, and many arts/cultural organizations were facing significant losses in their audiences, and consequent financial problems, well before the pandemic appeared. The crisis just enhanced those challenges.

THE IMPACTS OF ARTS EVENTS VENUES ON SMALLER  DOWNTOWNS.  This article aims at showing revitalization leaders in our smaller downtowns that an arts engine growth strategy must be carefully crafted because arts advocates too often exaggerate or are ignorant about potential impacts. For example, while about 50% of an arts venue’s potential impact comes from the expenditures of the organization that operates it, few of those dollars are likely to be captured by nearby downtown shops because the business mix is too thin, and the vendors used are not located in the downtown. Also, the expenditures of the venue’s audiences are mainly for food and lodging, not retail. Impact studies using input-output models will not meet the information needs of downtown stakeholders because they are meant to deal with larger geographic entities such as counties, and don’t work on smaller geographies such as smaller downtowns.

“Let’s Get Real About: The Arts As An Important Downtown Revitalization Tool — Redux. Part 1.” Downtown Curmudgeon Blog, June 18, 2017. While the arts as an engine of economic growth seemed to be growing in popularity, few local leaders were recognizing that for audience facing venues most of their audience and most of their private donors would need to be from households well into the the nation’s top quintile of household incomes. Most arts organizations also use a very unstable hybrid business model that combines admission revenues and various types of contributions. As a result a host of them are financially in the red.

Let’s Get Real About: The Impacts of the Arts on Smaller Downtowns. The Arts As An Important Downtown Revitalization Tool — Redux. Part 2. This is a deep dive on analyzing arts impacts on our smaller downtowns.

 Let’s Get Real About: The Potential Audiences for Events at Arts Venues in Smaller Downtowns Part 3.  The focus in this is on the potential audiences for the events arts venues might put on. Audience preferences and behaviors are changing and create significant challenges for those programming arts venues.

 Downtown Movie Theaters Will Be Increasingly In Great Danger”, Downtown Trends Assessment 2008, DANTH, Inc. March 2008.  Downtown movie houses can be key downtown attractions or hard to redevelop blights. Under competitive pressure since the introduction of TV, the appearance of other means of electronic delivery meant that by 2008 the vast majority of the films Americans watched were at home, not in a cinema.                                                                        

Many Downtown Movie Theaters Have Closed: Some Lessons For Downtown Organizations. This article focused on what downtown organizations could do to help their cinema operators cross the “digital divide” created by the Hollywood movies studios.

Downtown Formal Entertainment Venues Part 4: Movie Theaters. Downtown Curmudgeon Blog. May 25, 2014. While downtown movie theaters were still threatened, many more crossed the digital divide than expected, and in doing so they utilized a range of new revitalization tools such as crowd funding and community owned businesses that enhances their abilities to deal with similar threats in the future.

SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT STUDIES OF THE ECONOMIC IMPACTS OF DOWNTOWN ENTERTAINMENT VENUES Part 1.  This article gets into the questions associated with a downtown perspective that downtown impact studies should address, but are usually ignored.

Part 2: SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT STUDIES OF THE ECONOMIC IMPACTS OF DOWNTOWN ENTERTAINMENT VENUES. This article gets into various research tools that can be used to study the impacts of downtown entertainment venues.

 PART 3 – SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT STUDIES OF THE ECONOMIC IMPACTS OF DOWNTOWN ENTERTAINMENT VENUES. This article looks at some useful tools for assessing the impacts of parks and public spaces on real estate. This is among the best downtown impact research David has found.

The New Normal’s Challenges to Developing a Downtown Entertainment Niche Based on Formal Entertainments: Part 1

 The New Normal’s Challenges to Developing a Downtown Entertainment Niche Based on Formal Entertainments: Part 2 the audiences; revised 041214

Downtown Formal Entertainment Venues: Part 3

No, We Are Not Facing a Restaurant or Retail Industry Apocalypse. Some industries were not doing as badly as their industry associations were claiming.

Downtown Restaurants: the Cornerstones for Strong Entertainment and Hospitality Niches and a Vibrant Central Social District. Downtown Curmudgeon Blog. February 2015. Here’s why restaurants are the key ingredient for having strong downtown Central Social Functions.

CSFs in Smaller Downtowns

Central Social Districts: more details and discussion  is a presentation David made for the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission in 2017. It is a very comprehensive look at CSDS/CSFs in suburban and rural towns and cities.

Arts and entertainment functions can be strong CSF elements. However, their impacts are too often misunderstood, especially in smaller communities, say those with population below 25,000. That too often has led to poor strategic revitalization choices. 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. 


Determining if Your Town, Downtown, or Main Street Tourist Industry Needs a Program to Become More Sustainable There is a very strong tie between downtown tourism and its Central Social Function venues that, unfortunately as this article in the IEDC’s Economic Development Journal explains, can be a huge asset or a troubling liability. People do not visit downtowns to see other people working, but they do visit to enjoy its restaurants, bars, coffeeshops, parks and public spaces, museums, art galleries, concert halls, theaters, nightclubs, social clubs, places of worship, historic sites, etc. However, increasingly, downtowns with strong attractions are finding that the tourist flows they bring in are so large that there is over-tourism, i,e., an over abundance of visitors that threatens the very magnetism and the essential character of these attractions that the tourists come to enjoy. In this article, David explains the challenge and presents some diagnostic questions downtown leaders can use to determine if they have an over-tourism problem.  

Downtowns and Modern Technologies

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.”

Downtown Retail

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.” 

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. Published in 2011, David was one of the earliest to advocate this marketing approach to downtown merchants. 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. Though published back in 2005, most of its key arguments remain relevant and useful. For example:

  • There are several types of recruitment programs, differing in their objectives, costs, assets and liabilities. Which one is selected can make a big difference. 
  • Networking is a critical needed skill
  • You don’t need to act like a commercial broker if you have good connections to effective brokers.
  • Without landlord participation a recruitment program cannot be viable, and there are steps to take to foster such cooperation
  • The importance of knowing where you are on your redevelopment arc and being able to demonstrate that the arc is in a positive direction to prospects
  • Many recruitment marketing efforts fail because the tools selected either do not match program objectives or demand too much time for busy people to take in.

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.”

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, well before Porter,  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.

Crime and Downtown Revitalization

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).

Small Town Economic Development Strategy

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