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Tag: Welcoming

D.5.1 Placemaking & Wayfinding Signage

D.5.1 Placemaking & Wayfinding Signage

Action

Improve district and wayfinding signage.

Why

A successful downtown main street layout will include highly visible, easy-to-read, and decorative way-finding signage.  The goal is to have a positive experience for both the pedestrian and motorist who are navigating through the district.

How

There are numerous wayfinding and district signage plans available.  Once signage locations have been determined, it’s important to list all points of interest, municipal service locations, transit options, and other significant destinations.

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CMSC Webinar: CT Humanities Grant Funding for Main Street Projects

CMSC Webinar

CT Humanities Grant Funding for Main Street Projects

Webinar Summary

Are you looking for support for your public humanities projects on Main Street? Has your community started thinking how it will participate in the commemorations, celebrations, and reflections of the United States’ 250th anniversary? 

In this webinar, the CT Humanities Grant Team provides an overview of the grants they offer, what types of projects are eligible, the application process, as well as other resources available for our nation’s 250th anniversary.

What are the humanities?

“The humanities are fields of learning that help us understand and appreciate human history, culture, values, and beliefs.”

Initiatives that CT Humanities fund must fit into the definition of humanities. A initiative that is just focused on art without an opportunity for reflection, dialogue, or some sort of engagement would not qualify. A good example of a Main Street project that CT Humanities has funded is the Wethersfield Heritage Walk Expansion.


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About CT Humanities

Founded in 1974, Connecticut Humanities (CTH) is an independent, non-profit affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. CTH connects people to the humanities through grants, partnerships, and collaborative programs. CTH projects, administration, and program development are supported by state and federal matching funds, community foundations, and gifts from private sources.

Contact Info

The first step to applying to CT Humanities for the first time is to email the grants team at grants@cthumanities.org to discuss your project. This is a required step.

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CMSC Case Study: The Beatrice, NE, Approach to Defeating Negativity

CMSC Case Study

The Beatrice, NE Approach to Defeating Negativity

Webinar Summary

The community of Beatrice, Nebraska was struggling with negative perceptions and apathy after years of economic setbacks. Community leaders needed to take action to push back against the perception of negativity and defeatism.

In 2015, they came together and developed a plan to help facilitate change. By 2018, Beatrice was named the #1 micropolitan community in Nebraska—#14 nationally—for large scale (mostly manufacturing) economic development projects by Site Selection Magazine. Now, post-COVID Beatrice is working to gain back the momentum they had been building.

In this webinar, Michael Sothan, the Executive Director of Main Street Beatrice, shares the journey of changing the perception of Beatrice and six lessons learned along the way.

Presentation Highlights


  • The Problem

    Beatrice struggled for decades with the loss of jobs and businesses, a stagnating population, and a dilapidated downtown.

    Around 2013, an opinion piece in the local newspaper called out the town’s apathy as the root of the town’s decline around the same time a building downtown collapsed in on itself. The coincidence of these events became a defining moment for leaders of Beatrice to come together and actively fight against negativity and apathy.

  • The Solution

    Main Street, City government, the Chamber of Commerce, economic development, and public schools came together to create a plan to aggressively take on the negativity.

    The plan included a rebranding, façade improvement, and other projects. As a result:

    • Downtown Beatrice is home to over 180 businesses, a net gain of 31 shops since 2016. 
    • In the last 5 years, they have had more than 100 improvement projects totaling $12.5 million in investments.
  • Lessons Learned

    The first six lessons were included in the original case study article posted on Main Street America, lessons 7-10 CMSC added from observation. 

    1. Find the Forest through the Trees – Don’t get caught up in the day-to-day tasks of your work but keep focused on the big picture.
    2. Work Together (and think holistically) – The Public Schools were engaged to join the traditional economic development stakeholders. They had the deepest connections to Beatrice’s youth and the school system is a leading factor when people are considering making Beatrice their permanent home. The schools were experiencing the apathy firsthand, among students, staff, and in the community; they had also had a series of failed bond issues for a new elementary facility. They got involved to help role out the brand imagery, they incorporated it into their own uses school system-wide and helped Beatrice disseminate the message to and through the kids so it could get back home.
    3. Make a Plan
    4. Start Taking Action – No matter how small, action builds momentum. Something as simple as paint can make a big difference.
    5. Know that Set-Backs & Burnout Will Happen
    6. Be Honest & Positive – As economic development professionals, it’s easier to see potential and positivity because it is your job. However, most people do not see that. Being overtly positive and not recognizing the negativity will not be accepted by the community as authentic or trustworthy. Remember, perception is reality.
    7. Be Aggressive – Michael Sothan in his webinar presentation used words like “fight” and “go to war” to describe the level of commitment and effort to turn Beatrice around. It’s not a passive undertaking to tackle a declining town.
    8. Focus on People – Beatrice took the approach that only we can save our town. They knew they couldn’t wait for some investment, some grant, some outsider to save their city. Beatrice leaders realized it’s the people who own the businesses and buildings that will change the city.
    9. Always Tell Your Story – You can never get tired of telling your story because there is always someone who hasn’t caught the vision or seen the progress. Michael tells the story of speaking to a group of retired teachers who were so fixated on what used to be downtown that they didn’t even notice the new businesses and progress that had been made.
    10. Leverage Your Assets – For Beatrice’s rebranding effort, they chose a brand around “Stake Your Claim” which pays homage for being nationally recognized as the first homestead. Beatrice is currently rebranding after 10 years and pulling on the pronunciation of their town (Bee-at-trice) with a “Be @…” campaign.

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About Michael Sothan

Michael Sothan is the Executive Director of Main Street Beatrice in Beatrice Nebraska (pop 12,300).  He has been with Main Street Beatrice since 2013 and has been a part of Downtown Beatrice’s efforts to become listed on the National Register of Historic Places, undertake façade improvement programs, and regularly guides downtown improvements, events, and economic development efforts.

Michael is a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Kearney. He resides in Steele City, NE (population 60) where he and his wife Megan have purchased an 1890’s grocery store with plans for its rehabilitation.  Michael enjoys living history interpretation and the outdoors when not working on community development efforts.

Contact Info

Main Street Beatrice

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CMSC Webinar: Reimagining Communal Spaces to be More Community-Friendly

CMSC Webinar

Reimagining Communal Spaces to be More Community Friendly

Webinar Summary

Communal spaces play a vital role in every municipality. They bring residents together, provide recreation, boost the economy and even fuel healthier lifestyles. 

In this webinar, Celeste Frye, co-founder & CEO of Public Works Partners, LLC, shares strategies for designing communal spaces that proactively and thoughtfully meet the needs of the entire community. 


Presentation Highlights

  • What is a Communal Space?

    The question of where people congregate in your town should be approached sensitively and take into consideration all the different people who live in your community. This is important because it has repercussions regarding class, race, ethnic backgrounds and ability to access spaces (ability, age, etc.) When we’re designing communal places, they need to be truly welcoming inclusiveness of all community members.

    What is a Communal Space?

    • The purpose of a communal space is to be activated and invite people in to gather and connect. From an urban planning perspective, activating a place means the use of a public space to advance community building and social interaction, using strategies to proactively bring people into a space. This can be a simple as free wi-fi or tables and chairs.
    • It’s important to acknowledge that you may have different spaces for different groups within your town and that some spaces may feel hostile to different groups, for instance to those that are unhoused (homeless) or disabled.
  • Benefits of Communal Spaces

    There are 3 main benefits of communal spaces:

    • Build social networks by encouraging people to grow their personal networks
      • Communal spaces provide infrastructure and a setting for people to gather and share experiences, and to safely interact with others who they may not see or interact with otherwise – for instance, those of differing gender identities or religious affiliation.
    • Spur economic growth both in the space and in nearby neighborhoods
      • Attracting people to a space can encourage patronage of local businesses through design and use improvements.
      • Brick and mortar stores, façade improvements, and venues for food trucks can all help small businesses thrive.
      • Communal spaces can also draw people to different neighborhoods
      • Adaptive reuse of historic buildings can give them uses that match the current residents and their needs, for instance converting old schools into community or recreational centers.
    • Improve health and wellbeing through facilitating physical and social activity
      • Can include things like parks with walking trails or game spaces, but also downtowns with walkable streets.
      • Can use design elements that encourage people to move from space to space which can improve health and wellbeing, especially in places that have historically lacked them. Examples include wide sidewalks, protected bike lanes, public transit access
      • Examples of Communal Spaces
        • Parks – Green spaces that are visually attractive and allow for physical and social interactions
        • Markets – Vacant lots can be used for pop up markets or food trucks
        • Downtowns – in addition to commercial areas, they also house government buildings, libraries and social events like parades
  • How to Be Truly Community-Friendly

    To create places that are welcoming to the entire community, it’s imperative to incorporate key elements:

    • Accessibility – go above and beyond ADA requirements
      • The community’s ADA needs should be discussed at the beginning stages of planning, not at the end
      • ADA mostly focuses on physical accessibility but we should broaden our understanding of ADA or “universal” design to include mental cognitive ability and life cycle (i.e. kids, pregnant women or older people). For example, signage should be clear and easy to understand. Use multi-sensory signals, such as auditory signals at crosswalks. Haptic, or touch-based signals, (such as braille), help as well.
      • It’s also important to make sure access is continuous. Common obstacles are curb cuts that don’t connect to cross walks or protected bike lanes that end suddenly.
      • Incorporating accessibility elements creates an equitable opportunity for people to participate in these spaces.
    • Transportation
      • Active transportation gives people more ways to traverse a space. Think of protected bike lanes (and bike parking), protected bike lanes and wide sidewalks in addition to lanes for cars. Bollards and islands can be used to help separate lanes.
    • Green space
      • A community friendly space incorporates the natural environment for recreation, play and learning. Thoughtfully plan for and maximize green space – think about things like where you’ll you put it. What will it be like in real life? For instance, will trees work in the space or are planters better?
    • Safety & Comfort
      • This makes the place approachable and can include things like awnings over shops to provide shelter from the rain, trees for shade, human-scaled lighting, slower speed limits, and permanent and movable street seating.
  • Making It Happen

    • Begin by doing robust research
      • How do people use the space? How do they want to access it? What’s the history of the neighborhood? Is it changing? What are the community demographics? Why is the project happening here, now?
      • Talk to the community and observe how the space is currently used.
    • Make Your Plan
      • Once you have the research you can create your plan, laying out your goals and strategies. Include key milestones and successes, timeline, communication protocols, incorporate the community into the implementation, etc.
    • Implement Your Plan
      • Utilize connections made with businesses and community members to create some shared decision-making frameworks.
      • Bring the larger community in and get them excited about the project. While you’ll likely engage contractors for big changes, you might be able incorporate the community by doing site tours or things like group planting projects, ribbon cuttings, etc.
      • Clear communication will also help mitigate issues like construction noise or access. It’ll let you get feedback so you can respond to issues in a timely manner. Downtown managers are often key liaisons between the different stakeholders.
    • Manage Your Space
      • Discuss funding for maintenance and who will manage the space, have strategies to evaluate the space such as who’s using it at what time of day, then you can make changes as necessary.
    • Maintain Your Space
      • Weather and use can impact your space. What’s needed for maintenance on a seasonal basis? After a year or five years?
      • Report out to the community on your successes and efforts.
  • Real Life Examples

    • Syracuse Downtown Revitalization Initiative – Public Works was engaged to support the creation of a final strategic investment plan that’s directing $10m worth of state funding to select real estate and public infrastructure investments.
      • In this project they were reconnecting two different parts of the downtown to work against the affects of population decline and the legacy of urban renewal.
      • They facilitated a series of in person and virtual charrettes focused on things the community already said was important to them – pedestrian friendly streets, trees and green infrastructure, making streetscape and building improvements and preserving the cultural heritage of this neighborhood.
        • Their recommendations included improving sidewalks and streetscapes, adding lighting and wayfinding to encourage people to traverse the area, redeveloping certain properties to create commercial and pedestrian activity, and supporting outdoor vendor spaces.
      • Lessons learned
        • Important to reach out to people in a variety of way to meet people where they are.
        • Build on what’s already working and let community members easily identify what they already like, in this case a popular community center
        • Choose and incorporate elements that fit with the community.
    • NYC Streets Plan – Public Works led the NYC Streets Plan (NSP) Public Engagement Process (PEP) to support a NSP that would include the safety of all street users, the use of multi-modal mass transit, the reduction of vehicle emissions, and access for individuals with disabilities.
      • In many communities the most publicly owned land is actually the streets, so it’s beneficial to think how they can be utilized by all users, not just cars.
      • This purpose of this program was primarily to improve the safety of non-car users.
        • Had a online engagement platform, did phone surveys targeted to non-English speakers and people who traditionally didn’t participate, which allowed for a deeper reach into the community.
      • Lessons Learned
        • Defined the accessibility need for the engagement process and the plan up front
        • Provided flexibility around the times people could engage
        • Did a mix of small group engagement so everyone felt comfortable participating

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About Celeste Frye

Co-Founder and CEO, Public Works Partners

An AICP-certified planner, Celeste Frye co-founded Public Works Partners more than a decade ago out of a passion to help mission-driven organizations increase their positive impact on local communities. She is a known expert in designing and implementing multi-stakeholder initiatives, building strong connections across the nonprofit, government and private sectors. Celeste is a member of the Regional Plan Association’s Connecticut Committee and the Coro New York Leadership Center’s Alumni Advisory Board. She was recognized with City & State’s 2021 Community Engagement Power 50 and Crain’s New York’s 2021 Notable Women Business Owners. Celeste received a M.S. in Regional Planning from Cornell University and a B.A. in International Studies & French from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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