Smartly managed downtowns are ones where revitalization initiatives occur holistically, carefully building off of each other in a comprehensive approach. For example, placemaking efforts can be combined with destination marketing to maximize the promotion of local businesses. This leads to a positive economic cycle as local shops are patronized and additional revenue is reinvested in the care and maintenance of the downtown.
Simsbury Main Street Partnership, a CMSC designated member and Nationally Accredited Main Street Program, was among the first of our network to focus on this. You just read about one of their latest efforts to promote Simsbury as a destination by creating a new brochure for prospective homebuyers that highlights the quality of the public school system (above). But one of the first examples of using their placemaking events to spur activity among local businesses began long ago during their annual Talcott Mountain Music Festival, an event that brings thousands of people to town each summer. One particularly successful response occurred when local businesses used this as an opportunity to engage new customers with things like boxed picnic dinners that could be purchased and eaten at the outdoor event.
Other CMSC members are using destination marketing to promote their local businesses in a similar fashion. The Northwest Regional Planning Collaborative designed a “Secret Corner” brand, and is promoting the region with stickers in local stores. Thread City Development in Willimantic, meanwhile, helps the downtown come together for its annual Romantic Willimantic Chocolate Festival. This past February, forty local businesses enticed participants of the Chocolate Chip Stroll to stop in and browse while enjoying chocolate goodies and entertainment.
Using placemaking initiatives to create great spaces allows our downtowns to then market themselves as fun, attractive destinations. Having local businesses publicly support placemaking efforts lets visitors know these events are important while allowing the retailers to participate, either directly or indirectly. By taking a comprehensive approach to invigorating downtown the results can then far exceed any single effort or initiative.