It is no secret that the central business district is the heart of every community. The economic health, community image, and attraction of potential businesses and residents to the community depends greatly on a memorable and well-planned downtown experience.
A unique and distinctive streetscape can be the foundation of this experience. It can serve as a catalyst to a healthy and vibrant central business district.
Many communities are hesitant to consider investing in their downtown infrastructure, specifically with regard to aesthetic features. Concerns over perceived high costs, lengthy construction durations, potential political fallout, impact on business owners and the traveling public, or fears over what might be found when the streets are dug-up are enough to keep streetscape discussions “off the table.”
Another roadblock is knowing where to begin and how to create a new downtown experience. What are the steps to bring success? How do we know what should be included and what should not? How do we go about engaging the businesses, property owners, and the community as a whole?
Overcoming Roadblocks, Steps to Success
Some communities are finding ways to alleviate these concerns and overcome many of the roadblocks to completing a successful downtown streetscape improvement. Instead of focusing on the concerns, they are optimistic and focus on what can be gained: increased economic development, improved community image, and an improved downtown experience.
IIW has developed a simple, step-by-step process to help guide you through a successful downtown improvement project:
- Community Engagement: Many community leaders are hesitant to embark on a downtown project because they simply don’t know the level of support they might have for the improvement. It is paramount that leaders understand where the community, and especially downtown business and property owners, stands on the idea to have the confidence to move forward. Community support can be gained and maintained through well-planned, well-conducted public meetings and surveys, and through the formation of visioning committees.
- Concept Plan Development: It is important to identify and engage various stakeholders on the development of a memorable, distinctive, “signature” concept plan for the downtown improvement. This will help stakeholders and citizens visualize the improvement, align the designers with the community, identify the goals of the project, and promote the project to build greater energy and community support.
- Preliminary Design Development: In this phase, various opportunities for infrastructure improvement are identified, the streetscape concept is applied to the streets through preliminary design, the various costs are identified, and a timeline is proposed. Many communities utilize this information to pursue funding opportunities.
- Final Design and Bidding: The next step is to complete the design, construction, and contract documents, bid the project, and ultimately hire a quality contractor to complete the project on schedule and within budget.
- Construction: The final stage, of course, is to construct the improvement. Here, it is vital that the various stakeholders have regular opportunities for communication from and to the City and the design/construction team for the duration of the project. The ultimate goal—to unveil your community’s amazing, new, memorable, signature streetscape!
Overcome the roadblocks and let the outcomes drive your community to take action towards a unique place-making experience for your downtown.
Is your downtown in need of a makeover? Contact me today at 563-556-2464 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
John Wandsnider, P.E., a licensed civil engineer at IIW, has been providing municipal engineering services for nearly 30 years. His experience includes planning, design, and construction administration for streets, highways, trails, water resource distribution and storage systems, wastewater collection and treatment systems, and storm water management systems. His passion is helping guide communities through a successful downtown improvement project.