Posted: August 20, 2014 1:01 pm
How to Revitalize Your Local Main Street
This past Sunday, September 17th, Parade Magazine, ran an article titled “How to Revitalize Your Local Main Street.” The article pointed out that there was a period in history that was not kind to main streets. The towns and small cities fell victim to suburbia, shopping malls and big box stores. Today, the internet has allowed us to shop without leaving our home. Barry Yeoman explained that through this transition, we lost our sense of community. Fortunately, downtowns are having a rebirth. We have rediscovered the value of history and culture, unique local retailers, and the pleasure of walking energetic streets.
Every downtown is recovering differently, but here’s what Erie’s recovery looks like. There are several organizations that are working together to lead this renaissance along with the Erie Downtown Partnership. Our mission is to revitalize downtown by improving its image, business climate, physical environment and design. We base ourselves on the National Main Street Model and address this mission through a focus on economic restructuring, design and promotions. Here’s how we have targeted the areas of improvement sited in Sunday’s article.
Entice Residents Back
In 2005, the Erie Downtown Partnership in collaboration with The Erie Redevelopment Authority and The City of Erie completed the original Downtown Erie Master Plan. Since then, significant public and private investment have reinvigorated Downtown – especially in the Mid-Town District. Mid-Town is designated as the areas between Twelfth Street and Fourteenth Street. The focus of this area is to create a district dedicated to a livable downtown.
In February 2006, the Erie Redevelopment Authority acquired the 5-story 49,000 square foot Mercantile Building, 1401 State Street, through the Blighted Property Reclamation process. This project created first floor retail space and office space on second and third floors. Fourteen residential condos occupy the fourth and fifth floors. Now this building is home to several contemporary condominiums that are 100% occupied.
Next, the City planned for 140 new homes in the Union Square project. A previously commercial mid-town location has been converted to a contemporary urban neighborhood. The development expands the residential footprint established by Lovell Place and the Mercantile Building, and its occupants will both increase the vibrancy and enjoy the benefits of nearby Griswold Park, the Brewerie at Union Station and other area gathering places.
Make It Walkable
In 2010, The Erie Downtown Partnership acquired a grant to design and install decorative finding way signs. And like other communities noted in the article, Erie added raised “bump-outs” in the road to slow car traffic. The Parking Authority offers free parking on the weekends, allowing people to park once and easily navigate on foot to their destinations. During the development of the Master Plan Update and coordinating studies, a plan for improved lighting will be completed and ready for implementation. All of these factors, continue to make Downtown Erie pedestrian friendly.
Preserve the Best of What Makes a Town Special
The Erie Downtown Partnership assists with the preservation of the historic character of the district through the implementation of design guidelines that encourage visual improvements through good design that is compatible with historic features. The Erie Downtown Partnership consistently collaborates with influential, local historians. Some of our key partnerships are with Preservation Erie, The National Historic Trust, The Erie Center for Design and Preservation and Erie County Historical Society. These organizations seeks to create public policies that link the potential of historic preservation and smart urban design with a strategy for sustainable development that can rejuvenate our region.
The Erie Downtown Partnership hosts fourteen events over the course of the year. Our Block Parties, Bike Nights, and Downtown D’lights Holiday Lighting bring over 75,000 people into Downtown each year! In addition, the City of Erie puts on Celebrate Erie and The Manufacturing and Business Association hold the Roar on the Shore Bike rally each summer. Each of these events brings in an excess of 100,000 people. The overall impact of our events on the community is a positive one. The downtown is alive and vibrant during these events, giving our organization the opportunity to highlight the community in a positive light – it now has a sense of community, which in part is directly related to the EDP Event Series.
The EDP works in conjunction with the Gannon Small Business Development Center, SCORE and ATHENA Powerlink, organizations that were created to encourage entrepreneurship in downtown. The Small Business Development Center at Gannon University has a team of professional consultants that works with entrepreneurs to help their businesses maintain a competitive edge. SCORE provides free, confidential mentoring to small businesses and non-profits in business and management practices. ATHENA is committed to supporting the leadership of women inspiring them to reach their full potential as entrepreneurs, businesswomen or professional.
To learn more about the Erie Downtown Partnership and our programs, please visit www.eriedowntown.com.
If you missed the article in Sunday’s Parade Magazine in the Erie Times News, you can read it here: http://parade.condenast.com/326521/barryyeoman/how-to-revitalize-your-local-main-street/.