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Downtowns & Main Streets

Downtown Hurdles

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If having a thriving downtown is important to your community, that goal should be at the heart of your comprehensive plan. It shouldn’t be just a component of the plan; it should be a guiding principle that pervades the entire plan and affects most aspects of it.

The same thing goes for preserving your community’s historic buildings. I’ve seen lots of comprehensive plans that have a token paragraph that says something like, “Historic preservation is a priority for the community, etc.”, but then don’t mention anything else about preservation in the rest of the document.

And I’ve seen lots of comp plans that have an entire section about the downtown, emphatically stating its importance and describing what kinds of development can and cannot happen there — but the rest of the report is riddled with regulatory hand grenades that create obstacles to downtown revitalization, making it much easier for someone to open a new business or develop a building out on the strip than in the town center.

An obstacle to downtown revitalization is simply an incentive for development to take place somewhere else. Your community’s comprehensive plan should make downtown the easiest and most advantageous place for new development to occur. The community’s values about design, land use, and economic development should cross-cut all aspects of the comp plan and shape all its components accordingly. …

Note: the article then continues with a look at:

Codes that make mixed-use development difficult.
Codes that prohibit small-scale industry from locating downtown.
Design guidelines that are too rigid and stifle creativity.

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