“A city isn’t so unlike a person. They both have the marks to show they have many stories to tell. They see many faces. They tear things down and make new again.”
Downtowns are many things. First and foremost, they are a neighborhood for the people that live there, but they are also traditional hubs of transit, central business, and financial districts, and even world, state, and local government capitals.
They are also so much more. Some offer iconic skylines displaying the ambitions of its leaders both past and present, others tell their stories through the vibrancy, cleanliness, safety, and culture displayed on the streets. They are symbolic of their surrounding regions, help to set a first impression for those visiting, and define a culture for those that choose to live there.
Most people that visit the region will visit or stay in your downtown area either during or for the entirety of their stay. Their image of the entire region is determined by their experience. Whether you spend time in your downtown or not, it matters to you if you care about the health of your region.
The sudden and dramatic change in work culture that sent home many of the workers that used to inhabit downtown during the workweek is the largest challenge to downtown development in our lifetimes. It also offers the greatest opportunity to redevelop downtowns to be healthier, more vibrant, and resilient if we embrace this change. Instead of being dependent on a few major employers or government offices to sustain the small businesses and merchants, we can invite more to live and work for the very reason that cities first began – to bring people together.
We all have important work to do to remake our downtowns, not at the expense of other neighborhoods, but as a symbol of the health and vibrancy of all of the other places in our region.
Let’s have a great week, lift each other up, and move forward.
– Kenny McDonald