D. For consistency, the downtown geographic area for each of the cities analyzed was established based upon a five-minute walk to the midpoint of downtown. This represents a reasonable 0.5-mile radius around the middle of downtown. It is understood that the actual business district size will vary depending on local spatial and economic characteristics.
F. When measuring downtown activity based on only number of businesses, or with businesses per resident, no adjustment is made for the size of those businesses. For example, a large format Walmart store and a small variety store would each be considered a General Merchandise store.
Prior to WWII, downtowns were the economic hubs of cities where most commercial activities took place. This changed following the suburbanization of the middle class in the mid-twentieth century. In time, downtown businesses followed the middle class to the suburbs, leaving many downtowns hollow with high vacancy rates and blight. While not all downtowns succumbed to this phenomenon, small and mid-sized cities were most impacted by this turn of events as their downtowns were not as diverse as those in larger cities. Civic leaders in these downtowns sought ways to compete with the suburbs such as building downtown pedestrian malls.
At the start of the twenty-first century, the tide seemed to be turning. Many small and mid-sized city downtowns experienced an economic and retail revival while suburban malls struggled to survive due to the growth of online shopping and the shopping preferences of a new generation. Now, it is the suburban malls that are increasingly seeking ways to be more like the downtown by seeking to attract civic and cultural uses to stem the tide of decline in retail businesses.
As illustrated by the map above, the Wisconsin River and shore form a natural barrier, that reduces the commercialized area. Also, businesses occupy mostly the middle and east sections of the downtown core, while many large and scattered businesses are to the northeast of downtown. This example illustrates the difficulties related to using a ring to represent a downtown core. Nevertheless, it provides a consistent standard upon which to gauge the business mix in all the cities.
This study uses 2018 business establishment and employment estimates as an indicator of an economically diverse and robust downtown economy. While narrowly focused on the number and mix of firms and their employment and recognizing that there are other variables that contribute to downtown vitality, we proceed here with a narrowly defined measure of vitality (proportion of establishments and/or number of employees located downtown). Exhibit 3, that follows indicate that retail trade is one of many business types. Independent cities in particular have downtowns that accommodate a variety of uses such as public administration, community services, professional services, and finance and insurance, in addition to retail trade.
Downtown as a % of City Employment: Centers of employment are one of the essential elements of a 24/7 active downtown. Employees can bring additional spending potential to downtown in a captive segment that can be served by downtown businesses. A healthy mix of businesses creates a dynamic employment center with activity not only in the evening and on weekends, but also on weekdays. Employment also provides the opportunity for a multifunctional downtown with many purposes behind trip generation.
Downtown as a % of City population: Residents located in or near downtown create consistent use of downtown amenities and maintain downtown vibrancy. Living near retailers, restaurants, and other businesses provides the opportunity to create foot traffic and support alternative modes of transportation to downtown. This in turn generates more business activity and builds a more dynamic downtown economy.
As demonstrated in the prior section, the results of measuring downtown economic vitality, using number of establishments in each downtown, provides one method for identifying the top performers. There are many examples of communities where the number of employers or employees do not necessarily promise economic vitality. The method has flaws, but it is one way to identify downtowns with high economic activity.
The last five years have been a rapidly growing period. Highlighting the work is River Street, a woonerf, which is a pedestrian-focused mall emulating a European city. The woonerf draws attention to the historic downtown in Batavia and a 193-unit, mixed-use development is being constructed along it. Batavia is just outside the Chicago metro line which is 3 miles away. It is an affluent community with a high median income. It continues to bring in high-income residents because it is in one of the best school districts in the state. The attractiveness of downtown helps to recruit businesses like many of the new restaurants that have located there.
Port Huron has seen $200M of downtown investment over the last 3 to 4 years. There are now around 24 restaurants, 150 lofts, and 2 hotels located downtown, many of which are in historic buildings. Like national trends, a large regional mall is suffering, and retail is moving toward the walkable and livable downtown in Port Huron. The resurgence of downtown includes multiple uses including apparel stores, restaurants, residential lofts, and lodging which has incentivized both millennials and retirees to move back downtown. One program the City has utilized is a state grant program that will cover up to 20% of project costs for loft projects.
Since 2004 when a new mayor took office, there has been an increased focus on revitalizing downtown in Valparaiso. Now in 2019, parking has become much more challenging due to the demand to be downtown. Downtown redevelopment has included implementing amenities such as green space, an amphitheater, a pavilion, and an ice rink which provide an opportunity for activities during all four seasons. From speaking with a community representative, one lesson that can be learned from Valparaiso includes gaining trust from the community by providing good governance and public services. Once citizens put trust in local government, it is much more plausible to complete ambitious projects like an amphitheater. Another obstacle overcome by the City includes optimal management of liquor licenses. Indiana has very restrictive laws with liquor license distribution and the chain restaurants in Valparaiso had taken most of the available liquor licenses. The City tried to reserve licenses for independent downtown businesses, which has helped make restaurants one of the primary economic drivers of downtown.
This city scores high on downtown economic vitality. One reason is Opportunity Winona. This effort is a public and private partnership that is investing in a community initiative to bring new growth that energizes downtown Winona. It is a coordinated way to create new jobs, retail, and new places to live. In addition, various companies have expanded or relocated to Winona. Fastenal has opened a large four-story office building downtown. Various legacy developments in downtown Winona have occurred by senior executives who have chosen to relocate their businesses back to their hometown of Winona.
While two colleges are located in Winona, the downtown is not dominated by the student population, as in many college towns. Instead, Winona serves a diverse mix of community residents. New downtown businesses include independent restaurants, mixed-use office buildings, and other diverse businesses.
1. The traditional threshold approach assumes that as city size increases, so does the number of downtown businesses. Our sample of Midwest communities did not find this to be true. We found the percent difference in population between a 25,000 pop. city and a 50,000 pop. city to be much larger than the percent difference in number of businesses.
2. Independent cities typically have significantly more businesses downtown than suburban city downtowns. This may be a result of suburban downtowns that were constructed for residential purposes, often around a commuter rail station. It may also be related to the abundance of commercial space that line the arterial highways instead of the downtowns of the suburbs.
3. While there are significantly more suburban municipalities than independents, the latter tend to have more downtown businesses per capita. Furthermore, not all cities have downtowns. Suburban cities typically have smaller central business districts rather than a traditional downtown.
4. Some of the low-scoring downtowns and their cities are not necessarily bad places to live, but simply not commercial centers. Many of the high scoring downtowns included local colleges and universities which tend to be very important demand generators for downtown businesses.
5. Business potential in a downtown district, independent or suburban, should consider local population in combination with demographic, lifestyle, and buying behaviors. In addition, changes in retail, including the decline of the shopping mall and the increase in e-commerce, will continue to challenge cities searching for the optimal business mix.
Chinatown is part of the the National Register of Historic Places-listed Downtown Historic District, which encompasses Washington, D.C.'s original downtown - one of the oldest mixed use areas in the city. In the 1930's, Chinatown moved from another part of the downtown district to where it is located today. The neighborhood is a mix of commercial, residential, religious, and governmental buildings. Vibrant and interesting to visit, it teems with people, some of Chinese descent and others with a rich variety of Asian and other cultural roots.
The city's primary public market (Center Market) was built in 1802 on Pennsylvania Avenue between 7th and 9th Streets, NW, a point midway between the White House and the U.S. Capitol, now the site of the National