Developing a Quality Life in Cedar County, Iowa  

Heart of a Community

April 19, 2018

 

Your downtown is the most visible indicator of community pride, along with its economic and social health. It can be either an asset or a liability when it comes to recruiting new residents, new businesses, tourists, to your community and in keeping those you already live there.  Moreover your downtown or neighborhood commercial district is the visual representation for your community's heritage. The architecture of your commercial district is a physical expression of your community's history. Over the last few decades it’s has been a real challenge for many communities, big and small, maintain this hub of the city vitality.  Economic trends including big box stores, regional shopping centers, and online shopping has contributed to the stress of successful downtowns. Add to the challenges is the low infrastructure spending on the physical components like streets and buildings. This recipe of downtown degradation has impacted eaten of our Cedar County communities to one degree or another. Before we talk about how to improve our downtown let first be reminded why downtowns are so important*:

  1. Downtown districts are prominent employment centers. Even the smallest commercial district employs hundreds of people, and often the district is collectively the community's largest employer. 

  2. The downtown district is a reflection of community image, pride, prosperity, and level of investment — critical factors in business retention and recruitment efforts. 

  3. Downtown represents a significant portion of the community's tax base.  If the district declines, property values drop, placing more of a tax burden on other parts of town. 

  4. The traditional commercial district is an ideal location for independent businesses, which in turn:  

    • Keeps profits in town with local owners

    • Supports other local businesses and services

    • Supports local families with family-owned businesses

    • Supports local community projects

    • Provides a stable economic foundation with direct ties to the community 

  5. Downtown is the historic core of the community. Its buildings embody the community's past and its visual identity. 

  6. A vital downtown area reduces sprawl by concentrating business in one area and uses community resources wisely, such as existing infrastructure, tax dollars, and land. 

  7. A healthy downtown core protects property values in surrounding residential neighborhoods. 

  8. The district is a government center where city hall, municipal buildings, the courthouse, and/or post office are located. It often is an important service center as well for finding attorneys, insurance offices, financial institutions and other important services.

  9. Downtown provides an important civic forum, where members of the community can congregate. Special events and celebrations held downtown reinforce intangible sense of community. 

  10. Downtown represents a huge public and private investment. Imagine how much it would cost to re-create all of the buildings and public infrastructure in Tyler’s downtown.

When we understand why downtown are important we will want to take actions to improve them.  In upcoming post we will discusses challenges facing our downtowns and offer some suggestions on ways to make improvements.  until then take a look at your downtown and see what improvements it could use.  

 

 *Information from the National Trust Main Street Center: www.mainstreet.org

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