Previously we talked about how downtown is one of the first thing a person notices about a town. Much like a smile on a persons face. There is few things that makes a better first impression then a good smile. A stranger offering a good smile can put you at ease, make you want to get to know them better. So, what is the reaction when that person's smile is less then perfect? If may be a tooth or two is missing? Even though the person may be a wonderful individual, the general reaction from other people are less then positive It may be much harder to convince people to give them a chance.
The same is true with an attractive downtown. It can be the smile of a city to new people coming to town, visitors of the city, or just those passing through. A downtown is a significant indicator of the vitality of a city and if the downtown is, like a stranger's smile, in poor condition it can unfairly hurt its image.
One significant contribution to this poor image is when downtown looses the sense of consecutiveness when a previous building has been removed. It is a pattern we often see, especially in smaller communities. An older downtown building falls into disrepair and the owner is unable or unwilling to do the needed repairs - It becomes an eyesore and eventually a hazard. The building inevitably gets torn down. In the short term it may look better then a terribly unkept building, but the act of removing the building has not addressed a long term issue of keeping the downtown an attractive, cohesive entity.
So what can a community do if their downtown is missing a building? In some cases a pocket park can be a solution. If done correctly, they can create an attractive, gathering space that becomes an asset for the community. Though if a downtown is missing more then one building, the challenges grow exponentially. A community only needs so many pocket parks, and often even a good park is not a worthy substitute for a productive building.
Often creating quality infill for missing downtown building requires a calculated strategy for the community. One that consists of a partnership of government, business leaders and residents working together. A worthy resource on creating a plan can be download here offering 30 strategies to address infill issue a community is facing. This report is a goes in-depth on how a community can replace some of what they have lost.
Another opportunity to learn more on this subject is by attending the upcoming Downtown Conference put on by the Iowa Economic Development Authority in August. This year it will be in Waterloo, Iowa. Keeping checking this site to find more information on this event in the coming weeks