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Creating Resilient Small City Downtowns

Many small city downtowns throughout the country continue to struggle with shuttered storefronts, deteriorating buildings, and a disconnected mix of commercial tenants. Most are still ignored by major chain store site selectors, while edge – of – town development continues to migrate outward.

Despite these challenges, there are many resilient downtowns that have achieved turnaround by recognizing and building upon their assets.  These small cities have reclaimed the importance of downtown to the broader community. Downtowns represent the central place in a community. They also offer a sense of place with history and character that cannot be replicated by cinderblock buildings on the edge of town. Finally, a vibrant downtown represents a healthy community, positioned to attract new investment and business development.

Given the challenges facing downtowns, two related projects were funded by NCRCRD.
1.      Resilient Downtowns Case Study Series (IL, MN, WI) – designed to highlight best practices regarding small-city downtown development through case studies.
2.      An Inventory of Extension Programs to Help Create Resilient Small City Downtowns (WI, IA, MN) -website created to connect Extension educators with colleagues in other states doing downtown development work.

Presented by: Bill Ryan, University of Wisconsin-Extension, Center for Community and Economic Development.
Chuck Law, University of Wisconsin-Extension, Local Government Center
Zach Kennedy, University of Illinois-Extension, Community and Economic Development

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