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What's the big deal about downtown?


I'm often asked why I focus on downtown revitalization so much.  The three most common areas in rural areas that we hear need to be addressed are workforce, housing and leadership. How does downtown revitalization fit into that picture?


Your downtown is the heart of your city. It's the one place that everyone can identify with and claim ownership to. The buildings downtown tell our histories and encompass the memories of its people. The parades, the celebrations, the get togethers are generally held downtown and what people remember.


Andy Kitsinger, principal at The Development Studio says "In most cases downtowns serve as the engine for local economies. However, downtowns are much more than a profit center to cities. They also represent the image and character of a city to the rest of the world. Downtowns are unique in that they are typically the only neighborhood that belongs to and is shared by everyone in the region."


For local industry to attract workforce to the area, they will want to showcase the quality of life in the community. Schools, parks and an active downtown really matter to people who are looking to move to your area. It's believed that if you can't take care of the face of your community (downtown) how can you take care of me as a resident?


Second story housing downtown is gaining popularity for a variety of people. The trend to living in a walkable community is rising.  You can now work from home and live in the downtown area and accomplish everything you need in one area. Having a car is not so important anymore, with the advent of affordable rentals and being able to work from home. We're seeing young people taking advantage of this trend. Not surprisingly, we are also seeing baby boomers wanting to move out of their sprawling homes into a a loft unit downtown. This makes room for the young parents to move into those former baby boomer homes.


But first you need the vibrant downtown area that includes retail and services. You need to focus on the things that showcase quality of life for your residents. These events and activities typically happen downtown.


In the Survey of Rural Challenges* the top five concerns were:  
1. Downtown is dead
2. Losing young people
3. No one shops in town
4. Missing out on tourism opportunities
5. Need new residents


All of these concerns can be addressed by starting with downtown revitalization. Helping your downtown and retailers will create a more vibrant downtown and reason for shopping. Bringing back the pride in your downtown, and involving your youth in the process, helps to bring those same youth back to town after they've gone to college or trade school. When tourists visit, they want to eat and shop - and explore your downtown. If you're working on 2nd story housing, now you're offering cool and unique places for people to live.


Downtown matters, it's the heart of your city. Keep that heart beating and healthy!



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Mississippi Main Street Association
P.O. Box 55747 | Jackson, MS 39296
Phone: 601/944-0113
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District Offices:
P.O. Box 445 | Columbus, MS 39703 | 662- 364-0435
426 Northpointe Lake Dr. | Oxford, MS 38655 | 601-941-5409
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Center and the Mississippi Development Authority