2 Downtown Comeback Stories Every Community Can Learn From

Downtowns are the central hubs and vibrant cores of most communities. The rise in urban living has made it essential for communities to have an active downtown. In many cases, downtowns are the economic hub for a community, generating a large portion of the revenue for local government. Cities and municipalities must reevaluate their downtowns to ensure they can stimulate economic development, resident attraction and tourism to remain competitive.

One example of a successful downtown revitalization is Downtown Lee’s Summit, Missouri. In the 1980s, the downtown was riddled with blight and vacancies. With investment in the community going towards strip malls on the outskirts of the city, their downtown remained stagnant. While successfully attracting growth to the area, it was not the growth they needed for their downtown. The community knew they needed to take action, so business and civic leaders joined forces to form Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street, an organization dedicated to preserving the heart of downtown. The group began with a vision, and raised the necessary funds, and devised a master plan to create cohesion and economic opportunity in the downtown. Since 2009, downtown Lee’s Summit has seen 80 new businesses open, creating over 550 new jobs in the community for new and existing residents.

Another city that successfully revamped their downtown is New Orleans. Six years following the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans was still fighting the narrative that the city was in disarray. The entrepreneurial community was on the rise in New Orleans and they wanted to attract more of the creative, artistic class as residents. In an effort to attract those skilled residents, the Downtown Development District (DDD) changed the narrative and focused on innovation and opportunity. By offering potential residents a one-way ticket to New Orleans to embrace the blank canvas of an opportunity they knew existed, this campaign led New Orleans to be named the #1 Brain Magnet in America. The campaign was an enormous success, and the rankings all place New Orleans at the top of every entrepreneurial and creative class list.

Downtowns are the heart of a community. In today’s global economy with competition between cities for talent and jobs stronger than ever, it is critical that cities have a shared vision when it comes to their downtown. Utilize collective resources and inspiring ideas to make your downtown unique and attractive.