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Step 2: Develop a Strategic Plan

Step two in the work of turning around downtown is to “develop a strategic plan”. Step one helps communities set a clear and informed vision for downtown development. The second step takes that vision and works to turn it into an actionable and measurable plan.

In Turing Around Downtown: Twelve Steps to Revitalization by Christopher Leinberger, we learn that “strategic planning takes a comprehensive approach to create walkable urbanism that encompasses many individual strategies”. The article outlines the ten most common categories that strategies typically fall into

  • Character – what are the boundaries of downtown and how dense can or should it be.
  • Housing – what types of housing is or should be available taking into consideration market rate and affordable options.
  • Retail – what types of retail does the community want and what can it support, entertainment, specialty stores, and local-serving retail
  • Culture – what one-of-a-kind cultural institutions are or should be downtown.
  • Public Infrastructure – how will the public infrastructure (water, sewer, parking, open space) support the long-term development and growth of downtown
  • Employment –  What businesses are locating in the downtown and what is the mix of employment opportunities that will be available for residents?
  • Community Involvement – ensuring that citizens, particularly those that live near downtown have “continuous opportunities for input and involvement.”
  • Involvement of Nonprofit Organizations – Bring existing non-profits to the table and create others that may fill gaps including but not limited to “business improvement districts, transportation management, or arts’ coordinating groups.”
  • Marketing – what is the strategy for creating a positive image for the downtown and promoting events that are happening downtown?
  • Social Values – What does the community value most and how will that remain at the forefront of the downtown development process?

The strategic plan will guide downtown development and needs to be developed by a diverse group of community stakeholders. These stakeholders include “retailers, investors, developers, property owners, churches, public officials, non-profit organizations, artists, residents, and others.” These individuals should honestly have the community’s best interest at heart instead of looking for political or social gain.

The development of the strategic plan should take place over a concentrated and short period. During the planning process, the group of individuals will create a document that will outline specific strategies and implementation steps. The group will then approve the completed document and share it widely throughout the community. 

The strategic plan should not collect dust on a shelf once it is completed. The stakeholders and those doing the work will continue to reference it and refine the document over time. Leinberger suggests that “follow-up sessions be scheduled every few months to modify the strategy and monitor progress on its implementation to date.” The follow-up sessions will help the group, and therefore the community stay focused and on track with their vision and strategic plan for downtown revitalization.

Our community of Albion has many of the elements that could come together to create a strategic plan similar to what Leinberger describes. The Albion city government is engaged in the Redevelopment Ready Communities process as well as Project Rising Tide, both focused on supporting the future of development in our community.  Additionally, the City of Albion has published the 2017-2022 Capital Improvement Plan, and the 2017 – 2021 Comprehensive Plan. Finally, Albion Reinvestment Corporation has released the Advancing Albion Action Plan.

Each of these plans could and should be used together to build a strategic plan for downtown Albion. The redevelopment of our downtown will take our entire community, we must come together for the greater good and understand that together we will go farther. Our next post in the series will focus on “Step 3, Forge a Healthy Private / Public Partnership”, stay tuned!

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