Step 7: Create an Urban Entertainment District
New to this series? Take a couple of minutes to get caught up on steps one through six by clicking here. If you’ve been following along just keep reading.
In our last post of this series, we discussed the importance of a catalytic development company that is willing and able to take some of the first steps in the downtown revitalization process. These organizations are not solely concerned with the profits of their developments, they see, understand, and believe in the broader vision. The next question is, what should these catalytic developers be focused on creating? Step 7 argues that the focus should be on creating an “urban entertainment district.”
12 Steps to Revitalization was written with large cities in mind but these steps still apply to Albion’s revitalization effort. Step 7 features suggestions like sports areas and night clubs as ways to create an entertainment district but, at its core, this recommendation is really creating walkable downtowns.
Leinberger says, “Walkable urbanism starts with urban entertainment venues and retail that are within walking distance of one another. It must be in place before households can be enticed to move downtown” (Leinberger 13).
Think about a place where you have felt compelled to continue to stroll down the block. What made you keep walking even though you weren’t sure what you’d find? That is what being in a walkable environment feels like. Walkable places encourage you to spend more time walking, looking in the shop windows, or choosing to walk to your next destination instead of getting in your car.
Downtown Albion has the makings of an outstanding walkable downtown and the progress made in recent years are has helped set the stage. However, the problems that exist right now that limit walkability downtown are density and variety.
Density: Our downtown establishments, the Bohm, Foundry Bakehouse, Cascarelli’s, Lopez, Charlies, Albion Malleable Brewing Company, Stirling Books & Brew, and others are far apart. Imagine you’re a first time visitor to downtown Albion. You walk out of your afternoon show at the Bohm and look to the left and right. What do you see that is compelling you to talk a walk down the street? Not much! Our downtown destinations span three or four blocks. That doesn’t mean that Albion doesn’t have destinations we’re missing the connections. Increasing the density of shops, business, restaurants, and other destinations will increase the foot traffic in downtown Albion.
Variety: Variety is critical. Let’s say you spend one night each month. Unless you’re an absolute movie lover, you might get tired of dinner and a movie. You might want to see a live music show, attend a unique social event, or simply window shop with while enjoying ice cream. It is a variety of experiences that will keep you coming back for more.
Albion has the framework for a vibrant “urban entertainment district”, and that’s exciting! “And just as a crowded restaurant is the best recommendation that it is a good place, crowded sidewalks recommend downtown, signaling a safe environment, and providing excitement and spectacle that draws people to the area” (Leinberger 14). Let’s work together to make this our reality!