Step One: Capture the Vision
The first step discussed by Christopher Leinberger in “Turning Around Downtown: Twelve Steps to Revitalization is “Capturing the Vision”.
With any project, big or small there must be a meaningful reason behind it. So we ask ourselves, why revitalize downtown? Some would say it is a pointless use of time, money and resources. However, others may see downtown revitalization as the spark that invigorates an entire community.
Step One Recap
“Best of Intentions”
Before embarking on a revitalization effort, two things need to be considered, community attitude and past failures. First, consider if there is an overwhelmingly negative attitude towards the idea of revitalization? Having the support of a vast majority of community members will be the key to the long term success. Second, consider if the community has recently (in the last 20 years) undertaken large revitalization projects that have been unsuccessful? It takes decades for a community to be ready and willing to try the hard work of revitalization again. When a city is ready, willing, and in support of downtown revival amazing things can happen. However, it is essential to understand where the community stands before beginning the process.
While accessing community attitude and any past failures it is important to understand what drives successful revitalization. Two of the most significant drivers of a successful vision of downtown revitalization are community memories and community financial gains. Memories are powerful emotions. Many those community members who are excited about revitalization likely have fond memories of times spent downtown. These emotions can bring others supporters to the table and help bridge the gaps between the supporters and the skeptics. Finally, there is a financial benefit to the entire community when time and resources are spent on downtown revitalization. A vibrant downtown attracts new businesses, residents, and visitors that bring money into the community to spend at shops, stores, and restaurants. This additional spending by residents and visitors helps to increase the available tax revenue and that will be reinvested back into the community.
By working to understand where the community stands on the idea of revitalization and what drives successful efforts, there may emerge clear supporters of the downtown revitalization. Those individuals with are vital as the effort to rally the troops and set the vision begins.
“Rallying the troops, setting the vision.”
Many downtown revitalization efforts begin with the support of business owners, public officials and downtown stakeholders. These individuals are leaders within the community that can bring people together, invest resources, and helps bring the community vision to life.
Through meaningful and productive dialogue, community engagement and visioning, leaders “uncover the emotional, economic and fiscal reasons for turning around the downtown.” The visioning process is typically lead by a non-profit and funded privately with the support of public entities and sets the foundation for future “private/public partnerships.”
The result of the visioning process should be a “portrait” of downtown, providing physical boundaries, the number of jobs, and it’s role in the local economy, as well as the community assets including “what is valued, what is missed, what is good, what is negative, and some of the stores that make downtown special on a personal level.” This information becomes the community vision for downtown and should be shared widely and often.
Applying this to Albion
Albion is a unique community with a rich history and today we have committed and passionate citizens. There are those that want to see investment take place downtown and believe that that will be the first step to a brighter future for all of Albion. And there are those that may have doubts, concerns or alternative solutions to creating a vibrant community. However, the bottom line is that we have passionate and committed citizens.
Do you have memories of downtown shopping, movies at the Bohm, running to the hardware store or stopping at JC Penny’s for a new outfit? These memories and the history of our town is what binds us together as a community. We recognize that this is the 21st century and times have changed. However, downtown Albion can be a place where all community members feel welcomed, and we can make great memories together. Now is our chance to make that vision a reality.
We have dedicated citizens and we have an organization whose sole vision is to realize a revitalized downtown for Albion. The team at Albion Reinvestment Corporation has been working tirelessly towards reviving the commercial and residential spaces along Superior Street with the belief that our work will positively impact the entire community.
In the fall of 2018, we invited the community to an open house to see renderings of its future and engage in conversation about what the future holds for Albion. We discussed our work to date and steps moving forward and encouraged community feedback. Our vision has support at many levels, but it is most important that our community supports the vision. In the coming year, our team will continue to fundraise, work with local and state government officials and connect with community members to make the vision come to life. We hope that you will ask questions, be engaged and believe that a revitalized downtown will be a giant leap forward for all Albion residents.
Albion can and will succeed, together. Our next post in the series will focus on “Step 2, Develop a Strategic Plan”, stay tuned!