Downtown Colorado, Inc. (DCI) has partnered with the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) and teams of volunteer professionals to conduct technical assistance visits to communities across the state since 2005. Large and small, suburban and rural, resort or college town, we see the same five issues surfacing time and again. Do any of these issues sound familiar to you?
- Communications: Miscommunication or a lack of communications between the local government and business, residents, and other entities (e.g., libraries, museums, hospitals).
- Downtown Management: Difficulty accessing local resources to synchronize initiatives for maximum impact.
- Mobility: How to link resources/attractions for an enhanced pedestrian environment with coordinated signage, parking, and way-finding.
- Business Retention, Expansion, and Attraction: Developing an ongoing business support program to serve as ambassadors to link businesses to training, information, and assistance.
- Financing: Identifying mechanisms for generating funds to focus on downtown whether locally generated through a business improvement district or downtown development authority, or identifying sources for grants and other externally generated support.
This is the third installment in this five-part series, we will address specific areas to examine, as well as actual recommendations from recent technical assistance visits, for each of these common issues.
Have you ever been to a city for the first time and found yourself wandering the streets aimlessly because you did not know where to shop, where to eat, or where to just hang out? Most likely you did not spend too much time in that community, which means you also did not spend too much money in that community either.
Or what about all of those exits that you pass on the interstate that you never would use? Colorado has a wealth of charming, unique communities, yet eager visitors may not even know that the town has such exciting shops or restaurants to patronize.
Mobility and way-finding are pretty basic concepts, but ones that so many communities are overlooking: If visitors are not clearly directed to the downtown businesses or areas of interest, how are they expected to find them? If they are not directed to parking areas, how will they get out of their cars and spend money? Even locals will benefit from way-finding and signage. How many times have you heard a resident exclaim, “Wow! I didn’t even know that shop was there!”?
Consider the following:
- Are visitors easily directed to the downtown or commercial district? Are there indications of life on the exit from the interstate that might encourage travelers to visit the downtown business district?
- Can visitors or locals easily locate the parking areas? Are there clear markers for pedestrians indicating where to go once a visitor has parked?
- What are your local areas of interest? Do you direct traffic to them? Can visitors locate areas of interest even if they arrive in town and do not know about them?
- How pleasant is the experience of walking or biking through your downtown? Is your commercial district designed to encourage foot traffic? Are there signs geared toward pedestrians? Do pedestrians or bike riders feel safe and that there are clearly identified pathways and resources to enhance access to your downtown?
Below are some actual mobility recommendations from recent DCI/DOLA technical assistance visits:
- Create a cohesive iconic gateways/signage system that celebrates the downtown. Develop a “brand” for the commercial district that includes appropriate graphic signage for the entry gateways from the interstate, as well as pedestrian and vehicles directions for facilities and attractions, and parking. While consistent in general appearance (materials, lettering style, shape and colors), the signage should distinctly highlight the character of the town.
- In order to attract/direct traffic off of the interstate, collaborate with CDOT to investigate the installation of Tourist-Oriented Directional Signs. This way, motorists can see where to turn off and that there is a reason to take the exit to your downtown commercial district. Banners, directional signage and corner monuments need to be installed to direct through traffic to downtown. Directional signs to town amenities, and outlying retail shops should be included in the Main Street environment so that everyone can understand what is available within the community.
- Adopt a Parking Management Plan. Conduct an inventory and map of existing public and private parking spaces including on-street and off-street spaces. Monitor parking during everyday conditions (both weekday and weekends) and during events to determine actual deficiencies, if any. Utilize the map as an informational resource for visitors and residents and as a location guide for the placement and messaging for directional signage and parking identification. Consider revisions to town parking standards that would provide greater flexibility or relaxed parking requirements to encourage additional retail and mixed use development with the downtown core. Also, work with owners of private lots (such as banks or other institutions) to assess the possibility of utilizing (and signing their lots) for parking after hours or on weekends.
Technical Assistance Visits
We hope these questions and recommendations will get you thinking from a new perspective about approaching downtown management strategies for your community. For a detailed technical assistance visit that will address all of the specific issues your community is facing as well as provide an action plan to tackle them, visit our technical assistance information at www.downtowncoloradoinc.org to download an application or call DCI today at 303.282.0625.