Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Classic Towns suburban revitalization initiative, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission

DVRPC is the "Metropolitan Planning Organization" for the Philadelphia Metropolitan area and it includes parts of both Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  Classic Towns is a branded initiative focused on revitalization of suburban "classic" town centers, such as Media.

It's interesting that an MPO is using a branding and identity system (see "Best practice bicycle planning for suburban settings using the action planning method" and the discussion about what I call the "action planning" approach) to coordinate and market their efforts.

Last year, they published Revitalizing Suburban Downtown Retail Districts: Strategies and Best Practices, a study of successful suburban town commercial districts, where they analyzed those characteristics shared across the districts that were common to their success.  The recommendations are based on the study of 10 towns

  • The existence of a retail management entity
  • Wide sidewalks
  • High walkability
  • A low vacancy rate
  • Parking options
  • A civic or cultural anchor and
  • High traffic counts

DVRPC does a lot of great work and has a good publishing program.  They produced the Smart Transportation Guidebook, which I tout all the time (but it needs an update).

With regard to "commercial district revitalization," it doesn't matter so much whether you're dealing with a suburb or a city, because the unit of study is the commercial district.  While some factors differ between cities and suburbs, especially around transit and the mode by which people come to the district, the various reports and studies on revitalization are relevant regardless.

Urban neighborhood commercial districts are not like "Downtowns/the Central Business District" but more like smaller towns and have a lot to learn from suburban and small town revitalization efforts.

Sadly, in my experience urban "commercial district revitalization organizations" often have a chip on their shoulder with regard to what they might be able to learn from smaller places.

Note that there is a "Suburban Revitalization" section of resource links in the right sidebar.

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