Commercial district activation issues in smaller communities: Phoenixville, Pennsylvania
Related to the issues and concepts of destination management of communities large and small as expressed in recent blog entries ("Learning from Las Vegas: Round 2 | Planning for Activation and Transformational Projects," "London rejects a version of The Sphere"), commercial districts ("H Street NE nightlife district, failing?," "A follow up on the H Street article: Learning from Philadelphia | More sophisticated daypart, retail, cultural, and experience planning"), and specific destinations like the Eastern Market building and area of Capitol Hill DC ("Eastern Market DC's 150th anniversary last weekend | And my never realized master plan for the market"), the Philadelphia Inquirer has an interesting article, "Phoenixville has turned into a destination, but some locals don’t like what it’s become," about how a town outside of Philadelphia attracts thousands of patrons to its Bridge Street "main street" traditional commercial district on weekends through street closure, but not all businesses and residents are happy about it.
Phoenixville is in Chester County, 27 miles from Philadelphia, which is a goodly distance away, and maybe too far to attract Philadelphia residents as patrons.
So the community needs to focus on attracting area residents.
Which it can do because Chester County has 500,000+ residents.Phoenixville Inside Out event was created. It closes the street from Friday afternoon to Monday morning in favor of dining, music, and yes drinking.
Some residents and business owners don't like the event, And that includes someone who had been the commercial district revitalization manager for the district back in the 2000s.
It reminds me of the similar dislike by vendors of Eastern Market public market in DC and the weekend street closure of 7th Street.
They complain about access difficulties and loss of parking (even though there aren't that many spaces and they didn't turnover because at the time there weren't time restrictions on weekends).
It's true that not every business is set up to benefit from street closure if they don't sell goods that appeal to that particular demographic and event approach.
It also reminds me of some opposition by businesses on St. Catherine Street in Montreal where the street is closed to cars for a couple months every summer.
True, not every business benefits from such treatments. To me, that means taking planning steps to assist those businesses where street closures are a hindrance, and to help the businesses that can better benefit to realize those opportunities.
But the article illustrates to me a number of things:
- For example, it says the district is so successful it doesn't need a commercial district revitalization manager. I disagree. It illustrates the point that revitalization is multi-phased and needs constant management ("MAIN STREET NICHES IN A MASS SALES WORLD," Neal Peirce, 2004)
- That not every business will benefit from certain strategies and tactics, even if most do. (In DC I have written about this in terms of BIDs representing property owners foremost, business owners second, residents not at all, and activation planning not at all.)
- Work to create better opportunities for leveraging events for all businesses, including businesses that need to work harder on doing so.
- Making tough decisions is difficult.
- The commercial district needs to lobby for its interests in the face of opposition.
Park City, Utah has some of the same issues. It's a resort community in part because of skiing. It's also a destination for the Sundance Film Festival and other events. There is a Sunday Market, Silly Market, which closes Main Street.
Christoper Benton Dorsey can't remember the last time he saw High West Distillery as empty as he's seen it the past two Sundays as the Park Silly Sunday Market entered its August hiatus."Since the Silly Market went away, I guarantee you that the last two Sundays our business has been down," he told members of the Park City Council Tuesday afternoon, admitting that he doesn't have the empirical to back this but adds he's also never had to think much about it either.He said the bar was "completely empty" at 2 p.m. on a Sunday for the first time he can remember in 14 years of working there.The Park Silly Sunday Market, now in its 17th year, cut its operations down to just 11 Sundays on Main Street this year amid contract negotiations between the city and the market operators. The cuts meant no market on a pair of Sundays in July and all of August.