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Revitalizing Small Towns: Resolving Downtown Challenges

Full resource: Some Thoughts On The Economic Revitalization Of Small Town Downtowns
Date published: 2013
Source: The Economic Development Journal
Author: N. David Milder, (DANTH, Inc.) and Andrew Dane (Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc.)

Studies and best practice about the revitalization of downtowns tends to focus on larger cities. However, there are many challenges which are unique to small towns, and often aren’t recognized or addressed. This article offers a straightforward explanation of how downtown revitalization is different for small towns, and also highlights potential strategies for success. The authors of this article try and fill this gap after a study of downtowns in two small, Wisconsin communities.

At one level, small and large towns do share some similar priorities when it comes to revitalizing their downtowns: they both need a comprehensive approach, and need to leverage existing assets. But when looking at small towns more closely they’re surprisingly complex, from economic development challenges and analytical needs, to complex land use and transportation issues. They also suffer from a chronic unemployment, and need to think outside the box to begin resolving this issue. A further difficulty is a lack of resources and expertise to support and implement change. Successful small communities have developed a range of alternate approaches by leveraging limited resources and working with nearby communities, as well as by creating main street associations, business networks, circuit rider programs and consortiums, and economic development organizations.

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