Downtown on the Upswing
Working together, government officials and businesses are utilizing careful planning and strategic vision to revitalize the nation's once-thriving town centers.
Cynthia Kincaid , Kincaid Strategic Partners (Aug/Sep 07)
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New Sectors and Existing Residents
boon for those who plan and correctly execute downtown redevelopment is
the addition of new businesses and new residents into the community.
"Pure life science, biotech, and pharmaceutical companies have not
really been attracted to the Charlotte region in the past," says Legg.
"[The research campus] changes all of that in a big way. Now there is a
reason for them to be in the Charlotte area, because there is such a
unique collaboration of universities."
Tennessee, has seen its share of revitalization and development, with
still much more to be done. Having numerous historic buildings in need
of redevelopment, many developers took a hard look at the economic
viability of revitalizing downtown, after much of the retail in the
area moved to adjacent malls.
"We had all of these warehouses
downtown that were no longer being used as warehouses," says Tony
Bologna, owner of Bologna Consultants, a Memphis-based construction
consulting firm. With a desire to lure more residents and companies
downtown, Memphis started converting the abandoned warehouse and office
buildings into apartments in 1980. From there, they built houses and
office buildings on Mud Island, a park-like area located off of
downtown. Much of the housing was targeted for people already working
in the downtown area.
What has made the current downtown
redevelopment in Memphis successful is the city's unique location as a
gateway for business and manufacturing distribution. "With Federal
Express, the railroads, and all the barge traffic that goes through
here, we are a major distribution center," says Bologna. In addition,
the area has St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, as well as
numerous government agencies to provide good jobs. "We were also able
to entice AutoZone to move its corporate headquarters downtown," he
says. "They took an old warehouse building, renovated it, and built a
brand-new office building for their headquarters."
The revitalization of downtown Memphis has
worked. More people are living and spending time in the area. "We have
a lot of things going on downtown: theaters, festivals, and sports,"
says Bologna. "People have now adapted to urban living as a way of
So successful are some of these downtown remakes, that
many cities around the country are entering into the fray with large
and small projects:
• In downtown San Diego, a 34-story office
tower, with a focus on environmentally-friendly design, is currently
being proposed. In fact, the building is striving to be Leadership in
Energy and Environmental Design-certified by the U.S. Green Building
Council. Irvine Co., a Newport Beach developer, anticipates design
approval in summer of 2007 and groundbreaking by mid-2008.
northern California, downtown Napa has seven major private developments
in various stages of construction including, an Oxbow Public Market and
Annex, a Westin Verasa hotel, residential construction, and restaurants.
More than $2 billion in private and public investment has been utilized
or is planned for downtown redevelopment in Scottsdale, Arizona, during
the next five years. Some of this money has already resulted in
projects that include mixed-use office space in Stetson Plaza, the
Portales Corporate Center, the Hotel Valley Ho, and Waterview hotel and
• In the late 1980s, the city of Joliet,
Illinois, created a Joliet City Center Development Plan to revitalize
its downtown core. Many aspects of the plan have been completed,
including the Harrah's Casino Pavilion and Hotel, the Freedom Court
building, and expansion of the Joliet Public Library. More than $128
million in property valuation has been added to the downtown area.
Creating a Substantial Foundation
to Legg, to succeed in a downtown redevelopment requires "something
substantial that moves downtown and creates well-paying jobs. And you
have to create higher density residential sections that draw people
downtown after hours and on weekends." Bologna agrees and adds to the
mix good corporate citizenship and developers with deep enough pockets
to roll with the lean years. "You've got to have developers and clients
who are not looking for a quick buck, who are looking to stay the
course, and who can keep the vision they started out with," he says.
says Legg, successfully revamping a downtown area requires a
combination of vision and action. "You've got to get aggressive, take
risks, and make it happen," he says. "Most things usually fail because
of a lack of vision. Once you get past that, then you can start working
on the details."