In the last several years, my travels have taken me to Denver Colorado, Washington D.C., Dallas Texas, Chicago Illinois, Detroit Michigan, and Phoenix Arizona. Not to mention the dozens and dozens of towns I have visited with my husband in a quest to have seen every town in the state of Missouri.
There is an excitement that used to exist in the thrill of experiencing something new. To visually see the culture of someplace I had never seen before. From the airport to the city destination, a ride through the suburbs typically introduces the landscape of the region. City after city, town after town, highway after by-way….they all look the same.
CVS, Walgreens, Wal-Mart, Starbucks, Home Depot, McDonalds, Bed Bath and Beyond. You get the point. The same buildings, the same businesses, the same colors. The only differences are Oak trees vs. Palm Trees. Mountains vs. Plains. There is nothing unique about anywhere in America until you find its old downtown core, if it is still standing.
It might only be one block long, or four blocks squared, however it is artwork in a world where every canvas has the same painting. This, my fellow Americans, is where the future wants to be, and if your suburb or your rural historic downtown has even a thread of salvage-ability to it, it is time to start investing.
This is about generations, and the cultures that go with them. These are the places that get visited, lived in, and most of all where wallets open up. Almost every town has an historic downtown. Provide the benefits people are looking for (especially the Millenials) and like a perfect garden…watch it grow. Not only do unique retail and dining establishments thrive in these areas, they are wanted! These are the type of establishments that can naturally survive the big box chains. Even more with the growing trend of conscious consumerism, these are the places those purchases are likely to be found. If you need any more convincing, designated commercial buildings can use Federal Historic Tax Credits for restoration (which is the greenest –Extreme Green Campaign- choice available). http://www.preservationnation.org/main-street/
Here in Missouri, we still have State Historic Tax Credits, and quite honestly these tax credits are often the only way some downtown’s can be revived, increasing commerce, homeownership, and decreasing crime.
In regards to this topic, 2013 Target Market Visitors to the State of Missouri participated in the following:
39% Dining at Unique Local Restaurants
18% Visiting a Historic Site
17% Visiting Quaint Attractions/Small Towns
Data provided by SMARI Ad/PR Effectiveness Study-CY13
If you already have a growing downtown keep it going! And by the way…keep it open. 70% of all purchases in downtown areas happen after 6pm Roger Brooks International.
Here’s to Happy Historic Sustainability!
Audrey L. Elder
Past to Present Research LLC
Research, Consulting and Education