Central Business District - Downtown Development
The vitality of a city's downtown is an important element in a community's economic development strategy. Goals such as promoting the revitalization of downtown to create a vital commercial core as the center of the community, or to revitalize and increase the economic vitality of downtown, are frequently articulated in city and town comprehensive plans. These goals are further developed by strategies that focus on traffic, transportation links and parking, visual appearance including signs, pedestrian improvements, safety, business location, and marketing.
This page provides links to resources and illustrates some of the strategies Washington local governments have used to develop these characteristics. As with other economic development strategies, downtown development should start with a community vision and be executed as a cooperative process between the local government and the local business community. Capitalizing on assets that attract tourists is a viable option for many of Washington's downtowns.
Resources for Downtown Development
The following are general sources of information regarding downtown development and revitalization.
- Cool Economic Development Tools, by Kennedy Smith, Mainstreet Now, November/December 2010, pp. 4-23 (Available through MRSC Library Loan)
- Ten Realistic Retail Themes for a Vibrant Downtown (), by Bill Ryan, Downtown Idea Exchange, 06/15/2008
- Downtown Research and Development Center - Forum for exchanging news, information, and ideas about downtown revitalization
- Funding Sources for Downtown Organizations, Executive Report, Downtown Research and Development Center, 04/2010 - Survey results on funding sources used by downtown organizations - Publisher information (Available through MRSC Library Loan)
- How "Green" is Your Main Street?, MainStreet News, 04/2009, entire issue - Articles on how sustainability relates to main street and how to get started (Also available through MRSC Library Loan)
- Main Street Center - National Trust for Historic Preservation - Useful information for revitalizing historic downtown centers
- Main Street Program, Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation - Uses National Main Street Center's 4-Point Approach® Program; managed by Washington Trust for Historic Preservation
- Turning Around Downtown: Twelve Steps to Revitalization (), by Christopher B. Leinberger, Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program, 03/08/05
Selected Statutes Applicable to Financing Downtown Development
These statutes and related MRSC webpages address financing of downtown development. See also Washington Statutes Relating to Financing Economic Development, MRSC
Program and Plan Descriptions
Many communities have websites to market their downtowns that include information on how their downtown vision is being carried out. The marketing of downtown is often done by the local chamber of commerce or other downtown association and may appear on a visitor information website.
Downtowns Developed Around Themes
Each community has a unique identity that can serve as the basis for downtown development. It might be the preservation of a cultural heritage, such as Poulsbo's Scandinavian roots or Lynden's Dutch heritage. In some communities, the existence of historic structures from a different era provides a central focus, as in Port Townsend and Snohomish. For many smaller towns, the preservation and enhancement of the small town or village atmosphere may be the primary theme on which to develop. Caution should be exercised if a community chooses to pursue a theme that does not have roots in the community or is not related to the community's architectural character or physical location.
Leavenworth - "The Bavarian Village"
- Leavenworth Municipal Code Ch. 14.08 - Old World Bavarian Architectural Theme
- Leavenworth Design Review Board - Includes sample designs for sign code and architectural theme
- Leavenworth - Chamber of Commerce site
Toppenish - "Where the West Still Lives" and "City of Murals"
- Toppenish Municipal Code Ch. 17.26 - Design Review District
- "City of Murals" - Toppenish has over 70 murals bringing to life scenes from the Old West: railroading, rodeos, farming, aviation events, Yakama Indian Nation scenes, and various historical events. Every mural is an historically correct depiction of the area's history. See Mural Gallery on Toppenish Chamber of Commerce website.
Winthrop - "Gateway to the North Cascades"
Langley - "Washington's Most Beautiful Waterfront Town"
Walla Walla - "Cradle of Northwest History"
Zillah Tuscan Design
- Zillah Municipal Code Ch. 15.30 - Old World Architectural Design Standards ()
Downtown Historic District
These communities have capitalized on their historic character to attract tourists. For more information, see MRSC's page on Historic Preservation.
La Conner - "Historic Fishing Village"
Port Townsend - "Washington's Victorian Seaport"
Snohomish - "Antique Capital of the Northwest"
This section includes links to related MRSC pages and sample downtown streetscape projects and plans from Washington jurisdictions.
- Bellingham City Center Master Plan, Streetscape Design ()
- Downtown Development Design Guidelines, MRSC
- Edmonds Streetscape Plan (), 03/2006 - Includes suggested improvements for the downtown, for commercial areas, for gateways and for the City‘s frontage on Highway 99
- Longview Downtown Streetscape Improvement Project
- Sign Control, MRSC
- Snohomish Historic Downtown Streetscape Plan (), Draft, 06/2005
- Street Banners, MRSC
- Streetscape Topics, MRSC