Downtown Revitalization in Small and Midsized Cities

PAS Report 590

By Michael Burayidi

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Downtowns are more than the sum of their parts; they are the symbolic centers and the public faces of cities. When a downtown struggles with high vacancies and disinvestment, the entire city’s status and reputation often takes a hit.

While many big cities are experiencing downtown development booms, the downtowns of many small and midsized cities continue to face challenges associated with urban sprawl and economic shifts that favor major metropolitan areas.

Downtown Revitalization in Small and Midsized Cities provides exemplary strategies that have proved successful in transforming the downtowns of small and midsized cities. It discusses the conditions that make these strategies work and provides guidance on how to organize downtown stakeholders, organizations, and consultants in the downtown revitalization process.

Chapters focus on growing the downtown economy; using placemaking strategies to make downtown more inviting; expanding housing opportunities in the downtown; and capitalizing on downtown's civic, cultural, and entertainment assets to further support the vibrant environment needed for a thriving city center. The report also describes how to manage and coordinate downtown revitalization efforts, and how to assess progress and measure success along the way. 

Today's demographic shifts and growing interest in walkable, compact, and convenient live-work-play urban experiences are infusing new lifeblood into downtowns across the country. Downtown Revitalization in Small and Midsized Cities will be a valuable resource to help planners capitalize on these trends and support the resurgence of their communities' city centers. 


Executive Summary (pdf)

About the Author

Michael A. Burayidi, PhD, is professor of urban planning at Ball State University. He is author/editor of seven books on downtown revitalization and planning with multiple publics, including Cities and the Politics of Difference: Multiculturalism and Diversity in Urban Planning (University of Toronto Press 2015); Resilient Downtowns: A New Approach to Revitalizing the Centers of Small and Medium City Downtowns (Routledge 2013); and Downtowns: Revitalizing the Centers of Small Urban Communities (Routledge 2001). Burayidi provides consulting services to cities and towns on downtown revitalization through his consulting firm, Burayidi Consulting.

Product Details

Page Count
Date Published
Jan. 1, 2018
Adobe PDF
American Planning Association

Table of Contents

Executive Summary

Chapter 1. The Case for Revitalizing Downtowns in Small and Midsized Cities
Defining Small and Midsized Cities
The Special Nature of Small and Midsized City Downtowns
Key Elements of Downtown Revitalization
General Observations from the Case Studies in This Report
About This Report

Chapter 2. Diversifying and Growing the Downtown Economy
The Decline of the Traditional Downtown
The Competition Strategy
The Complementarity Strategy
The Regenerative Strategy
Downtown Market Analysis

Chapter 3. Downtown Placemaking
The Process of Placemaking
Placemaking Tactics

Chapter 4. Downtown Housing
Downtown Housing Market Assessment
Strategies to Support Downtown Housing Development
Attracting Downtown Residents

Chapter 5. Downtowns as Civic, Cultural, and Entertainment Centers
The Longmont Arts and Entertainment District Plan
The Gilbert Downtown Heritage Plan
The Columbus Cultural District Plan

Chapter 6. Organizing and Managing Downtown Revitalization
Catalysts for Downtown Revitalization
The Downtown Revitalization Process
Organizational Structures for Downtown Revitalization

Chapter 7. Assessing Progress and Measuring Success
Indicators and Metrics

Chapter 8. Diagnosing Downtown Challenges and Taking Action