“Booster Rockets” For Downtown Revitalization Momentum

After decades of market preference for suburban development, Main Street and downtowns are hot again! Back in the market, they are once again desirable targets for investment, business startups, expansion, the creative economy, housing, and tourism. So, how do we sustain that momentum, take advantage of the attention, and keep the revitalization progress moving forward?  Our fellow downtown advocates @StrongTowns say communities must keep taking it to the next level without hesitation.

“I like to think of the early, “fun” stages of [revitalization] as the booster rockets on the old space shuttles…they’re necessary to get the things that really matter off the ground and into the atmosphere.  After they do their job, it’s all about making sure you blend that momentum with careful, strategic planning and experience to complete the mission.”

The Cork’s Been Popped…What’s Next For Your City? @StrongTowns

Abingdon puts policy tools to work

The Barter Theater is one of Abingdon's key cultural and historic assets.

The Barter Theater is one of Abingdon's key cultural and historic assets.

Public policy can direct private investment. By creating opportunities and incentives that align with a community’s economic development strategy, a locality, whether small or large, can put the tools in place to turn the vision into a reality.

Abingdon, the historic Washington County town, recently approved two new tax credits to help local property owners invest in the historic, culturally vibrant community.  

One adds the benefits of a local tax credit for the the rehabilitation of historic structures to the federal and state incentives already available. 

The other establishes an arts and cultural district. Newly allowed in 2009 across the commonwealth under House Bill 1735, the districts allow communities to give tax incentives and regulatory flexibility to meet the goals of designated arts and cultural districts. At least six other designated Main Street communities are currently pursuing the districts in their localities.

Abingdonwas able to pass both of these ordinances because of a clear sense of who and what the community is:  a cultural, historic, and tourism hub in the region. In fact, they spell it out in their arts and culture ordinance:  “The Town of Abingdon enjoys a rich heritage of arts, culture and history and desires to support and sustain the continued growth, development and success of its diverse arts and cultural venues through providing incentives geared toward steady growth and progression.”

For more information on implementing arts- and culture- related strategies, read the Fall 2009 Main Street Monitor.