Stepping Up Downtown Revitalization

The Need to Step Up Downtown Revitalization

An old saying goes something like this: “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” This saying applies to the places we live. While some people may love the South because of their mild winters, others may despise their humid summers. Some people may love to live downtown because of the great night life, while others would prefer a place away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Some qualities, however, remain a constant in finding a place to live. Everyone wants a safe neighborhood, good neighbors, and proximity to schools and stores. Traditionally, all of these could be found in the downtown areas of our American cities. Unfortunately today, many downtowners find themselves living in substandard housing, in areas of the city that are obviously falling apart socially, economically and physically.

Imagine how it would be to wake up every morning to the smell of dog urine, feeling a cold wind coming in from the broken glass of your window. You know that there isn’t much for breakfast, so you decide to stay in bed. Somehow, you think, maybe if you go back to sleep for a while, things will be better when you wake up.

Or, imagine that you awake one morning to the smell of pancakes cooking and coffee brewing in the kitchen. As you get out of bed, your new bedroom carpet greets your feet.

Is it any wonder that one of these scenarios is more likely to produce a person that will do well in school, find a good job, and be a productive citizen?

Studies have shown that the environment in which a person lives can have a positive or negative impact on that person’s behavior. For example, a person living in an area that is well cared for will be more motivated to do his or her part to take care of the area. A person who lives in an area that is falling apart will have less motivation to take care of the area, and could actually contribute to the area’s degradation.

Go into almost any modern suburb, and it won’t be long before you see construction workers with their hard hats and leather gloves, building a new strip mall or Wal-Mart. At the same time, there is another store closing its doors downtown and moving out, creating yet another vacant building in the middle of the city. This sounds crazy, until you stop and look at the bottom line. The stores are going to go where the people are, and the people are also leaving downtown for the suburbs. Why would someone want to live downtown, when it is falling apart and they can have a bigger house with a bigger yard in the suburbs?

Until lately, the government hasn’t stepped in to do anything about this downtown decay. In fact, states often adopt policies that encourage suburban sprawl, disinvestment in downtowns, and disparities. Few regions in the United States have incorporated government organizations for the strategic planning of cities. The government, like the person in the first example above, seems to be pulling the sheets over its head and hoping that all the problems will just go away by themselves.

Can we blame the government for what has happened over the last 40 years to our downtowns? Elected officials only hold their positions for a few years at a time, and investing big money in downtown revitalization may not produce the instant economic gains that are required to earn reelection. As stated by Beth Mattson-Teig in her article, Financing Urban Revitalization,

“Redevelopment is much more costly than building on open suburban acreage. Additional capital is required to assemble land, raze or renovate existing structures, and clean up any environmental contamination. As a result, revitalization projects typically involve multifaceted layering of bank and commercial mortgage financing, public grants or low interest loans, tax abatements, private equity, tax credits, and other forms of subordinated debt.” (Urban Land, March 2002)

Even in a rough economy, some are seeing advantages of returning downtown. Retailers, who during the 90’s were building stores rapidly without much consideration for location, are now becoming selective. The downtown areas are great for retailers, with relatively low rent for space and a good amount of potential buyers. Another idea that is working is that of renovating old warehouses and other buildings, creating multi-use structures. There can be living quarters in the upper levels (apartments and condominiums), and commercial space on the first floor. This idea faces some opposition because many of the current two-dimensional zoning laws are not complex enough to handle multi-use buildings.

Another ray of hope for downtowns comes in the form of its residents, both people and businesses. These businesses have a strong interest in keeping the downtown alive, because they need a quality city in order to attract quality workers. Some civic groups have had a lot of success, assisting in the development of many key downtown projects or investing in the public school systems. Those interested in helping their downtown areas improve should become involved in these organizations or in local government.

Downtowns are precious links to the history of cities, and at one time they were the place to be. Although downtowns have suffered, many cities are rediscovering the benefits of downtown revitalization. With increasing public awareness of the problems affecting downtowns, local and state governments are more likely to invest public money in much needed urban renewal projects. Hopefully, someday, we will be singing the old familiar tune:

When you’re alone and life is making you lonely

You can always go – downtown

When you’ve got worries, all the noise and the hurry

Seems to help, I know – downtown

Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city

Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty

How can you lose?

The lights are much brighter there

You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares

So go downtown, things will be great when you’re

Downtown – no finer place, for sure

Downtown – everything’s waiting for you.

Downtown, by Petula Clark

The Downtown Long Beach Business Scene

Downtown Long Beach has a vibrant business scene and has a friendly environment for aspiring entrepreneurs who wish to move there. Some of the top employers in the city include California State University, Boeing, United States Postal Service and Verizon.

Downtown Long Beach’s business scene is also made up of many healthcare professionals and retail owners, and the city has recently made efforts to develop a sustainable green economy with eco-friendly policies and advanced technology. For example, the Chamber of Commerce has a green council that promotes sustainable business methods and last year the city assigned certain neighborhoods in the downtown area bike-friendly zones. Businesses in these zones will give discounts to cyclists who visit those areas.

According to the Long Beach Business Journal, the economy downtown is expected to improve this year but will be a slow process. This is because of the state’s ongoing fiscal troubles that caused a decrease in important business projects throughout the state’s cities.

Another reason for the area’s slow economic recovery this year is because of a decline in trading partners with the state in recent years. In addition, Boeing laid off hundreds of its workers in the city last year. But overall, the town still has a good business scene despite these problems.

Because progressive attitudes always increase a city’s business reputation, it’s important to note that according to the LGBT-oriented magazine The Advocate, Long Beach was ranked #14 among the most gay-friendly cities in America. This is good news because the area has a strong gay community and this enables LGBT persons who want develop businesses to feel welcomed and comfortable while setting up shop.

Downtown Long Beach’s business scene is also made up of green jobs and examples of these include eco-friendly home furnishings manufacturers, solar panel and wind turbine manufacturers, natural health food businesses, online writing jobs, recycling companies, community gardens, fuel companies and nonprofit jobs which promote sustainable living in the city.

This California coastal city also has an Enterprise Zone Hiring Tax Program that offers tax credits to business owners in this city. According to the city’s website, businesses in Long Beach can save $37,000 in business taxes if they take advantage of this tax credit program and hire more workers each year. The tax credit also reduces businesses’ labor costs.

The one thing that’s missing from the growth of the downtown business climate is minority-owned businesses. While some minority-owned businesses currently exist in this area, there is more room for aspiring minority entrepreneurs to set up shop in downtown Long Beach. One good business idea for minorities is to open a Farmer’s market or a clothing store which includes primarily clothing that’s made from eco-friendly materials. There are also hundreds of other ideas the can help the revitalization of the downtown area.

Cleveland, Ohio Downtown Hotels

Located a mile from the famous Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, this hotel in the downtown area promises comfortable accommodations at the lowest possible price. Rooms are equipped with air conditioning, cable or satellite TV, in-room coffee and tea maker as well as complimentary Internet access and various standard amenities. At a starting rate of US$ 60 per night, travelers can enjoy the luxury they offer. The hotel further provides complimentary breakfast, usage of their game room, fitness equipments, laundry facilities, parking space and a pet-friendly atmosphere. In addition, business travelers can avail of their business center and 24-hour front desk service.

University Hotel & Suites is near the Cleveland Burke Lakefront Airport, Soldiers and Sailors Monument. Key Tower and Cleveland Convention Center is also a short distance away.

Red Roof Inn Cleveland – Independence

Red Roof Inn is arguably the only hotel in downtown Cleveland that allows children under the age of 17 to stay in for free, particularly when occupying the same room with an adult family member! Located off interstate 77, this inn offers a pet-friendly atmosphere with their newly renovated bedrooms and bathrooms. All room reservation comes with free local calls, expanded cable, data ports, complimentary coffee as well as cribs and snack centers. Moreover, late check-outs are accommodated given that rooms are available. Other amenities like hi-speed Internet access, premium TV channels, movies, games and music can also be granted upon request although additional fees may be applicable.

Room reservations starts at US$53 per night. You can also make reservations online.

Comfort Inn Downtown

Conveniently near the Playhouse Square Center, Wolsein Center of the Cleveland State University and Progressive Field, Comfort Inn Downtown, this hotel offers room at a starting price of US$ 99. This inn provides its quests with cable or satellite TV, in-room air conditioning and free coffee in every room. Additional services such as an in-bath whirlpool, kitchenette and multiple phone lines are subject to availability.

Room reservations come with a free deluxe continental breakfast, newspaper from Mondays to Fridays and access to a wireless hi-speed Internet. This downtown Inn Cleveland, offers its guests usage of their exercise room, copy services, laundry area, meeting rooms, indoor and outdoor parking though fees may apply. Reservations can also be made online.

Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Cleveland – Downtown

Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Cleveland resides in a historic 19th century building that was once called “The Guardian Bank Building”. This hotel in downtown Cleveland will not only provide guests easy access to Cleveland’s main attraction but it’s a momentous facility as well.

Located with in the financial district, it is walking distances from the Cleveland Browns Stadium, House of Blues, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers Q Arena. Moreover, the hotel offers vacation packages to the city’s major tourist destination like the Pickwick and Frolic Comedy Club and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,

Holiday Inn offers various rooms and services to cater to each traveler’s need. Guest rooms come with free continental breakfast, TV with cable, in-room pay-per-view and video games, hi-speed Internet access, a work desk, phone line and other standard amenities. Whirlpools, separate living rooms and other usage of their business center is available upon request.

Events and corporate meeting can also be hold at this hotel. They provide usage of fax machines, printers and copying services at their business center. Daily housekeeping and laundry services can also be availed. Children can spend their time in the game room featuring many game machines such as pin ball, racing and shooting game consoles and tables. Moreover, mothers and daughter can enjoy a day of pampering at Holiday Inn’s beauty salon.

Room rates starts at US$ 99 per night. Reservations can be also be made online.