Understanding the Benefits of a Downtown Revitalization Program

Continuing with our series of blogs on the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs’ Downtown Revitalization Program, this entry will take a look at the potential benefits and impacts of a revitalization program.

Downtown Revitalization (DR) can be costly and time-consuming, with positive impacts emerging only over the longer-term. As the figure from the DR Coordinator’s Manual shows, economic impacts are not expected until the medium-term in a downtown revitalization program, with new market trends (e.g. e-commerce) necessitating a long-term commitment to ensure sustainability. Though time frames remain a key challenge, downtown revitalization programs also contend with the perception that their benefits are “local” to the downtown area, rather than the broader community.dr blog

OMAFRA’s DR program offers a flexible process that responds to those challenges by encouraging communities to scale their budget to work with specific community characteristics, while also promoting an integrated strategic plan that can produce short- and long-term impacts that extend to a variety of stakeholders across the community (e.g. local businesses, property owners and residents, local government, and community organizations). Particularly successful in smaller rural areas with well-networked businesses and organizations, the integrated planning process engages with stakeholders across the community; greatly improving the prospects of spreading those benefits and impacts to stakeholders outside of the downtown. In communities of 1,000-2,000 people, the program may even feel more like “community” revitalization for that reason.

The DR Coordinator’s Manual provides an overview of potential benefits and impacts by stakeholder, but generally, DR programs can generate:

  • Stronger local businesses and employment growth in retail and service sectors, through identification of opportunities for growth and expansion based on existing and potential markets
  • New investments (e.g. renewed facades, new tenants/owners or new design features) that contribute to a sense of investment security and stability in the downtown
  • Aesthetic improvements in both public and private spaces downtown that support broader quality of place improvements to attract and retain employees in the community
  • New residential development at a variety of densities and tenures in the downtown
  • Increased community fiscal sustainability, including increased tax assessment from previously underutilized spaces and efficient use of existing infrastructure through infill development

OMAFRA’s Agriculture and Rural Economic Development Advisors can help you design and implement a downtown revitalization program that can produce these types of benefits and impacts for your community. For more information on OMAFRA’s Downtown Revitalization Program visit our website.

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