Community revitalization transforms lives, improves the local economy for families and businesses, and beautifies the area. Its impact touches everybody, whether you’re an employee, an independent professional, a business owner, a stay-at-home individual, or a retired resident. Private and public revitalization efforts, when effectively planned and executed, are a life-changing force for the benefit of the community at large.
Let’s acknowledge the commendable efforts of those who have achieved impactful revitalization for their areas. Hats off to the successfully revitalized communities of Greenville, SC, and Laramie, WY, and kudos to the community members, businesses, residents, and professionals who brought their transformations to fruition. These two communities are in the spotlight, as shining examples that have created a legacy I aspire to follow in my community, and hope others will do the same.
It takes a team of people with vision and passion to enhance their community positively, as there are always forces working against these efforts, and numerous challenges along the way. However, in the end, community revitalization is a worthwhile and honorable effort, as it aims to benefit multitudes of families and businesses for years to come and change the trajectory of the entire area.
REVITALIZATION OF GREENVILLE
The city of Greenville, SC has undergone significant revitalization over the past few decades, with the help of successful public-private collaboration, key anchor developments, and a strong focus on boosting the economy and physical beautification.
The revitalization has been supported by the community and has led to the transformation of the downtown area. Formerly neglected spaces, abandoned warehouses, and empty storefronts were replaced by upscale restaurants, high-end residential condos, commercial buildings, beautiful parks, open spaces, and impressive water features within a pedestrian-friendly and vibrant environment.
The city's Economic Development Department has played a vital role in this process, in collaboration with businesses and residents that have shared the goal of strategic and impactful revitalization of their city over the years. Their shared vision had a keen focus on the revitalization of the central business district, and strategic spreading of the positive impact throughout the region.
Additionally, the city has been involved in neighborhood revitalization efforts, including the redevelopment of County Square, a multibillion-dollar revitalization project at a large superfund site. The Economic Development Strategic Plan demonstrates Greenville’s dedication to long-term growth by prioritizing support for businesses and creating an environment that fosters innovation. With its research institutions, skilled workforce, and business-friendly atmosphere Greenville has been transformed into a thriving and innovation-driven community and a beautiful place to live and work.
REVITALIZATION OF LARAMIE
Like many other small towns throughout the US, Laramie had a blighted and dilapidated downtown district suffering from the common community diseases of abandonment, vacant buildings, and deterioration. However, Laramie was revitalized through vision, commitment, and community involvement.
The community came together to create a comprehensive downtown plan, which led to the creation of the Laramie Main Street Alliance. The program focused on growing locally owned businesses, creating innovative partnerships and public art projects, and encouraging the construction of additional residential units.
The revitalization efforts have been nothing short of astounding, with Laramie now boasting 272 locally-owned businesses in a downtown district that covers nearly 30 blocks. There are 35 restaurants and bars and about 70 retailers, including specialty gift shops, clothing stores, and art galleries. Additionally, there are nearly 100 new residential units, and 95% of the available space downtown is occupied.
The success of Laramie's downtown revitalization project can be attributed to the grassroots efforts of the community, with local residents who care being the key.
The public-private partnerships that were formed in both revitalized cities, as part of their strategy, facilitated the development of new development projects, adding vibrant retail, dining, and apartments that attracted additional businesses and families to the downtown district. This new trend created an influx of revenues to the area, enabling the enhancement of the infrastructure and beautification of downtown, as planned.
The outcome of this revitalization and transformation effort was a positive and ongoing economic boost for businesses, and significant improvements to the quality of life for families. The positive ripple effects flowed from the downtown districts and spread outwardly throughout the areas and their regions, as planned. In both cases, the strategy of igniting revitalization in the downtown district created a successful transformation of the targeted areas and surrounding environments.
RESOURCE FOR TRANSFORMING YOUR COMMUNITY
Mainstreet America is an organization worth recognizing as it supported the revitalization of Laramie in numerous ways. The organization exists to help communities thrive and find their way to revitalization by offering tools, funding opportunities, and resources designed to empower communities to transform and succeed.
Mainstreet America calls the people and organizations that have a passion, vision, and purpose for revitalizing communities: “Changemakers”. An appropriate term. Everyone should be a “Changemaker” for their community! Main Street’s purpose is to “empower communities to set their own destinies”, and they help provide a road map for locally-owned, locally-driven prosperity, as they helped accomplish for Laramie, WY.
Across the country, thousands of communities have used the Main Street Approach to transform their economies, leverage local leadership, and improve overall quality of life. If you’re interested in revitalizing your community, give them a visit at www.mainstreet.org.
BASIC REVITALIZATION PRINCIPLES
Community Engagement and Collaboration
The first step toward revitalization is actively involving community members, businesses, and professionals. Effective engagement with like-minded residents, local businesses, and stakeholders who share the same passion and vision is key. By fostering collaboration, a shared vision for the future of the community can be established and refined.
Preservation of Cultural Identity
Preserving and celebrating the identity and heritage of the community will enhance the character that makes the community special. Consider incorporating traditions, historical elements, and cultural assets into the revitalization plan to maintain a sense of community identity. This approach will also attract visitors who are interested in authentic and meaningful experiences.
Economic Diversification and Local Businesses
Foster resilience by diversifying the economy and supporting small businesses. Encouraging the growth of local enterprises will contribute to maintaining the community’s character. A diverse economy is more resilient against sudden changes, while providing residents with employment opportunities. Revitalization efforts should include strategies aimed at attracting and retaining businesses that align with the established values and needs of the community.
Sustainable Development and Environmental Considerations
Prioritize development practices to ensure the long-term well-being of the community by incorporating eco-friendly infrastructure, green spaces, and energy-efficient technologies into the revitalization plan. This approach will help protect the environment and create a healthier and more appealing atmosphere for residents. Some examples of effective initiatives that can be implemented include planting trees, designing energy-efficient buildings, and implementing programs to reduce waste.
Strategic Housing Development
New housing is a critical component of any revitalization effort. Promoting a diverse range of housing options is critical for creating a well-balanced and vibrant environment that fosters a sense of belonging among all community members.
In my community of New Castle, PA, my aspiration is to collaborate with others to achieve similar goals as those accomplished by Greenville, SC and Laramie, WY. While the cities are very different, the efforts and challenges of revitalizing a community are similar in nature. Therefore, Greenville and Laramie serve as inspirations and role models for “Changemakers” who have a heart, passion, vision, and the motivation to enhance their communities.
While numerous other successfully revitalized communities also deserve recognition, my purpose of shedding a spotlight on the successes of Greenville, SC, and Laramie, WY is with hopes that others will be inspired to follow in their footsteps, as I have been.
Ricky Trinidad is the President of Metrovitalization, a real estate planning, development and construction company located in New Castle, PA.
Main Street America® - Community Profile: Laramie, Wyoming: https://higherlogicdownload.s3.amazonaws.com/NMSC/390e0055-2395-4d3b-af60-81b53974430d/UploadedImages/Succcess_Stories/Laramie_profile.pdf
Main Street America: www.mainstreet.org