Downtown Economics

We offer ideas on how to create a vibrant downtown in a small city. Our publications analyze the benefits and difficulties of downtowns on topics ranging from coexisting with Big Box Stores to planning the optimal business mix.

Recovery in the Hotel Business (Issue 197, May 2022)

Hotels provide an important service to our communities and represent a significant economic engine for jobs, business revenue, and taxes. Plus, they often serve as a gateway to a community, influencing perceptions of the broader community.

Strengths, Weaknesses, and Potentials of Pedestrian Malls (Issue 196, February 2022)

Since its inception, members of the American Downtown Revitalization Review’s (ADRR) Board have engaged in a near-continuous e-mail dialogue about a wide range of issues, trends and opportunities that do not, in our opinions, always receive the attention they need and deserve in other media outlets and industry publications. The vitality of these conversations is evident in the number who join and/or read these back-and-forths more than two years after the ADRR’s launch; indeed, over time, non-Board members have added to the ferment with their own observations and insights.

Shaping Downtown After COVID-19 (Issue 194, June 2021)

This topic in Downtown Economics summarizes key points or “takeaways” from the recent webinar titled Shaping Downtown after COVID 19. The well-attended webinar highlighted examples of successful initiatives in four cities: Ithaca, New York, and Appleton, Eau Claire, and La Crosse Wisconsin. The following takeaways are presented without significant editing.  You may watch the entire […]

Latinx Immigration, Entrepreneurship, and Downtown Development (Issue 193, January 2021)

Small towns and rural communities across Wisconsin have markedly different experiences when it comes to their downtowns and main streets. Over the last decade, some Wisconsin communities have seen their downtown district become a lifeline to a rural renewal, while others have experienced decline defined by an exodus of businesses and disinvestment from the core […]

local artist painting picnic tables
How Artists and a Public Space Can Create Unique and Safe Seating for Restaurant Carryout (Issue 192, October 2020)

An Innovative Response to COVID-19 If we have gained anything from the pandemic, one of the most important and hopefully long-lasting is the successful collaboration of public and private sectors. Place makers, community organizers, and city officials have all had to become more creative and think further outside the box than we are usually called […]

Alternative Revenues for Downtown Restaurants during COVID-19 (Issue 191, September 2020)

Restaurants have become a key element in the business mix of downtowns throughout Wisconsin and the U.S. Their growth has helped reestablish downtown as the central social district of our communities and they have been a major employer and a visible example of entrepreneurship at work.

The Changing Facades of Downtown: A La Crosse, Wisconsin Success Story (Issue 190, April 2020)

(Image Source: Jakob Braun / Unsplash) In May 2016 when Travis Gaarder purchased the downtown property at 111 4th Street North, he began his plan for improvements. The two-story building was only assessed at $45,300 and both floors were vacant. The last known tenant on the first floor was in the 1980s and it is […]

Current Trends in Retail: Looking Ahead to 2020 and Beyond (Issue 189, December 2019)

The US is significantly oversupplied with retail space. We have as much as 10-times the square feet per person as Germany.  This has contributed to as many as 10,000 store closures this year. Smaller community malls have been hurt the most. Those that remain open typically operate at a vacancy rate of 10% or more. […]

Walkability Means Better Business (Issue 188, July 2019)

(Image Source: Frank Busch / Unsplash) Walkability is a measure of how friendly an area is for walking. Factors influencing walkability include the presence or absence and quality of footpaths, sidewalks, or other pedestrian rights-of-way, traffic and road conditions, land use patterns, building accessibility, distance, and safety. The friendlier a place, the more people will […]

Dollar Stores in Small Communities: Are They a Good Fit for Your Town? (Issue 187, December 2018)

(Image Source: Claudio Schwarz / Unsplash) The three largest dollar store chains, Dollar General, Family Dollar, and Dollar Tree, have found ways to stay relevant in the changing, post-Great Recession. As the popularity of online shopping is increasing, some large retailers, like Sears and JC Penney, have closed many of their stores. Meanwhile, dollar store […]

Downtown Development Strategies: Assessing the Priorities of Illinois Municipal Leaders (Issue 186, April 2018)

Downtowns traditionally provide shopping, entertainment, social, and employment opportunities, as well as property tax revenue, for their respective municipalities. For residents, visitors, and local governments, downtowns can also serve as an indicator of the economic health of the entire community. As technology advances and the population ages, the roles of many downtowns are changing. As […]

Retail at the End of 2017 (Issue 185, December 2017)

Consumer Market Segments Overall, consumer demand and behavior have changed significantly over the past decade. At the end of 2017, those changes are having a lasting impact on the industry. Deliberate Consumers. These consumers are cautious about spending. They now expect and search for bargains, an expectation that retailers have unhappily fostered and reinforced. These […]

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