Downtown Revitalization Needs to Go Beyond Facelift

As a strong advocate for revitalization of old town centers, we carefully observe how interventions progress in other communities so we have insights about the efficacy of a range of solution sets and are alert to new possibilities.  The challenges for old Main Streets are greater than ever today so it is important that we realistically assess, design and implement strategies to increase the probability of success.  With that in mind, a piece in the Daily Times discussing efforts in Salisbury, which have been underway for a decade, caught our attention.  Some “business owners [there] are questioning if revitalization plans by Urban Salisbury go far enough to turn around the downtown area” and saying that revitalization has to go beyond a facelift.  Going beyond a facelift seems logical to us for it requires a wide range of comprehensive interventions, the physical environment being one of them, if vitality is going to be returned to our town centers.

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SALISBURY — The murmur in Salisbury’s sleepy downtown may have grown to a roar in the past year. That success is the focus of downtown proponents who, despite a recent facade improvement grant denial, have vowed to push onward with revitalizing the city’s core. . . .  Officials have said it’s not the end — it’s not even the main focus, just a piece of the puzzle. But some business owners think too much effort is going into one piece when another, easier option exists.

Downtown revitalization has been going on in Salisbury for more than a decade. Plans have been drafted, funded, discussed and then shelved over and over again. But Urban Salisbury officials have said it won’t happen with this one.

Hope said the organization will apply for grant funds again and won’t give up on the Main Street Master Plan. But in the meantime, a whole new crowd can be found downtown during monthly Third Friday celebrations.  In comparison to past efforts, Hope thinks this one shows more promise. “It has raised awareness and enthusiasm for the downtown,” he said.

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2 responses to “Downtown Revitalization Needs to Go Beyond Facelift

  1. Great article Mike – brings out some of the many challenges of stimulating a downtown area. I really think Elkton is poised for a “revitalization”…perhaps not in the immediate future…but not far down the road. Which means now is the time for thinking about what we want that revitalization to look like.

  2. Thank Tari. As a longtime supporter of the National Trust’s Main Street program, one that focuses on maintaing the quality of the old downtowns, this is something that’s been important to me for decades. So whenever I see a program I’m constantly analyzing it, checking to see what’s working, if that’s the case. Or mulling over what isn’t working and wondering about that.

    A number of successful Main Street programs in the region clearly demonstrate the value in investing in downtowns and provide case studies for what could be successful strategies in Elkton.

    It will take a multifacted approach in anyplace and you have to have a realistic vision. You also have to recognize the barriers and challenges that have emerged such as the loss of hundreds of offices workers.

    I still think Elkton has some potential from a tourism standoint. When we first modeled Elk Landing we believed that once it was up and running it would cause Elkton to be a destination spot, pulling tourists off the highway. It also has it’s marriage history, whic his unqiue and could have some pull. Think if you had living history walking tours downtown on Friday and Saturday evening to draw visitors to the town and support the hospitality industry.

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