Downtown Marketing and Development

Insights and observations on the redevelopment and revitalization of post-industrial towns on the Route 422 Corridor in Southeastern Pennsylvania.


Life in America – Homeless Encampment Edition

The lockdown of 2021 created an upheaval in many lives. Everyone had to shelter in place for a year. This created many issues in our daily routine. My wife and I got to know each other well as we worked from home. We each got a monthly paycheck, even though my work was in slow motion because it was public sector work.

Trust the Science and Follow the Narrative

Last week I saw something I had not seen since the publication of the Covert Action Bulletin in the 1970s. The court has prohibited the government from censoring dissenting opinions. It concerned vaccine deniers and, in general, those unwilling to accept everything and the "trust the science" exception to free speech.

Flood Preparation and Mitigation — The Downingtown Model

The Hurricane Ida flooding in Downingtown was some of the worst residents saw. Many of the churches and service organizations contacted Mayor Phil Dague and asked him to lead the effort to be prepared for the next flood when it comes. He established a common understanding of risk-informed planning and decision-making fundamentals to help Downingtown examine a hazard or threat and produce an integrated, coordinated, and synchronized plan.

Office Vacancies and Retail Recovery

The face of cities is changing. Recently, the CoStar Group reported that 12.9 percent of office space is vacant nationally, marking the sixth straight double-digit quarter. The rate has increased from a post-financial crisis low of 9.4 percent in the second quarter of 2019. The office space "availability" rate, which measures vacant offices plus currently leased space that isn't being renewed or has been listed for subleasing, is 16.4 percent.

Noblesse Oblige Versus Capitaliste Oblige

The term noblesse oblige was first used in 1835. It is a term belonging to an earlier time of medieval generosity, referring to a lord’s responsibility because of their hereditary inheritance of privilege. I became familiar with it when some guy named Mike used the term in all the classes I shared with him when I was seeking a graduate degree in public policy at Carnegie Mellon University.

Trust the Science

German Political Scientist Robert Michels (1876– 1936) theorized the "iron law of oligarchy" during his attempts to explain exclusive organizational behavior. It is as follows:

All forms of organization, regardless of how democratic they may be at the start, will eventually and inevitably develop oligarchic tendencies, thus making true democracy practically and theoretically impossible, especially in large groups and complex organizations.

The Value of Design in Maintaining Regional Marketplace Position

One of the things I look for when strategically repositioning a municipal entity is how a place looks. I have always been a fan of historic resources and how they impact the sense of place in a town. 

Infill construction is an important part of the design effort. When you are in the city, there is a lot of color in the apartment buildings, which is done to turn the nature of the space. I am not big on those kinds of buildings. I like the infill to look like it belongs. 

Repositioning in the Regional Marketplace

I recently saw a newspaper article about the Municipality of Norristown proposing repositioning the municipality in the regional marketplace. It was refreshing to hear someone take a serious approach to improving the town. 

Norristown has witnessed a hyper-segregation of low-income people in one area. The hyper-segregation of low-income people resulted from well-meaning people seeking to provide housing for that population. Unfortunately, clustering this type of development over the years has a cumulative effect.

Foot Traffic is the Key to Cities Survival

As cities continue to come back from the pandemic, Center City Philadelphia is trying to track the foot traffic in relation to pre-pandemic 2019. Their recent study shows that it is about 77 percent of what would have been considered normal before Covid-19.

Changes in Place as Space Use Evolves

I have worked in several different sections of Philadelphia, and recently both of my former streets have been in the news. Repeated shootings on South Street have left the street shell-shocked and led to retail store vacancies far greater than anything I remember in my 30 years in Philadelphia. Kensington Ave (The Avenue) has continued to experience problems like those I experienced during my time there in the early 1990s.

Cities Changing with the Times

Remote work has changed the office market in many cities. However, things are far from the ghost towns I saw in the spring of 2021 when I visited 70 cities to inventory and chronicle the effect of the lockdown on cities.

South Street's Redefined Market Position

I visited South Street in Philadelphia this week to have lunch with a long-time friend. It was the day after there was a news article that had people questioning the closure of the side streets during the Made in America concert weekend. It appeared to me that the police were trying to limit access to the commercial area because they were afraid of violence. 

Flooding in Downingtown

For the past few months, I have been working with a committee in my hometown of Downingtown concerning flooding. I sent out a mailing asking interested people to form a committee. About ten people are involved, and each has a different interest in the process.

One Committee worked on mitigation and was eventually merged with the Borough of Downingtown Flood Committee to have one mitigation committee. Community members understand and know the conditions on the ground during a flood and have a voice at the table, which is how it is supposed to work.

As American as Mom and Apple Pie

Recent efforts to change how we feel about sexual identity have caused a stir throughout the hinterland. In a recent article, I explained that I had no problems calling people by their preferred pronoun.

But now, the term motherhood is under attack. You are no longer a mother but a birthing parent. I fail to see how that would mix with the freedom of pronouns, as it does not appear that all people could give birth. But I do not know, as people are having a problem defining what a woman is.

Stochastic Events and Change, Trust the Narrative

All, all that you dream 
Comes to shine in silver lining 
And clouds, clouds change the scene 
Rain starts washing all these cautions 
Right into your life, make you realize 
Just what is true, what else can I do 
Just follow the rule 
Keep your eyes on the road that's ahead of you 

            Paul Barrere / William H Payne

Sexual Identity and Change

I recently changed my pronouns to "It" and "Itself" because pronouns are not something I wish to address in my life. However, I still say "yes sir" and "yes mam" without regard for the nuances in public discourse.

Last Days of Lockdown

Within days I will be rolling out a new website highlighting to my trip across the country from May 15 to June 15, 2021. I am glad I could make the trip to visit cities across America. Thank my benefactor, Manny DeMutis, for letting me work on creative projects.

I took special care to visit friends along the way as we shared stories of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Hazy memories of hazy times added to the lure of the visits. Being in Charleston, WV, where I went to school, and Memphis, Tennessee, where I was a union organizer, made me a little nostalgic. 

Change: The Ability to Say What You Think

Knowledge and technology have a way of inserting themselves to change customs and traditions of the past. What a person believed and spoke about in one era could be accepted as true, only to determine that it was false later because of a deeper understanding of the subject. I still believe Galileo was a heretic.  

Change: Law and Order in the Cities 2022

As I visited cities across America between May 15 and June 15, 2021, I felt very secure walking around 70 towns and cities. I had a couple of incidents but nothing major. Most of my career has been spent working in less than stellar areas and performing community development tasks. I am familiar with the routine of hard-core teenagers and unstable homeless seeking to be aggressive.

Preparing for a Disaster

As I muddle through the plethora of options on flood recovery and mitigation in Downingtown, I have been struck by the FEMA and PEMA staff's professionalism. We have been able to make inroads in flood recovery due to their involvement and participation.

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