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866902_downtown_summit_046_t770Vancouver’s Downtown Association is again stepping to the forefront to inspire another surge of activity to the ongoing momentum created over the past three years.

Lee Rafferty welcomed VDA members and property owners to a “Downtown Property Owner Summit” this past Thursday at the Brickstone Ballroom.

The focus of the Summit was to bring Michelle Reeves back for a review and refresh of the principles she outlined for us three years ago to step by step build a vibrant downtown.

Michelle, who’s company is known as Civillis Consultants, took us on a tour of buildings and neighborhoods in both Portland and Vancouver where property owners had implemented her principles and had achieved dramatic improvements in both property appeal , but more importantly to Landlords – property values.

The exciting part is many of the principles are simple , often relatively inexpensive. Lets share three of the basics:

“Your sidewalks are a stage, a place to tell the story of your community,”  Reeves told more than 60 attendees of the three-hour downtown summit. And a key platform toward telling a story of city center vibrancy and engagement. Business owners who engage their customer out on the sidewalk through merchandise displays, outdoor seating, colorful exteriors of buildings are much more attractive and welcoming. People will be drawn to come see what you are about.

Large windows are a second principle and most valuable for retailers. Let the outside light in and let potential customers see your merchandise. Again if you make it easy to determine what you are about, you raise the odds they’ll come in .

A third principle is lighting.  Both from having an open and well lit entrance, taking advantage of natural light and not covered by large awnings.  This extends to giving strong consideration to the type of lighting and signage you have in the evenings.

Analyzing your building through the lens of extending the “engagement platform” well onto the sidewalk and even across the street will lead to an entire new set of questions as property owners seek tenants.

Walking up and down Main Street, Washington Street , Columbia and in Uptown you can see how Landlords and Tenants have been applying the principles.  The number of outdoor seating areas has increased significantly over the past two years, the palette of colors has broadened and includes several new mural walls.  The result is many thriving shops and operators, a number of whom are starting up second locations.

We’ll do a follow up post shortly on several other key points Michelle brought forward and some examples of how they are being successfully applied right here in our own downtown.


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