A Female Approach to Commercial Revitalization
Demolition and replacement, i.e., starting with a blank slate, are the cornerstones of many redevelopment and revitalization plans. However, urban strategist Michele Reeves (of Civilis Consultants) believes that in many places, what she calls "a female approach" is the better method. She cites some recent revitalization of Auburn Boulevard in the city of Citrus Heights, California as an example. She explains:
The bottom line is that we need our economic development approaches to focus more on cultivation, or adding to what is already there, and less on replacement. There are many reasons why. The wholesale displacement approach to commercial revitalization depresses local wealth creation because it calls for out-of-town developers, big money, and national chains. (On a side note, I am not sure why communities encourage outside development so heavily, because out-of-town owners are consistently listed as a primary obstacle to renewal in cities and towns of all sizes.) On the other hand, fertilizing what exists is affordable, it encourages local ownership, helps foster local wealth creation, and creates opportunity for a wider assortment of entrepreneurs through incremental improvements. As you can imagine, I am a big fan of the “improve what you have” approach, even if it seems messier, and requires a new toolkit, and doesn’t always come with a deal plaque!
Reeves goes on to describe her “'improve what you have' toolkit for ground floor retail execution," i.e., the "female approach" toolkit.