The Director's Cut:
A Facelift for Clematis St.
"One very important piece of selling a place is that it has to look and feel good to keep people engaged."
You may have heard that Clematis Street is having some work done (and admitting to it!). Nothing major, but some very visible touch-ups here and there. Better and more appealing lighting, more outdoor seating, and a refreshment of our landscaping. We’ve been working on planning and funding this for some time now, and I’ve heard from lots of stakeholders who are eager to see the completion of this project. Plenty of people have also asked me: “Why on Earth in this tough economy are we spending taxpayer dollars on beautification?”
The simple answer is that it’s because it’s a tough economy, with tough competition for retail and restaurant dollars. This forces us to take steps to keep attracting new businesses to our district, entice more frequent visits by patrons and tourists, and attract more people to our residential units. And that feeds into the food chain of higher property values for the entire Downtown and more tax revenue. If we do not refresh our look and feel, we fall behind our competition. The data supports this. One very important piece of selling a place is that it has to look and feel good to keep people engaged. No one is better at this than the malls and lifestyle centers, and we have learned some hard lessons from them.
The details matter. Good lighting translates into a sense of safety and comfort – especially for women and families. Clean sidewalks convey to the pedestrian that they are welcome here and that people care about the place. Adequate and properly placed street furniture invite visitors to stay and enjoy themselves. Convenient trash bins mean somebody cares enough to try and keep the district clean. It’s social engineering 101.
Legendary Harvard Design School professor and acclaimed retail expert Bob Gibbs, who is the undisputed grand master of creating spaces that make people comfortable spending their money, says that streets in retail districts should be spruced up every six to eight years. We’re going on 15 years with no real improvements. Ummm….time to move on this, you think?
You see, all these little details combine to send a message to the consumer, the visitor, the investor: This place is really pretty great, and they’ve got all the components for success going on. Maybe I’ll stay awhile.” And stay they will. For a cappuccino at Habatat Coffee Company, a cupcake at Café Sweets Bakery, a pair of Cole Haan shoes at J.C. Harris, or a condo on the water. It all contributes to the wellbeing of our downtown, all of its stakeholders, and the City as a whole.
So yeah, the streetscape project is now underway, and we couldn’t be happier. So pardon our dust as we prepare for the next wave of great things coming to our Downtown. This is a step toward fueling the exciting momentum of the last couple of years, with over 40 new businesses open in Downtown and more on the way as I write this. Once the dust settles we’ll see the new face of our main street, and it’s gonna look fantastic!