Red Flags and Their Fixes.


A strong, livable community is one in which people have what they need to be safe, productive, and happy. The problem is, sometimes you may think that describes you, when really you are in the middle of a slow-motion collapse.

Here are a few red flags that indicate your town may not be as strong and livable as you think:

There is more car traffic than foot traffic on Main Street. Downtown cores and main streets are the most economically productive places (versus big box stores, fast food restaurants, and other auto-oriented businesses that contribute little tax base compared to their cost). A lot of people walking around your town's main commercial street, visiting its businesses, enjoying its amenities, and living in its homes means you are well on your way to being a strong town, but if your main street is devoid of people and merely a thoroughfare for cars, that is bad news.

What to do. Considering the why will help you decide on what to work on. If your main street is empty because most of the buildings are vacant, consider a pop-up storefront initiative where local businesses that do not have premises temporarily can use empty storefronts for a reduced price (or even free). If your main street is not a pleasant place to walk, put in cheap chairs or benches, or decrease the width of the street so cars drive more slowly.

There is no obvious place to gather. If there were a revolution in your town, would people instinctively know where to gather? If the answer is no, it could mean that your homes and businesses are too spread out, with no central location where people can interact. It also indicates your community's level of cohesion and communication--or lack thereof.

What to do. Identify places that potentially could become a central gathering space. Do you have a weekly farmer's market in the summer? How about a neighborhood festival or concert series? Could those occasionally used spaces become more permanent town squares? Once you have found a spot, start using the space and see what happens. You want a simple public gathering area where families can have picnics and friends can meet up to walk dogs. Low-cost, easy, tactical urbanism projects can turn a neglected area into a beloved place.

Your zoning and building codes are too restrictive. When you imagine your favorite street, you probably picture great shops, restaurants, and homes--a street that is bustling with lots of people and activity. However, what if your favorite street...

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