Great Downtowns Growing Cities
Great Downtowns Growing Cities...Resources for Illinois Communities
In the past, retail trade and manufacturing were mainstays of economic growth but today’s growing economies trade in information, ideas, and creative efforts. Technological advances such as the internet have changed the way people shop, communicate, and participate in entertainment. Freed from the need to locate in a specific place, entrepreneurs choose where to site and build their businesses based on places that best meet their new needs for community, culture, recreation, housing, and connection with peers. They desire a location that supports their lifestyle and encourages their enterprise to grow. They are looking for a special place, and the presence of a vibrant downtown is often key to whether a specific city is that place.
CGS works with downtown leaders to revitalize struggling downtowns and make strong downtowns even stronger. We recognize that a balance of retail, office, residential, institutional, recreational and other uses is needed to create sustainable 24 hour community centers. Through training, research, conferences, and community specific technical assistance, CGS staff shares the resources of NIU and our network of experts with community leaders in the public, private and nonprofit sectors. A variety of resources can be found on this page, including upcoming events, material from past workshops, examples of best practices, models and templates for local projects, and sources for data and information.
NEW! Findings on Downtowns from Survey of Illinois Mayors
- Strategies in Downtown Enhancement, published in the Illinois Municipal Review magazine in April 2017.
- The Changing Role of Municipal Downtowns, published in the Illinois Municipal Review magazine in March 2017.
For additional resources, visit the Great Downtowns Growing Cities Toolbox.
Creative Enterprises and Downtown Prosperity
The creative economy is one of the most talked about topics in downtown development. What it includes and how to incorporate it into economic growth planning and downtown revitalization are discussed in the resources listed below. For additional information contact Mim Evans, email@example.com, or Norm Walzer, firstname.lastname@example.org. Access the GDGC toolbox for additional resources on the creative economy.
Executive Summary| Full Report
This CGS Policy Profile outlines what your small city can do to capture growth in residents, businesses and revenue generated by renewed interest in urban lifestyles. Read it here.
Training and Events
CGS regularly offers workshops for local downtown development organization staff and volunteers, city staff and officials, economic development professionals, chambers of commerce, entrepreneurs, students, and others interested in downtown revitalization. The workshops are held around the state throughout the year. Click on the upcoming events below for information on topics, dates, and locations. For information on past workshops, click on the past events below to read about the workshop and download material from the workshop. Workshops often sell out so advance registration is recommended.
PAST EVENTSNew Perspectives on Growing Local Economies
April 3, 2017 - DeKalb IL
Conference Overview (pdf); Conference Program (pdf); Speaker Bios (pdf); Illinois Tourism Presentation (pdf); Tangled Roots Presentation (pdf); Great Downtowns Growing Cities Report (pdf); An Orange Moon Presentation (video)
The Creative Economy and Downtown Workshop
Feb. 26, 2016 - DeKalb IL
Agenda (pdf); Speaker Biographies (pdf); Financial Models for Creative Enterprises (xls); Business Plan for Creative Enterprises (doc); Services for Owners of Creative Enterprises (pdf); Developing a Creative Economy presented by Pam Schallhorn, University of Illinois Extension (pdf); Architects as Creative Entrepreneurs presented by Lisa Sharp, Sharp Architects (pdf); Six Corners Chicago Revitalization, presented by Kelli Weffenstette (pdf); Creative Enconomy, presented by Anne Katz, Art Wisconsin (pdf); Creative Economy Final Report (pdf)
Growing Your Farmers Market Workshop
Jan. 29, 2016 - DeKalb IL
Project Development from Start to Finish
Sept. 23, 2014, Macomb, IL
Local Great Downtowns Growing Cities organizations carry out a wide range of programs and projects requiring specialized knowledge and resources. This toolbox contains tools that downtown development executive directors and volunteers can use to assist downtown businesses, carry out downtown improvement projects, provide information for residents and visitors and run their own organizations effectively. Some of the tools can be downloaded and posted on local websites. Others can be linked to local websites. New tools will be added over time. Visit the Great Downtowns Growing Cities Toolbox.
Illinois Main Street
Communities Contact Information
Need to reach a local Main Street organization? Find contacts for every Illinois Main Street organization here.
Main Street as a Downtown Revitalization Strategy in Illinois
Illinois Main Street contracted with the Center for Governmental Studies to prepare a report on the status of the Main Street program at the state and local level. All Illinois local Main Street organizations were surveyed to obtain information on their organizations, performance, needs and districts. This information was combined with group discussions and research on best practices in other states to arrive at options for the future of Main Street in Illinois. An executive summary and the full report are available below.
Additional information on the Main Street program is available at www.mainstreet.org.
For additional information about Great Downtowns Growing Cities, please contact:
Center for Governmental Studies, NIU
Senior Research Scholar
Center for Governmental Studies, NIU
- Back to the City: Can Small Towns Benefit from the Back to the City Movement? - American Planning Association 2015
- Growing Rural Communities in the Coming Decade: Using Changing Demographics, New Entrepreneurs, and Innovative Strategies to Achieve Prosperity - Illinois Community Managers Association 2015
- It Takes More Than Stores: Keeping Your Downtown Alive in the Future - National Main Street Conference 2014