After several months of studying our downtown and talking with Canby residents and business owners, Michele Reeves of Civilis Consultants provided her findings in a lengthy presentation at the Antonia Ballroom above the Backstop Bar & Grill.
Michele is an economic strategist who has worked with cities across the country to help them revitalize their downtown districts and spur economic growth.
She’s a colorful and enthusiastic person, and she presents her findings in a way that is, well, much less boring than you would expect from an economic strategist who spends her time working with cities to help them revitalize their downtown districts and spur economic growth.
Her report covered the good, the bad, and the ugly of downtown Canby, and really, it was too much to bring you only one or two clips. So we did something a little different. Hope you like it:
Some of the problems she identified:
Color: “Buildings are always telling a story, so you seem to be telling me you have a love of tan in downtown Canby. Like a serious, hardcore love of beige.”
Windows: “This is why it feels vacant and uninviting and like there’s nobody here. It’s because all the windows in downtown Canby are pitch-black.”
Building design: “Businesses need to tell a story from the outside about the experience you’re going to get on the inside.”
(She went on to describe Bricks & Minifigs, which while being one of the most fun places in all of Canby on the inside, looks from the outside “kind of like a mortuary.” Oh, also, the lobby of our library/civic center looks like a hospital waiting room.)
Reeves emphasized the need for clearer windows, more diverse color schemes and greater engagement between the indoor and outdoor spaces in downtown Canby — all changes that many property owners and businesses could achieve relatively cheaply and easily.
The lack of activity in downtown Canby, which is equal parts perception and reality, would take more coordination between the city’s economic development staff and downtown business owners.
The high number of 9-to-5 service businesses is a, quote, “common problem” for many cities looking to revitalize their downtown corridor, and can be addressed in a variety of ways, Reeves said.
Reeves also praised the plan currently underway to turn the old library building into a small business incubator and marketplace, and shared several examples from other cities where such a model had been extremely successful in developing vibrant, home-grown local businesses.
So, what now? The question was asked more than once during the Q&A session that followed Reeves’ presentation. After all, this is not the first time an experienced consultant has come to downtown Canby and offered a road map for economic development and revitalization. In fact, it is at least the third.
The city says its economic development team will work with the chamber of commerce, downtown businesses and property owners and other stakeholders to develop a plan, based on Reeves’ report and recommendations, that makes sense for Canby.
Specifically, the city’s Office of Economic Development is working with Civilis Consultants to release a final document that will make concrete recommendations for property owners, business owners and the public sector.
Look for that to take shape in the weeks to come.
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