Revitalizing Our Business Districts

GOAL:

Support and guide our business districts so they can meet the consumer and community needs of their surrounding residents and become bustling drivers of local economic strength.

At first glance, you may think that a business district is simply a collection of businesses. But it’s much more than that. A successful business district has been thoughtfully designed to meet the needs of its surrounding community. It is, in a way, a living being within a changing ecosystem, and it needs to respond and adapt if it is to survive. 

Thriving business districts do not happen by accident. They are the result of business and/or community leaders doing research to understand what surrounding residents want and need—from the type of stores they want nearby, to the feel and look of the storefronts and streets, to any other amenities within it, such as parks, playgrounds, or outdoor dining areas. 

But if you’re a small business owner in a row of storefronts, chances are you’re just trying to keep your head above water and your doors open. You don’t have the time to organize other business owners, survey residents, and analyze data to determine how best to design your business district. And yet, without this work, the businesses around you will shutter, and as they do, those empty storefronts will deter customers from your business too. 

Large companies have entire departments or hire expensive consulting firms to conduct this kind of research and analysis for them so they know where to open stores for maximum profit. They also have the leverage and institutional heft to negotiate reasonable rental and renovation agreements with commercial landlords. 

And these kinds of services and advocacy are exactly what the Economic Development department at City Hall should be doing for our business districts. Cleveland Heights has 11 business districts, three of which are SIDs (special improvement districts).* How each one will develop—its makeup of businesses, its area improvements, its timeline—will depend upon the needs and wants of its surrounding residents as well as the capacity of its current business owners. Through focused, long-term guidance and support from City Hall, we can create more community-centric, walkable business districts.

How I Will Revitalize Our Struggling Business Districts:

I will direct our Economic Development department to prioritize our districts with the greatest needs through:

  • market research, 
  • strategy development, 
  • advocacy,
  • mentorship, 
  • resources, 
  • and other assistance as needed.

In addition to supporting the businesses that are already here, we will work to fill empty storefronts by:

  • Recruiting regional and/or national businesses that are a good fit for the district and will serve as anchors/magnets for it, 
  • Help start other local businesses that fill consumer needs of the surrounding community, and 
  • Provide sustained guidance and advocacy for the business groups in each district.

* A special improvement district is an area where property and business owners have come together and agreed to tax themselves a little more in order to fund public improvements and services, such as maintenance, physical improvements, cleaning, and additional safety. They choose which services they want, which cannot replace city services.