A final presentation from Community Design Solutions focused on five key strategies to implement its new Downtown Vision Plan.
Community Design Solutions presented the results of its analysis of downtown Plant City last week and showed the community its recommendations in a strategic Downtown Vision Plan.
The plan is filled with five key strategic ideas rather than a large swathe of options that the group said if implemented “will move you forward in the process of downtown revitalization.”
“This had a lot of input, not just from Main Street and not just from the city, but from all four corners of this community, which was very important to us to make sure everybody had their input as part of this presentation,” Jamey Moody, vice president of Plant City Main Street, said.
Randy Wilson, of Community Design Solutions, said the overall concept of downtown is one of potential.
The presentation said nine businesses participated in a survey where they tracked customers’ zip codes for the project. They recorded 504 visitors from nine states and someone even wandered through the door all the way from England. They found 22 percent of customers, a majority, hailed from the 33563 zip code. Seven percent of customers came from Dover and 11 percent came from Lakeland. They said Plant City has a “local downtown and a regional downtown,” not a “tourism downtown.”
The recommendations came down to five strategies: making it work, parts to a whole, turning the corner, hub of life and maturing the partnerships. Essentially, this means coming up with incentive strategies and communication/promotion strategies to bring the strengths of downtown to life. Main Street Plant City is set to receive a 90-page report on the project and the group said it will dive into an analysis of the study during the next Topics on Tap event, from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sept. 24 at The Corner Store, 121 E. Reynolds St.
A summary report will be available in four to six weeks and implementation tools will be provided.
One of the key things the company discovered was parking is not as bad as people think it is. People talk as if it is a large issue, but in reality there are far more spots than people realize. The quantity is not the problem, which unfortunately is something a downtown should want because it means more people are downtown than parking can handle.
Management issues, however, were something they noticed. If a business owner parks in front of a store, you remove buying potential from a customer. More should be done to help inform people whether a parking lot or space is free or in a time limit, the group said.
Building facades also came up as an issue in the “making it work” section. Buildings make the first impression on a downtown and right now, the group, said there are several that “don’t look the way they should.” They recommended Main Street have a “downtown design and style guide” to emphasize doing the right thing.
The city currently has facade exterior and interior grants and a culinary grant. Community Design Solutions recommended they add micro grants to the list for facade components, as well as vibrancy grants.
Ordinances in the city should also be reviewed and possibly revisited. While discussing how having a Wikipedia page about your city’s mural ordinance draws unnecessary attention to the city, a wave of chuckles sprung from the audience. Presenters also recommended examining the city’s encroachment policy and said we should continue to explore alcohol regulations and even bundling regulatory changes. If the community wants to be more business-friendly, the city should look to that. However, if the community isn’t throwing their support behind an issue, that puts the city in a “hot spot.”
There were many recommendations for landscaping downtown, including discussions around returning streets downtown back to their original brick surfacing, adding planters and possibly sprucing up McCall Park.
A large portion of what the group said needs to happen for economic success is to focus on branding the community. They mentioned that all of the major players in downtown — the Greater Plant City Chamber of Commerce, the City of Plant City, the EDC and Main Street — have wildly different logos and fonts. Why not bring it together? With a unified script you can brand downtown items, whether it’s shopping bags, hats, water bottles, banners, signs or anything else in the area, to let people easily see and identify they are in a section of the city that has a unique identity.
They recommended a logo using the top of a historic light pole with the slogan, “Downtown Plant City. Home Grown. Fresh Vibe.” They also want a way-finding system of signs throughout the city and banners to guide people not only toward downtown, but also to unique destinations in the area.
Branding also comes with accurately reading the pulse of the community and fighting to continue its aesthetic. Whether that’s partnering with the EDC to recruit more businesses downtown or using a communication strategy and hub-of-life strategy to bring more events downtown, they want all businesses and local organizations to join together to evolve into large gatherings.
First Fridays were mentioned as something the community should bring back downtown to drive large groups of people to open businesses. They recommended Plant City Entertainment possibly do occasional outdoor shows at McCall Park and listed a variety of other simple changes that could draw people toward downtown. They also discussed planting large shade trees and strategies to slow down traffic on the roads acting as thoroughfares from one side of town to the other.
For an in-depth look at the presentation, you can watch the slideshow and listen to the audio presentation on Youtube under the title Plant City Final Presentation at https://youtu.be/J6tspCSIAsE.