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Livable Lesson: Commercial District Design

Patrice Frey of Main Street America explains how to bolster local downtowns and commercial districts during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond

Patrice Frey

Photo Courtesy Main Street America

Patrice Frey, president and CEO, Main Street America

In an effort to help commercial districts and local businesses survive and thrive during the COVID-19 pandemic, Main Street America, in collaboration with AARP Livable Communities, developed the Commercial District Design: COVID-19 Response and Management series. 

Adapting to COVID-19

Patrice Frey

Photo Courtesy Main Street America

Patrice Frey and son visit a "pop-up" gift shop during the 2020 holiday season.

Published during the summer of 2020, the five PDF briefs equip community leaders with safe, equitable and age-friendly economic recovery strategies.

The Livable Lesson Videos on this page are based on the design briefs and feature Patrice Frey, the president and CEO of Main Street America and an expert in sustainability, economic development, commercial district revitalization and historic preservation. 

Main Street America, which counts more than 1,800 communities as members, is a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and has participated in the renewal of more than 2,000 older commercial districts nationwide.

Watch the subject-specific videos below, along with an overview and implementation video — or scroll down to see all seven segments compiled into one.


Overview: Commercial District Design Briefs

An introduction to how communities can support their downtown districts during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond

Lesson 1: How 'Open Streets' Spur Downtown Cohesion

Closing streets to cars and trucks is an easy way to create open public spaces that can encourage people to make connections

Lesson 2: Parklets and Pedlets Make Streets Come Alive

These temporary public spaces allow people to interact in a socially-distant manner and encourage them to support local businesses

Lesson 3: Commercial District Amenities and Infrastructure 

Pedestrian-friendly streetlights, landscaping, art and outdoor furniture help make outdoor spaces welcoming

Lesson 4: Creative Approaches to Small Businesses

"This is the moment," says Patrice Frey, "when everyone needs to step up to support small businesses"

Lesson 5: Trails, Parks, and the Local Economy

With indoor spaces closed off to gathering, people are using trails and parks more than ever — in some cases, twice as much as usual

Lesson 6: Considerations for Commercial District Success

The importance of engaging with the people who'll be using the space

Commercial District Design: The Complete Collection

Watch all seven Main Street America videos with a single click

The videos on this page were created by an external organization so might not reflect AARP’s public policies or advocacy positions, which can be found in the AARP Policy Book.  

The videos were filmed in 2020 | Page published March 2021

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