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Helping Commercial Districts Manage and Respond to COVID-19

Five design-centered briefs provide community leaders with economic recovery strategies that are safe, equitable and age-friendly

Created by Main Street America, the Commercial District Design: COVID-19 Response and Management series consists of five PDF briefs published during the summer of 2020 with support from AARP.

1. Open Streets and Commercial Districts

From big cities to rural towns, communities around the world are opening streets to people by closing them to trucks and cars. Open Streets programs encourage walking, bicycling and rolling, support age-friendly and intergenerational events, slow automobile traffic to increase personal safety, strengthen commercial districts, and create space for activities such as dining, retail and group exercise. Open Streets provide the increased physical space needed to maintain social distancing while enabling businesses to stay home and stay afloat.

Main Street Matters

Main Street America — a program of the National Main Street Center and a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation — has been helping to revitalize older and historic commercial districts for 40 years.

Today, Main Street America is a network of more than 1,600 neighborhoods and communities, rural and urban, that share a commitment to place and to building stronger communities through preservation-based economic development. 

2. Parklets and Pedlets

Local leaders and businesses are using parklets and pedlets to create outdoor spaces for dining, shopping, exercising and getting around. Essentially sidewalk extensions, parklets and pedlets repurpose one or more parking spaces or lanes and make them usable for seating, green space, public art, curbside pickups, walking or cycling paths — and more.

3. Public Amenities

Entrepreneurs and employers alike are increasingly prioritizing place in their decisions about where to locate. Although Main Street commercial districts generally offer many of the qualities and amenities that attract small businesses, certain infrastructure elements can dramatically improve an area's economic success. This brief focuses on three small-scale infrastructure elements that bolster great places: digital enhancements (e.g. Wi-Fi and broadband services), sanitation (handwashing and hand sanitizer stations), and moveable furniture (tables and chairs).

4. Small Businesses

The inherent drive toward innovation and adaptation found among many Main Street commercial district leaders and business owners serves communities well — and is important now more than ever as communities respond to and manage the widespread impacts of COVID-19. This brief explores creative approaches to small business and commercial district recovery, focusing on e-commerce and the adaptive use of spaces.

5. Trails and Parks

As people increasingly use trails and parks for socially-distanced recreation, local leaders have a unique opportunity to help funnel new economic benefits into their local commercial districts by, for instance, helping existing businesses offer new services or products that are targeted toward an influx of new customers. This brief focuses on the connections between trails, parks and the local economy, and it explores how local leaders can maximize the benefits of these connections in their COVID-19 responses and management.

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