Note to our readers: This column is part of a series from a blog recently started by a loosely knit independent group of area business people and residents who love and want to promote the energy and enthusiasm of downtown St. Joseph: The Joe Town Vibe. To find the column online or to read web-exclusive blogs posted every Tuesday please visit joetownvibe.com.
by John Stevens
Intern SJU ’18
It’s important to have community members living in your downtown area no matter the size of the city. Downtowns are only as successful as the amount of people present in them at any given time. If you think about a successful downtown you will always picture one that is busy or at least one that has people present. Downtowns cannot be successful without the presence of people.
Having people live in a downtown area is an important step to getting more people to come downtown. People who live downtown give the downtown a strong base of individuals who will visit the area. The people who live in a downtown are likely to walk around downtown more than those living in a neighborhood a few miles down the road. Especially in a small town, word of mouth is extremely important. In an interconnected small community where everyone knows everyone, news travels by way of neighbors communicating with each other. Downtowns rely on those who have visited to tell others about their experience. Those who live downtown have a key role in spreading the good word, as they visit the area most frequently.
In the same sense, those living in the downtown area have a key role in suggesting changes or rejecting proposed changes they do not like. People who simply visit a downtown do not have nearly the same amount invested into a downtown as those who live downtown. People who live downtown have the best sense of how something can be improved. If it were left to those living outside of downtown, few improvements would ever be made. Within urban- planning literature, there is a strong notion people are more responsive to improvements and changes when they occur closer to where they live (Not In My Back Yard). Similarly, those living downtown are the strongest line of defense against unwanted changes to a downtown. Again, if it were left up to those who didn’t live downtown, changes would not reflect actual desires. Any improvements made to a downtown will encourage more people to visit and with it will encourage more interaction.
Downtown residents also serve as a type of test market. It’s human nature to have a fear of the unknown. Downtowns and their businesses often rely on those living downtown to be the first to visit a new store or restaurant. People who live downtown play a huge role in determining what is hip. As mentioned earlier, people who live downtown share their experiences with others. Having that first group of people to try something new may very well be the difference between a successful business and one that goes out of business. The more business, the more people and the more interaction.
Much of the work those living in a downtown area do contributes to the overall success of the area, as their actions encourage more people to come and visit. As mentioned in previous columns, the success of a city is highly dependent on community interaction. Having people live in a downtown is essential to having more people come together and interact. Downtowns are where the vibe of a city is born and where it continues to pulse. Interaction between neighbors builds community and trust and makes a stronger city.