There's an important article in today's Carlisle (Pa.) Sentinel about how to boost a tired downtown. The key is what consultants George E. Thomas and Susan Nigra Snyder call "the Madonna effect:" reinventing a commercial center every few years based on current consumer desires and trends.
"That means forgetting about images of a 1950s era downtown as the regional shopping and entertainment center where people went for just about everything, they say," the article explains. "Instead, Carlisle must transform itself into a destination for people seeking leisure activities. . . . One solution for revitalizing downtowns today is transforming the old 'Main Street' into 'Leisure Main Street.' Such centers offer unique niche stores and boutiques, restaurants and entertainment venues that can thrive in smaller storefront space, the consultants say."
Think how Waltham's Moody Street rejuvenated -- ethnic restaurants, appealing riverfront (including boat rides on the Charles), a movie theater and mixed-use housing, all with an appealing, walkable streetscape. It's a park-once, walk-to-multiple-destinations downtown.
Thanks to Cooltown Studios for the link. "We're shifting from a goods to services to an experience economy, so it's wise to let the go of the 'goods' and concentrate on the experiences," writes Neil at Cooltown Studios.