Downtown Revitalization

Downtown Revitalization



Many rural communities are engaged in revitalization efforts to renew downtown areas and restore them to their former prominence as a center of community activity. This guide links to full-text handbooks, planning tools, case studies, funding resources, organizations, revitalization strategies,
and more to assist a community considering a downtown revitalization project.

This guide was originally prepared by Patricia LaCaille John, June 2005. This resource guide was updated and last modified August, 2015. Rural Information Center Publication Series; no. 71 2005. Beltsville, MD.

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Community Planning Resources

  1. Downtown and Business District Market Analysis: Using Market Data and Geographic Information Systems to Identify Economic Opportunities in Small Cities. Madison: University of Wisconsin-Extension, Center for Community Economic Development, 2004.

  2. The Role of Local Industries in Downtown Economic Revitalization. Community Preparedness & Resiliency, Newsletter. February, 2014. Madison, WI: Center for Community & Economic Development, University of Wisconsin Extension. [PDF File 147.78KB]

  3. Citizens' Institute on Rural Design. Web resource that is a National Endowment for the Arts leadership initiative in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Project for Public Spaces, Inc., along with the Orton Family Foundation and the CommunityMatters® Partnership.

Downtown Revitalization

  1. 10 Reasons Why Maine's Homegrown Economy Matters and 50 Proven Ways to Revive It. Stacy Mitchell. Belfast, ME: Maine Businesses for Social Responsibility, 2004. 56 p.

  2. City Beautiful: Establishing Community Redevelopment Areas in Florida. Melva Macfie, Karen Zagrodny. Gainesville: Conservation Clinic, College of Law, University of Florida, 1999. 24 p. [PDF File 212.63KB]

  3. "Community development in rural America: the power to exchange capital resources in Norton County, Kansas.. Monier, Janis Pabst. Dissertation, August 2011. Kansas State University Library. URL for this item:

  4. Continuing Education Needs in the Last Green Valley: A Natural Resource, Land Use, & Community Design Needs Assessment. Susan P. Westa, C. Benjamin Tyson, Stephen H. Broderick, Paula Stahl. Journal of Extension. Vol. 45 No. 5, Article # 5EFA9, October 2007.

  5. "Downtown Revitalization: Cities Search for Solutions." EconSouth, No. 3 (1999): 5 p.

  6. A Local Official's Guide to Developing Better Community Post Offices. Paul Bruhn, Emily Wadhams, Karen Horn. Burlington, VT: The Preservation Trust of Vermont, 2001. 38 p. [PDF File 361.77KB]

  7. "Organizing for Central Business District Revitalization." Gregory A. Davis. Journal of Extension. 37, No. 2 (1999): 4 p.

  8. Rehabilitating Historic Storefronts. H. Ward Jandl. Preservation Briefs 11. Washington, DC: Technical Preservation Services, National Park Service, 1982.

  9. Revitalizing Maine's Downtowns. Augusta: Maine Downtown Center and the Maine State Planning Office, 2004. 33 p.

  10. Turning Around Downtown: Twelve Steps to Revitalization. Christopher B. Leinberger. Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, 2005. 23 p.

  11. Welcome Back Downtown: A Guide to Revitalizing Pennsylvania's Small Downtowns. Martin Shields, Tracey Farrigan. Harriburg: The Center for Rural Pennsylvania, n.d. 28 p. [PDF
    File 167.43KB]

Business Improvement Districts

  1. Business Improvement Districts and Innovative Service Delivery. Jerry Mitchell. Arlington, VA: PricewaterhouseCoopers Endowment for the Business of Government, 1999. 32 p. [PDF File 151.87KB]

  2. Central Business District - Downtown Development Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington (M.R.S.C.). Updated 04/2012.

  3. Promoting Retail to Revitalize Downtowns: An Examination of the Business Improvement District idea. Devika Gopal. Boston: Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2003. 153 p.

Case Studies, Best Practices, Model Programs

  1. Brownfields Success Stories. Washington, DC: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,Updated March 2012.

  2. Downtown Rebound. Rebecca R. Sohmer, Robert E. Lang. Washington, DC: Fannie Mae Foundation, 2001. 10 p.

  3. Downtown Revitalization: Pipestone. Washington, DC: National Park Service. 3 p.

  4. Extension-Led Economic Development Model - A Recipe for Success. Journal of Extension, Vol. 51, No. 2, Article # 2FEA5, April 2013.

  5. Virbrant Rural Communities: Case Studies. NADO Research Foundation, Brett Schwartz. Posted December 10, 2012.

Funding Sources

This resources provide a general look at funding sources for economic development efforts. Consult grant writing resources, and A Guide to Funding Resources for assistance in preparing successful proposals and in obtaining funding applications and information for obtaining a DUNS number that is required of all organizations/entities applying for a federal grant or cooperative agreement.

Federal Funding Databases

The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA). CFDA is an Internet database containing information about all federal domestic programs including federal grants, loans, insurance, and training programs; information is available on eligibility, application procedures, selection criteria,
and deadlines.

The Federal Funding Sources for Rural Areas Database is an Internet database containing information about rural federal domestic programs including federal grants, loans, and cooperative agreement programs; information is available on eligibility, application procedures, contacts, and

Federal Programs

The following federal programs and private funding sources represent a sample of the resources available. For additional sources consult A guide to Funding Resources: This online guide contains links to numerous funding sources including federal, state, and private funding databases, state foundation guides, and grant writing resources and information.

Appalachian Regional Commission

U.S. Department of Agriculture

U.S. Department of Commerce

  • Economic Development Administration,, provides assistance to rural communities through a variety of programs including the Public Works and Economic Development Facilities Program.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

U.S. Department of the Interior

U.S. Department of Transportation

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

  • Brownfields and Land Revitalization "Brownfields are real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. Cleaning up and reinvesting in these properties protects the
    environment, reduces blight, and takes development pressures off greenspaces and working lands."

Additional Funding Resources


Appalachia Magazine
Appalachian Regional Commission
1666 Connecticut Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20235

Downtown Digest
Downtown Research & Development Center
712 Main Street, Suite 187B
Boonton, NJ 07005
Web: http//

Journal of Housing & Community Development
National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials
630 Eye St., NW
Washington, DC 20001

Journal of the Community Development Society
17 South High St., Suite 200
Columbus, OH 43215

Main Street Now: The Journal of the National Trust Main Street Center
National Main Street Center
1785 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20036

American Planning Association
205 North Michigan Ave.
Suite 1200
Chicago, IL 60601

Preservation Magazine
National Trust for Historic Preservation
1785 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20036

Public Management (PM)
International City/County Management Association
777 North Capitol St., NE, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20002

Public Works Magazine
Hanley Wood, LLC
One Thomas Circle
NW Suite 600
Washington, DC 20005


American Planning Association
205 North Michigan Ave. Suite 1200
Chicago, IL 60601

A non-profit, public interest group that focuses on research, policy, education and information dissemination for practicing planners, officials, and citizens involved with urban and rural planning issues. Also has the Small Towns and Rural Planning Division with specific small town focus.

Downtown Research & Development Center
712 Main Street, Suite 187B
Boonton, NJ 07005

Analyzes and reports on downtown problems and solutions. Conducts research, publishes books, reports and studies, holds seminars and workshops and acts as the international clearinghouse on downtown revitalization.

International City/County Management Association (ICMA)
777 North Capital Street, NE, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20002

The "professional and educational organization representing appointed managers and administrators in local governments." Services include: annual conference; publications; research; and special focused initiatives that include Brownfields, sustainable communities, Intelligent transportation systems, performance measurement, military base reuse smart growth and best practices symposium are just some of the many programs.

International Downtown Association
1025 Thomas Jefferson Street, NW, Suite 500W
Washington, DC 20007

"Dedicated to the revitalization of downtown areas and their adjacent neighborhoods. Focuses its programs on effective management of downtowns, including retailing, security, maintenance, physical design, business development, transportation, culture and entertainment."

National Association of Towns and Townships (NATaT)
1130 Connecticut Ave., Suite 300
Washington, DC 20036

Provides technical assistance, educational services, and public policy support to local government officials of small communities across the country. Conducts research and develops public policy recommendations to help improve the quality of life in small communities.

National Main Street Center
1785 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20036

Assists states, communities and citizens in the revitalization of business districts within a preservation context. Provides information and consultation on downtown revitalization, through technical assistance, the National Main Street Network, conferences, products and Main Street Certification Institute.

Regional Rural Development Centers

The four regional rural development centers, coordinate rural development research and extension education through out the United States. They focus on social and economic problems common to rural areas of the region through a cooperative multi disciplinary effort, including financing, public services, fiscal analyses and leadership roles. They studies economic development, improved community facilities and services, capacity building and natural resources.

North Central Regional Center for Rural Development
Michigan State University
Justin S. Morrill Hall of Agriculture
Michigan State University
446 W. Circle Drive, Room 66
East Lansing, MI 48824

Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development
The Pennsylvania State University
7 Armsby Building
University Park, PA 16802-5602

Southern Rural Development Center
Mississippi State University
Box 9656
190 Bost-North (postal delivery)
Mississippi State, MS 39762

Western Rural Development Center
Utah State University
4880 Old Main Hill
Logan, UT 84322-4880