by focusing on their history and not always looking to bring in name-brand companies to revitalize them. My friend Allan Branch is one who is spearheading this effort by not only living downtown but also creating and encouraging new business like the History Class Brewing Company, which celebrates the history of Panama Beach. (Cite: EXwzGbhH_5g9GKYy-L9KDqBOSzY1OOSI_LXRs) PM: Is retail dead in downtowns? If not, what kinds of things can be done to bring shoppers and pedestrians back to city centers, especially in the Midwest? SR: Downtowns were traditionally the center of all activities for cities. However, with sprawl and the growing footprint of retail space, the downtown area physically couldn’t handle these stores. That pushed them to traditional malls and strip malls with adequate parking, which retrained people to look for their consumer needs away from the downtown area. I have seen downtowns revitalize themselves within Illinois. One example is Naperville, which recently took over the #2 spot of retail revenue from Schaumburg. (Cite: sun/ct-nvs-naperville-tops-retail-st-0615-20220616 xdqoftf2b5c37g7rqxwxmghywi-story.html) Naperville’s robust downtown can be a blueprint for other towns. • For many years, Naperville lacked downtown hotels, which kept shoppers from staying overnight and maximizing their shopping experience. Once they built a hotel, revenue shot through the roof. • They have a strong Chamber of Commerce and City Council which is pro-business and works to help all members succeed. • The downtown became very food-centric and food diverse, which brought people downtown for more than shopping. The food scene is one of the biggest reasons that non-Naperville people come downtown. Recently, Gordon Ramsay announced that he would be bringing a new restaurant to Naperville. (Cite: place-gordon-ramsay-talks-about-adapting-one-of-his restaurants-to-naperville) Downtowns that have revived seem to have reimagined the concept of the “third place” with new experiences that combine home and work in a public setting. They strategically provide diverse food options with retail options and allow remote and collective work to be done nearby. This combination allows consumers to visit because the downtown can meet one or all of their needs in one place versus going to multiple locations. Need to get some shoes, but when you arrive, feel like sushi? Now it can be a walk instead of a drive, and you are giving back to your community, as well.


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