Go for the ‘Madonna effect

That’s the advice of downtown consultant Susan Nigra Snyder of CivicVisions, in this so-titled article on the revitalization of a small college town main street.

“It’s how Madonna reinvents herself every few years,” she says in the article. “You have to transform the way people see it and use it, so it gets connected to the contemporary buzz.”

That means think like an entrepreneur, and entrepreneurs focus on how to use their existing assets to provide something that people want today. That also means designing downtowns and using their pedestrian-oriented environment to provide entertainment, recreation, leisure and nightlife, rather than the bulk shopping that the suburban big boxes control, something downtowns used to provide… in the 50s.

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.

  • I couldn’t agree more. It’s really critical for planners to understand the importance of a pedestrian-friendly, appealing streetscape, which is a huge part of the consumer’s experience in a place. Planners who think strip malls and conventional enclosed shopping malls are still the answer, are going to be as surprised as small-town downtowns were 40 years ago when those malls started killing off their businesses. Trends are moving on.