Destination Downtown: Tilbury striving for ‘amazing’
It can often be the difference between being called a ‘ghost town’ or a booming, vibrant, successful community.
The downtown core for a city/town has proven in countless studies, research and plain common sense, to be a critical feature for that particular community.
The importance of a downtown area was outlined in an article by Roger Brooks called: 8 Amazing Facts About Downtowns
Having researched 400 towns and downtown districts in the U.S. and Canada, Brooks goes through some simple facts and statements, specifically surrounding the “power” of a great downtown and how tourism officials and downtown business professionals should be “joined at the hip.”
In order to get a local angle, we caught up with Laura Smith, coordinator for the Tilbury Revitalization Project. Smith gave us her two cents and some perspective on how Tilbury is doing or is compared to the “8 facts” provided in the article.
1. The heart and soul of every community, besides its people, is its downtown
Brooks writes that the downtown provides that “all-important first impression of a community” that answers questions of do I want to live there? Hang out there? Move my business there?
Smith describes Tilbury’s downtown as “the hub for the community”.
“We have approximately 100 businesses in our downtown district… and it’s our hub and soul. We’re fortunate we have our library at the main intersection, our post office.”
2. The number one activity of visitors throughout the world is shopping, dining and entertainment in a pedestrian friendly setting
Smith says the downtown hub is “pedestrian friendly” and “always busy.”
“There are always people walking, there is always movement and things going on in the area because we have those key buildings, we have the retail, we have the service and we also have the every day people running errands. We’re a very tight-knit community, but we’re very open,” she said.
3. The average visitor is active 14 hours a day, yet they only spend four to six hours with the primary activity that brought them there
Smith says the Tilbury Revitalization group, as part of their initiative, surveyed people in the Tilbury business community to gather input and collect some data.
She said one of the “obstacles” they identified was related to this fact.
“We know we have some much to offer, but maybe there is a lack of awareness from those people outside of the community on a day-to-day basis,” she said.
Acting on the feedback, Smith said the Tilbury group have created a magazine which offers advertisements and descriptions of businesses, and editorial pieces about things to do in town.
4. Secondary activities are where 80% of all visitor spending takes place
Smith says this fact relates to Tilbury, as many of the businesses in the downtown core are places people will want to visit.
“They are destination businesses, not just your ‘day-to-day’,” she said. “We have some that are generic to every town, but we have unique destination shops that attract people, that may not have a website or may not do advertising because they have such a loyal clientele.
5. Curb appeal can account for 70 per cent of visitor sales at restaurants, golf courses, wineries, retail shops and lodging facilities
“Curb appeal is something that is important to businesses in Tilbury”, Smith says.
“From a customer’s perspective, if you’re questioning whether you are going to go into a business or not, that curb appeal does play into the equation,” she said. “I think we are pretty historic… we like to call Tilbury historically hip. We have the old architecture, the wide street and ample parking…. but then we do have those movers and shakers that are adding some modern flare to it.”
Smith added the Tilbury group has an incentive plan in place as well for any businesses wishing to make some physical changes and improvements to the outside of their business.
6. If local residents do not hang out in your downtown, neither will visitors
Smith says this isn’t a worry from Tilbury’s perspective, as many residents are fixtures downtown.
“The amount of meetings that are held on the stairs at town hall is amazing,” she said with a laugh.
However, she noted other perks and positives that keep people coming.
“We have a lot of parking and just recently installed new directional signage as well,” Smith said. “We are a big community, but essentially small in the grand scheme of things. You can walk from anywhere in town and get downtown in 15, 20 minutes depending on if you’re on the outskirts of town or not. There’s always movement and a lot of people using the benches downtown as well.”
7. The 10+10+10 rules or the “Rule of Critical Mass”
Brooks writes it’s essential to have 10 businesses that serve food, 10 that are specialty shops and not big box stores, and 10 businesses open after 6 p.m., all within three lineal blocks.
He says this is essential to turn a downtown into a “destination.”
Smith said she believes Tilbury already falls into this notion
“We have approximately 100 businesses in the downtown and they all fall into those different categories… and they are all fairly close together,” she said.
8. 70 per cent of all consumer spending, locals and visitors, takes place after 6 p.m.
Smith said as part of the resident survey they conducted with the group, they mentioned they’d love to see more businesses open late.
“We have seen a transition in the last year where businesses have changed their hours to accommodate that,” she said. “So we’re taking those things into account, it’s not like we’re not doing anything with it. We’re listening to what people have to say, and passing this information along to the business community.”
Watch for more on this story in the coming weeks on ckdp.ca and InCk.ca. Contact me at email@example.com or follow me on Twitter.