30 August 2009

Flowers make a difference!

What's right with this picture?

Flowers, lot's and lot's of well-placed, well-managed flowers. Also, you'll notice a well-kept side-walk, and clean/uncluttered windows. Those three simple things make a difference. In fact, Main Street experts will tell you that keeping up with these three things alone can boost a business' bottom line by 10%. Don't believe me? Ask Marianna Hayes, the guru of downtown and small business coaching will set you straight.

One might also note in this photo a well-maintained facade that includes a classy paint job and appropriately fitting awning. These may all be hallmarks of a hardworking business owner and downtown improvement district, in this case the Canton Development Partnership. However, whatever resources there are (a chamber of commerce, a Main Street organization, or a band of vigilant merchants) if your business (and downtown) doesn't have this look and feel (by this I don't necessarily mean old-timey) then you should get to without any doubt or debate.

Some things to keep in mind.
Do not attempt to do this on the cheap! It is worse than having nothing at all.Use quality (and durable) plants and planters. Water and maintain!

Keep the sidewalks clean no matter what...

...and de-clutter and shine those windows! No hodge-podge of cigarette adds, menus, and posters! Vigilance, vigilance, vigilance.

28 August 2009

Boston Neighborhood Takes A Bow

Mission Hill, one of Boston's most diverse communities takess a bow this weekend as it's famed Mission Church and Basilica of our Lady of Perpetual Help (pictured) hosts a funeral mass for the late Senator Ted Kennedy. While Massachusetts and arguably much of the nation mourns Kennedy's passing, Mission Hill has been granted an opportunity to not only honour him, but also strike out a new image locally and nationally.

After decades of often tumltuos change, the community today truly represents a crossroads for Boston's diverse population of young and old, student and lifelong resident, rich and poor, and ethnicities from across the globe. The neighborhood's assets, which include a stunning geography and landscape including parts of the emerald necklace, urban wilds, tree-lined streets, playgrounds and eclectic architecture to match.

Mission Hill is home to a substantial portion of the Longwood Medical and Academic Area (home to Harvard Med and dozens of hospitals, research labs colleges and other institutions), but also boasts numerous grassroots and citywide agencies and community anchors and a resurgent community business district.

As Peter Schworm from the Boston Globe acutely points out, the community brand over the past decades has been one also of strife, change, and transition. However, those who love Mission Hill know it's quality and character to hold much, much more. It seems that thanks can be given to Ted for understanding likewise.

27 August 2009

Street Banners Gone Bad

What is wrong with this picture?

Look closely. This photo shows a banner that can be found on telephone poles throughout the Summit neighborhood of my hometown in Canton, Ohio (a Midwestern city struggling to find it's way in the post-industrial world). This banner is similar to banners found in "redeveloping" areas throughout the city.

What we see here is a fantastic demonstration of best intentions gone seriously wrong. The banners were deployed by the previous Mayoral administration (Janet Creighton) to "spruce" up and give struggling communities and "fresh image." Does this banner say "This an up and coming place, or a "we're a family friendly neighborhood," or a "proud historic community"?

Sadly, their poor design only drives home the point that the neighborhood is not up and coming. Not that the "rear entry" video store nearby helps any, but the banner pictured doesn't either. If you look closely, you'll see this banner depicts a mountain "summit." There are no mountains or mountainous features in this neighborhood or all of Northeast Ohio. The banner is comically out of scale. The banner is attached to a telephone poll, almost as an afterthought.

Moral of the story: Banners can be effective in creating an image for a place. But what the folks behind this banner scheme did not realize is that they are (1) only part of a solution (along with other improvements) and (2) if they are implemented badly (like this) they do more harm than good.