Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Great Professional Development Resources (some free!) for Commercial Revitalization Newbies

There is no single path that leads to a career in commercial district revitalization. People end up in this field from a myriad of backgrounds. As a result, practitioners may come from marketing, communications, urban planning, or law, to name a few of the more common ones. So how do we make sure that these commercial district management professionals all speak the same language and have the tools and information necessary to achieve results? One of our goals at the Commercial District Advisor is to support the creation of a nationally recognized certification in commercial district management – but we recognize that is a long term goal. In the meantime, what do you do if you are a ‘newbie’ to the field. What are the best books and articles that can help you get started? I’ve compiled a few books below (some of which are available for free on-line) as a starting point. But readers should be sure to share their own favorite books. ..

  1. LISC Commercial Markets Advisory Service, “Commercial Revitalization Planning Guide: A Toolkit for Community Based Organizations”. This is probably the best free resource out there. It is a basic “how-to” manual for practitioners based out of community development organizations. The manual includes practical step-by-step instructions and a good set of document templates for use.
  2. Fannie Mae Foundation, “Revitalizing Commerce for America’s City’s”. The author, Karl Siedman, is a professor/practitioner based at MIT. Karl is also my go-to guy on economic development policy for commercial revitalization. What I appreciate about this book is the recognition that a single framework for successful commercial district revitalization is elusive. Karl defines district revitalization efforts by four types of orientation: “development-oriented”, “retention-oriented”, “promotion-oriented” and “organization-oriented”. Knowing what kind of district you are can help you determine how to allocate resources more effectively.
  3. “Making Business Districts Work” Ed. Feehan, Feit This book is a very good summary of the set of skills and information that newbies need when they start work in this field. Feehan was the former president of the International Downtown Association. Available via and other on-line outlets.
  4. Larry Houston, "Business Improvement Districts". Larry Houston is one of the granddaddies of the field. While this book could stand some updating, it is a good basic read that withstands the test of time. Available via

These are some of my favorite, but I'd love to hear other suggestions from readers...

1 comment:

  1. My esteemed colleague Mark Lohbauer at JGSC group adds:

    "I would add the urban planning bible that has much to say with regard to our discipline:
    The Death and Life of Great American Cities, by Jane Jacobs

    Also, this New Urbanist volume on the language of community design, that includes a chapter on design for shopping:
    Community by Design by Kenneth B. Hall and Gerald A. Porterfield"