BY KELLY KRUSE
Downtown is on the rise. With 21 new businesses in 2017 and 14 new businesses in 2018, we are looking at a major change in landscape of our downtown retailers and restaurants. With that in mind, Real Racine along with the City of Racine brought in internationally renowned downtown guru, Roger Brooks, to secret shop our downtown. Brooks is an expert on placemaking, travel trends, community branding and downtown revitalization. He provided Downtown Racine with steps, rules, trends, best practices and ingredients – bottom line solutions – that can make a positive difference.
At the Downtown Racine Corporation, we are working diligently to implement as many of the recommendations as possible. Here are just a few that we are working on:
Beautification: With the implementation of the Façade and White Box grants through the city, many of our store and restaurant facades have been completely revitalized and are beautiful. Brooks recommends we take that one step further by utilizing the 36 inches adjacent to the building and add flower pots and benches, at least every three feet – citing a statistic that 70% of all first-time sales come from curb appeal. The DRC recently worked with the city to allow these displays, so we are well on our way. You will notice while driving through downtown, a lot more beautiful planters have already been added.
Blade Signs: The historic buildings in Racine’s downtown all have an area above the doorway and below the second floor called a “signage band” and traditionally, signage has been placed in this band, flat against the building. While this flat signage in the signage band area is helpful for drivers, flat signage against a building doesn’t help pedestrians notice a shop or understand what is sold in the shop. Sometimes tourists have to move to the edge of the sidewalk and look back at the store to see the signage in order to know that they are in the right place. Brooks recommends blade signs in addition to the flat signs. Blade signs hang perpendicular to the storefronts and are sized for pedestrians. Blade signs are visible from the sidewalk and should have the main product of the store/restaurant as the main text and the business name/logo in a smaller text. The City of Racine City Development Department is currently reviewing downtown signage regulations and design guidelines and working to align these with Brooks’ recommendations so that merchants can start utilizing blade signs and prioritizing tourists and pedestrians in their signage plans.
Store Hours: Did you know that 70% of all consumer shopping happens after 6 p.m.? That is a statistic that certainly surprised me. And, millennials, want life in their downtown after 6 p.m. as well. With that in mind, the DRC is working on getting more events downtown in the coming months that happen in the evening. We are also working diligently with the downtown merchants to urge them to expand their evening store hours.
Programming Downtown: Brooks stressed the importance of getting people downtown for a reason at least 250 days per year. That sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? But here at the DRC we are beginning to rethink the way we hold events and really start utilizing Monument Square on a more regular basis. Examples of programming the square that we are currently doing are: weekly yoga and Zumba, live music every Friday and Saturday and having the ice rink in the winter months. We are hard at working with even more programming ideas for 2018. Stay tuned!
This is certainly an exciting time for Downtown Racine. The trend we have seen regarding the influx of new business openings, tourists visiting for the first time and new residents, is only going to continue. Following the insight delivered by Roger Brooks, the Downtown Racine Corporation will be working hard toward making his ideas, tips and recommendations come to fruition.
Kelly Kruse is the executive director at Downtown Racine Corporation.