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Five Steps for Connecting to Downtown Residents

By Eric Richardson
Published: Thursday, October 25, 2007, at 11:23PM

I took the train down to Long Beach today to take part in a panel at the California Downtown Association's annual conference. Speaking to an audience of individuals mostly from cities and business improvement districts, I took part in a session was called "Urban Density and Downtown Residents." They had invited me to give the resident's perspective on who was moving Downtown and why. I spoke for fifteen or twenty minutes, and was followed by Jamie Licko of Progressive Urban Management and Jim Anderson of Anderson Pacific.

After starting a little bit with my background and how I ended up Downtown, I gave the audience five steps downtown organizations should be taking to connect to their residents. These seemed to go over well at the session, so I thought I'd go ahead and share them here.

First, listen. You can't answer a question you don't hear. Find where residents are talking. Be proactive about scouting out the blogs and forums. If a hub for conversation doesn't exist, create it.

Second, educate. We residents are an impatient bunch. We want everything now, and we don't understand the process and what slows things up. Help us understand that process.

Third, enable. Tell us where we can help. Tell us who to call, who to email and what meetings to attend. We want to take part in shaping our downtown.

Fourth, respond. Find complaints and suggestions that you can tackle, and show us that you're listening. If something requires a long term solution, tell us that and tell us how you plan to make it happen.

Finally, anticipate. Look at your demographic of today and use it to figure out what that demographic is going to be in 5 and 10 years. Start solving those problems today so that you're ready when the time comes.

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