In light of the recent discussions of the downtown revitalization of West Jefferson, I would like to give my perspective. I have been a homeowner in West Jefferson and an investor in several downtown properties for 10-plus years.
I think for a downtown area to thrive, one not only needs to plant some new trees, repave sidewalks, put up new benches, etc., but it is also vital that there are people in the downtown area that interact with each other and ultimately spend money with the local businesses. In order to achieve this, the crucial task that our government leaders have is to create a community that is walkable and bikeable. Traffic gridlock, high gas prices and a longing for people to interact with other human beings (besides calling out food orders in a drive-through window) have created a demand for this type of community.
Cities with a high walkability index have nearly been immune to the recent housing crisis because home buyers nationwide are choosing to live in areas where it is possible to walk out of the front door of one’s house and go get a cup of coffee, ice cream, get dinner, stroll through shops and so forth. There are several factors that will accomplish this; the most crucial one is to make sure that new housing development occurs in a high-density fashion close to the downtown core.
The other draw that this area has is the Big and Little Darby Creeks. It would be wise to tie the downtown area in with some of the new bike trails that are being planned, so that out-of-town bicyclists could park their cars here, go for a bicycle ride and afterwards patronize some of the areas businesses. Yellow Springs (15 miles east of Dayton) has done a great job with this, and the downtown area is bustling with activity almost every time that I have been there.
The other successful national trend that attracts new life to a downtown area is the adoption of building standards that encourage environmentally sustainable development. The U.S. Green Building Council (www.usgbc.gov) has developed a rating system for new building development, and communities that are adopting these standards are basically telling developers: If you want to develop here, we want you to abide by some minimum standards in what you will do here. The result has been that these places attract forward-thinking developers, businesses and residents that take pride in the place that they live in and that care about what kind of community they leave behind for your children.