Developing a Downtown Project Program

Table of Contents

Chamber of Commerce
Downtown merchants' association
An existing Downtown Development Organization
Potential members
The project manager and the board
Selecting board members
The role of the board
Responsibilities of members of the Downtown Project board of directors
Should there be an executive committee?
Responsibilities of advisory board members
Specific responsibilities
Does the organization need an advisory board?
Advantages of establishing an advisory board
Issues to address before establishing an advisory board
The project manager and volunteers
The project manager's skills
Recommended standing committees
Promotion committee
Design committee
Economic restructuring committee
Membership and development committee
Nominations subcommittee
Membership subcommittee
Fund-raising subcommittee
The role of the project manager in committee activity

II. DEVELOPING A WORK PLAN The mission statement
Goals, objectives and activities
Goal for economic restructuring
The time line and list of responsibilities
Identifying the downtown's assets and liabilities
Visualization exercises
Force-field analysis
Developing the components of the work plan
Finalizing the work plan

III. WORKING WITH CONSULTANTS 1. Is the community ready to be a successful client?
2. Can all, or part, of this project be completed with local resources?
3. Can existing staff do the work?
4. What does the consultant need from the client?


Organization is the key to a successful downtown revitalization program. A strong, viable organization provides the stability necessary to build and maintain a long-term effort. Developing a management program that is well structured, well funded and committed to the future is the only way to make revitalization last. For these reasons, establishing a solid organizational base for the downtown should be the primary goal of a local Downtown Project program.

Principles of Organization

In its most basic form, a successful local Downtown Project program should have the following characteristics: These 10 principles should guide the development of the local Downtown Project program and measure its organizational success.

Identifying the Participants

The local Downtown Project program must involve groups and individuals throughout the community in order to be successful. Downtown revitalization requires the cooperation and commitment of a broad-based coalition of public and private groups: businesses, civic groups, local government, financial institutions, consumers and many others. It also involves mobilizing a large number of volunteers to implement activities.

Different groups have different interests in the downtown. While each may have a particular focus, all groups ultimately share the common goal of revitalizing the commercial district. By involving a broad range of constituents in the process, the downtown program can help each group realize that this common goal exists and that cooperation is essential for successful revitalization. Furthermore, by identifying each organization's greatest strengths, the Downtown Project program can help focus that group's energy in the areas where it will be most effective and have the most to contribute.

Groups typically represented and involved in successful local downtown revitalization programs include: Selecting an Organization for the Downtown Project Program

While a Downtown Project program can be housed in any one of a number of agencies and organizations, the ideal vehicle is a strong, independent private organization whose express purpose is downtown revitalization -- with no other conflicting agenda. By becoming an independent organization, the Downtown Project program is almost always better able to bring together public and private sector interests in an objective environment, to establish an agenda exclusively for downtown revitalization and to maintain a clear focus on issues that affect downtown. It is imperative, then, that all of the available organizational options be evaluated and that the option chosen be the ones that offer the best opportunity to achieve the 10 principles of successful organization listed above.

Organizational alternatives. Some of the alternatives to independent status adopted by local Downtown Project programs include the following: Creating a New Organization

In most instances, creating a new nonprofit organization to implement the Downtown Project program is the best option. The new organization can: A new organization is often able to accomplish many things that an existing organization with an established agenda cannot. A new organization can set up a board with a broad-based constituency, clearly define an independent mission, create new goals and infuse a fresh spirit of change into the community. A new group can forge all of the principles of a successful downtown organization into a working unit.

The Ideal Local Downtown Project Organization

What are the characteristics of an ideal Downtown Project organization? Who should be on its board of directors, and what should the board's responsibilities be? How should its committees be structured? What role does staff play in developing and implementing policy?

Local Downtown Project organizations have been structured in a variety of ways. For instance, in some communities the Downtown Project program is governed by a large board of directors, with a smaller executive committee providing day-to-day guidance. In others, boards of advisors and directors divide responsibilities for overseeing the program. Sometimes a program will share a board of directors with another organization that has similar interests. The structure of the organization will depend on local priorities, on the roles existing organizations play, on human and financial resources and on many other factors.

The following are descriptions of the components and characteristics of the ideal local Downtown Project program, based on the experiences of hundreds of Downtown Project organizations across the country. These descriptions apply not only to the creation of new organizations but also to the reevaluation and restructuring of existing groups.

The Board of Directors

The local Downtown Project program's board of directors should be a strong, working board capable of developing and implementing policy to create positive change in the downtown. The success of the downtown revitalization effort depends largely on the board's ability to identify and mobilize resources, build volunteer support, develop new leadership and maintain a clear focus on the downtown's needs and opportunities.

Potential members. The board should be a decisive, action oriented group, and be small enough to easily establish a quorum and large enough to include broad community representation. Ideally, the board should have between 7 and 11 members chosen from the following groups: downtown retailers, professionals and other business people; downtown property owners; lenders; city and/or county government officials; the chamber board (not chamber staff); heads of neighborhood organizations; recognized community leaders; local civic organizations, such as the Junior League, Kiwanis, and so on; preservation or historical societies; and interested community members.

Officers. Usually elected by the organization's membership, the officers generally include a president, vice president, treasurer and secretary. (In non-membership organizations, officers are usually elected by the board; in the instances of downtown development authorities and city commissions, they are appointed by the local government.) Some local programs elect co-presidents with separate responsibilities. It is generally best to rotate one-third of the members off the board each year to prevent burn out, attract new leadership and avoid domineering individuals. If more people are interested or should be involved, remember that there are plenty of standing and ad hoc committees on which these individuals can serve. [See following sections on the advisory board and committees.]

The project manager and the board. The project manager should report and respond only to board decisions. On a daily basis, the project manager should confer with the board president There is nothing more debilitating and counterproductive than forcing the project manager to report to too many bosses.

Selecting board members. When selecting Board members, look for people who represent the three Ws: work, wisdom and wealth. Workers who join the organization will become actively involved in planning and implementing projects. Wisdom is represented by partners who provide needed services or information. These members may have special skills in areas such as law, accounting, architecture, volunteer management or real estate. Sometimes, it may be best to designate these individuals as ex officio board members or appoint them to the advisory board to encourage their long-term involvement. Wealth is represented by people who have money -- or access to money -- that could be used to finance the program's projects. In short, board members should bring the organization time, money, skills, leadership, enthusiasm and community respect.

The role of the board. There is no simple definition of the board's role. In general, the board's major responsibilities are to educate, build consensus, stimulate the downtown economy through action, focus activity on the downtown and maximize volunteer participation in the downtown revitalization process. As the direction of the downtown revitalization program evolves and creates new opportunities, the board's role in each of these areas may change. There are, however, several basic responsibilities that should remain constant throughout the life of the organization. More specifically, these are the things for which the board should be responsible: Responsibilities of members of the Downtown Project board of directors. Collectively, the board of directors assumes legal and philosophical responsibility for all activities of the Downtown Project program. Individually, board members provide leadership for the program, serve as advocates of downtown revitalization and support the board by serving responsibly and with dedication. Each board member should meet the following requirements. The board members are jointly responsible for: Establishing and/or continuing the legal existence of the program

Ensuring that the program fulfills legal requirements in the conduct of its business and affairs

Adopting and administering bylaws

Adopting policies that determine the program's purposes, governing principles, functions, activities and courses of action

Assuming responsibility for internal policies governing the program

With the project manager, developing an annual work plan of goals, objectives and activities for the program
Approving and monitoring the program's finances

Helping raise sufficient funds to ensure that the program can meet its objectives

Authorizing and approving an annual audit

Assuming responsibility for all expenditures necessary for the operation of the program (other than those responsibilities delegated by the board to the project manager)
Understanding and interpreting the program's work to the community

Relating the services of the program to the work of other organizations and agencies

Giving sponsorship and prestige to the program and inspiring confidence in its activities

Serving as advocates of economic development through historic preservation in the downtown area
Regularly reviewing and evaluating the program's operations and maintaining standards of performance

Monitoring the program's activities

Counseling and providing good judgment on plans adopted by committees and the project manager
Selecting, hiring and evaluating the project manager

Approving policies governing personnel administration

Participating in the recruitment, selection and development of individuals to serve on the board of directors as advised by the nominating committee
Should there be an executive committee? Some local Downtown Project programs create an executive committee to help manage and focus the board's responsibilities. Typically, an executive committee consists of the board's officers -- president, vice president, secretary and treasurer -- and meets more frequently than the full board, to take care of daily management of the program. An executive committee may be needed if the board is too large to allow convenient scheduling of meetings. If, however, the board is small enough to interact well and to effectively handle the organization's housekeeping details, an executive committee might just create an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy.

The Advisory Board

The advisory board provides additional insights, input and policy support to the local Downtown Project program. This group should include among leaders of major community groups and people who can provide expert advice to the program. It is not as involved in the day-to-day affairs of the Downtown Project program as the board of directors; an advisory board may meet only twice a year. Instead, its purpose is to provide assistance when needed. Because the advisory board includes representation from major organizations and businesses, its members can mobilize resources that the of which the project manager and board of directors may not be aware -- or have access. The advisory board can have as many as 25 or 30 members.

Responsibilities of advisory board members. Members of the advisory board provide guidance, advice and liaison with other organizations and agencies, as well as promoting the Downtown Project program to the community. The advisory board member should demonstrate: Specific responsibilities. The advisors' responsibilities are not as numerous or as detailed as those of the directors. As their name suggests, the advisory board's primary role is to provide advice on the direction and opportunities of the Downtown Project program. The board of advisors should: Does the organization need an advisory board? Some Downtown Project programs have advisory boards, and some do not. Occasionally, a program finds that its board of directors alone can adequately execute the program's goals; consequently, an advisory board is not really necessary. In other instances, advisory boards help give prestige and guidance to the local program, providing skills or resources the board of directors alone may not possess.

Advantages of establishing an advisory board. Advisory boards can benefit the local program in the following instances:
Issues to address before establishing an advisory board. Unless it is properly structured and oriented, an advisory board may not be beneficial for a community. Before establishing an advisory board, program leaders should consider: If such details are thoroughly discussed to ensure that potential members of the advisory board and board of directors understand their roles, the advisory board can become an invaluable resource.

The Project Manager

The project manager is the central coordinator of the Downtown Project program's activities. He or she oversees daily operations, providing the hands-on involvement critical to a successful program. The manager also provides a communication link between committees, ensuring that activities in all four points of the Downtown Project approach are synchronized. Like a shopping center manager, the project manager initiates and coordinates a wide range of projects, from supervising promotional activities to assembling market information. Most important, though, is the project manager's role as a full-time advocate for the downtown and as an authority on information, resources and programs related to the revitalization effort.

Like the board's responsibilities, the manager's duties evolve as the program's goals and opportunities change, but two characteristics remain constant: The project manager is full-time; and the manager's only focus is the downtown.

Specifically, the project manager should carry out the following tasks: The project manager and volunteers. Full-time project management is essential to a successful downtown revitalization program. Keep in mind, however, that the project manager cannot -- and should not -- take the place of volunteers in the organization. Downtown Project programs rely on the mobilization of large numbers of volunteers throughout the community. Thus, the project manager's major role is to expand and develop volunteer capacity and ensure that committee activity is moving smoothly. The manager should serve as a facilitator, coordinating people and resources, to help volunteers work efficiently and productively.

The project manager's skills. The project manager must be creative, entrepreneurial and flexible -- able to wear a variety of hats based on the program's most pressing need, from blowing up balloons in the morning to discussing a financial incentive package with bankers in the afternoon. The manager must exhibit good organizational skills and ability to communicate well with many different types of people. He or she is, in effect, responsible for the development, coordination, documentation and implementation of the revitalization effort.

An effective project manager should have the following characteristics. Committees

Committees are the backbones of successful local Downtown Project programs. A phenomenal amount of activity must be coordinated if a downtown revitalization program is to be successful in reaching its goals. Committees are the vehicles through which the Downtown Project board work plan and through which downtown revitalization actually takes place.

Committees serve several important roles. First, they provide the people who actually implement activities. Second, they provide a structured framework that allows volunteers throughout the community to become involved in the downtown revitalization process. Third, they enable members of many constituent groups, with a stake in downtown's future, to work together accomplishing common goals, strengthening existing relationships and building new relationships.

Finally, committees help develop new leadership to sustain the revitalization effort for years to come.

Recommended standing committees. Set up three standing committees corresponding to three of the four points of the Downtown Project approach -- promotion, design and economic restructuring -- and one standing committee to deal with membership development, fund-raising and other organizational housekeeping chores. General organizational activities are the responsibility of the Downtown Project board and its executive committee.

The roles these committees play are crucial to the Downtown Project program's success, which depends on a coordinated, comprehensive effort to complete projects in each of the four points. The board is responsible for developing a comprehensive set of goals. The committees are responsible, in conjunction with the board, for developing strategies and projects, and carrying out these strategies and projects. With the board's approval, each committee should:
One of the most important responsibilities of Downtown Project committees is to initiate working relationships with agencies and community groups that have similar goals or are currently involved with projects in the downtown area. Defining a role for the local Downtown Project program while ensuring that it does not overlap or conflict with outside groups can be a delicate process. Often, the most appropriate committee task -- at least initially -- is to offer assistance to groups with established projects in order to learn about their activities and, at the same time, promote the downtown revitalization program.

Promotion committee. The promotion committee's primary responsibility is to market a unified, quality image of the business district as the center of activities, goods and services to retailers, shoppers, investors and tourists. The responsibilities of this committee are broad and typically include coordinating advertising, reversing negative images of the downtown, implementing special events and establishing and maintaining good media relations. In particular, the promotion committee is responsible for the following: The promotion committee's first job should be to conduct a thorough inventory of all current community and downtown promotional activities by checking with the chamber of commerce, local arts groups, the merchants' association and all service clubs. Next, the promotion committee and the board should make some basic organizational decisions about the committee's role and activities. Most Downtown Project programs have found that combining assistance to existing programs with development of a limited number of new promotional activities is the best way to implement a comprehensive, balanced promotion calendar.

The promotion committee's responsibilities are different from those of the chamber's business and promotion committees or those of the downtown merchants' association. The chamber has community wide responsibilities and thus cannot concentrate solely on the downtown area. The merchants' association focuses on events that build retail sales and increase store traffic. The activities of these groups support the goal of creating a positive image for the downtown and, therefore, can usually tie in with general promotional activities and special events sponsored by the Downtown Project program.

Members of the promotion committee might include representatives of the downtown merchants' association, chamber of commerce, local arts association, school board, library, civic associations, special interest clubs, YMCA/YWCA, an ad agency or bank marketing department. Beware of the conflict of interest local radio stations, TV stations and newspapers may exhibit if their advertising sales representatives participate in the promotion committee.

Design committee. The design committee's purpose is to create an attractive, coordinated and quality image of the downtown by capitalizing on its unique assets and heritage. The committee's responsibilities do not lie solely with the improvement of traditional commercial buildings: It should be involved in all aspects of design that affect the downtown's image. Such activities include analyzing parking, developing a logo, coordinating window displays and acting as a design resource for property owners. If the Downtown Project program is planning to develop a low-interest loan pool or other financial incentives to stimulate interest in design projects, this committee will play a critical role in setting up and administering a design review and approval process. Many design committees make the mistake of trying immediately to establish design ordinances. An ordinance, however, is only one of a variety of measures that can be used to protect the business district's visual quality.

The committee's members should include people who are qualified -- either by profession or volunteer interest and experience -- to supervise its projects. Potential members include architects, landscapers, interior designers, graphic artists, sign painters, contractors, historical commission representatives, artists, and citizens interested in good design. The committee might also include a downtown property owner and the city's building inspector. The committee's primary tasks include: Economic restructuring committee. The economic restructuring committee works to develop a market strategy that will result in an improved retail mix, a stronger tax base, increased investor confidence and a stable role for the downtown as a major component of the community's economic health.

Because the economic restructuring committee's responsibilities are complex, finding volunteers to serve on it can often be difficult. To overcome this, the board can identify initial tasks that do not require specialized expertise, such as collecting data on downtown buildings for a retail recruitment program or reviewing and summarizing existing market information. One of the committee's first tasks might be to identify public and private community groups already active in economic development. Such groups include local development companies, development authorities and city planning and development agencies. Set up appointments with all these groups to discuss their activities and explain the goals of the Downtown Project program. Ask for copies of any plans and market studies they have produced or commissioned.

The economic restructuring committee could be composed of city council members, officers of financial institutions, real estate agents and chamber of commerce board members or staff. Other members might include merchants, property owners, attorneys and business teachers. The committee's major responsibilities include: Membership and development committee. Much of the success of the local Downtown Project program and the viability of the organization will depend on its ability to recruit and develop new leadership, to stay in close touch with its supporters and meet their needs and to mobilize a large number of volunteers. This is an intense, ongoing effort that requires diligent work all year-round by one group -- the membership and development committee -- established to meet several needs of the organization: to recruit new members to the Downtown Project board and committees; to recruit new volunteers and help them find assignments they will enjoy; and to raise funds for the program's ongoing operation.

The membership and development committee's responsibilities include:
The tasks of the membership and development committee are so important that many Downtown Project programs divide its responsibilities into three standing subcommittees:
The role of the project manager in committee activity. Committees are the primary vehicles through which most Downtown Project programs involve existing members and attract new ones. Committees are usually small enough so that each member has a chance to speak, participate and gain confidence and experience. Committees are the nurturing ground for new leadership and provide an opportunity to draw experience from and bring expertise to the local Downtown Project program.

The project manager is responsible for ensuring that the committees run smoothly and inspire maximum volunteer dedication, achievement, responsibility, impact and satisfaction. Frequently, the major role of a volunteer association's staff is to develop the volunteer capacity of the organization. A staff member's goals and record are often measured by volunteer commitments and results. One way to ensure maximum volunteer participation when developing a committee work plan is to imagine that the organization has no staff, and, therefore, cannot include staff time in its projects. Once the work plan is completed, add staff capacity. This exercise will help the organization draw up a reasonable work plan, one in which staff adds to the capacity of the organization, enabling it to expand and add new activities. In many organizations, volunteers tend to relax after the staff is hired, assuming that the staff will pick up their efforts. In a successful volunteer organization, everyone works smarter -- but harder -- after the staff is hired, due to the greater organizational efficiency than the staff can introduce.

In the Downtown Project program, the project manager's role is to help volunteers do the work of the organization. By developing a strong and broad-based organization of dedicated volunteers, the project manager builds support for a revitalized downtown and creates a community wide awareness of the issues downtown faces. One of the most effective ways of achieving this goal is through mobilization of committees and task forces.


A successful downtown revitalization program is created by leaders who understand its purpose, develop realistic goals, establish priorities and assess its progress. A crucial element in planning the direction of the Downtown Project program is the development of an annual work plan that clearly lists the activities that need to take place and assigns deadlines and responsibilities for each one.

The Purposes of the Annual Work Plan

The work plan serves four purposes:
The work plan should reflect the organization's biggest priorities and be realistic in its scope. It should not include any items that cannot be accomplished in one year. Remember that it is impossible for the Downtown Project program to be everything to everyone; to be effective, its efforts must be focused. Do not force activities that do not fit the program's purpose. Do not attempt projects for the wrong reasons, i.e., because a grant is available to conduct the project, because the activity will put someone on the payroll, because the project will generate publicity or because no one else will do the project. Scrutinize every proposed activity and be sure it makes sense for the program. Learn to say no or put suggestions on a list for future action. Of course, do not be so rigid that you turn down good opportunities when they come along, but be sure any changes in the Downtown Project program's agenda are made for very sound reasons.

The Elements of a Work Plan

A work plan should contain:
The mission statement. The mission statement should describe the organization's purpose clearly and simply. Do not include the actual goals or activities needed to accomplish the organization's purposes; these are appropriate in the work plan itself, not in the mission statement. Keep the statement flexible so it will stay relevant as the organization evolves.

In addition to serving as the starting point for developing an annual work plan the mission statement should be used to explain the downtown revitalization program in press releases, publications, media interviews and at meetings and conferences.

Goals, objectives and activities. The goals, objectives and activities define the projects the Downtown Project program will implement in order to fulfill the directives in its mission statement. For example,

Goal for economic restructuring. To understand the downtown's economic development needs and recognize opportunities for directing and managing positive downtown economic change.

Objective #1: Understand the retail market conditions that have an impact on the downtown.

Activities: Gather the most recent census reports for the community.

Conduct customer and merchant surveys.

Obtain copies of market studies from the city planning office and other public and private sources.

Obtain copies of state sales tax reports for the past five years.

Conduct a preliminary retail market analysis for the downtown.

Objective #2: Gather information about downtown real estate.

Activities: Develop a base map, showing all downtown buildings.

Develop a downtown building inventory system.

Collect downtown real estate data from the tax office.

Examine each building and list in the downtown building inventory information on square footage, condition, tenancy and use.

Collect historical data (maps, photographs, directories) about the downtown.
The time line and list of responsibilities. Assign deadlines and responsibilities for every activity identified. Make deadlines realistic, taking into account committee meeting schedules, holidays and other busy times of year. Activities that rely on earlier activities -- for instance, a facade improvement program that will not be announced until a low-interest loan pool is established -- should reflect this in their time lines.

A committee, group or individual should be assigned responsibility for implementing each activity on the work plan. Responsibility might be shared by one or more people in the organization, including members of the board of directors, a standing subcommittee or a special task force created for that particular activity. When assigning tasks, remember that the Downtown Project project manager's role is to coordinate volunteer activity, not take its place. Be careful not to overload any one individual or group -- whether staff or volunteers -- with too many responsibilities.

Developing the Work Plan

Identifying the downtown's assets and liabilities.
Before making any decisions about the program's priorities, identify the downtown's assets and liabilities. By examining the downtown's strengths and weaknesses, the Downtown Project program will be able to single out areas of immediate need and develop a clear sense of direction.

There are a number of ways to identify the downtown's strong and weak areas. Two of the more successful techniques are: Developing the components of the work plan. When the positive and negative characteristics have been identified and some broad priorities for action developed, the Downtown Project program can begin developing goals, objectives and activities.

Goals. The board of directors should establish goals for each of the four points of the Downtown Project approach. This task should not be delegated to a committee or task force because, ultimately, it is the board that is responsible for the Downtown Project program's direction and accountable for its activities.

Objectives. The objectives for each goal should be developed by the appropriate standing committee, in conjunction with the board: It is helpful to have one person serve as facilitator, recording the group's decisions on chart paper and keeping the group on schedule.

Activities. Activities should be developed by the standing committees that will be implementing them, thus fostering a strong sense of involvement and commitment among participants. If specific tasks are assigned to smaller ad hoc groups, these groups should also be involved in the planning process. Committees should also make recommendations about deadlines and responsibilities for each activity.

The committees should report back to the board with the activities they have developed for each objective. The board then reviews the entire work plan and ensures that:
The board should then develop a time line for activities in all four areas of the Downtown Project approach.

Finalizing the work plan. The board should review the completed work plan with each standing committee. It is crucial that each committee know what the others will be doing. Then the work plan should be published. It might need condensing or editing, depending on how detailed the activity descriptions are. All individuals and organizations who participate in the Downtown Project program should receive a copy of the work plan. In some towns, the Downtown Project program distributes the plan throughout the community, occasionally publishing it in local newspapers.

Updating the Work Plan

The work plan should be updated each year after the board has reviewed the goals to see if they are still relevant or if they need modifying. During this process the board, committees and ad hoc groups go through the same process of identifying objectives and defining activities as they did the year before.


Given the complexities of the marketing, business management, promotional and design issues that intersect on Downtown Project, it is probable that a downtown program will need to hire consultants at several points during the revitalization process. Successful use of consultants depends on the thought and preparation invested in the project before the consultant is hired. Purchasing consulting services is like purchasing any other item -- the more planning and research done in the beginning, the better the product. Therefore, before contracting with a consultant, the Downtown Project organization should be able to:

Answer four basic questions

1. Is the community ready to be a successful client?
Consultants work best when citizens have recognized that the assistance of an expert is necessary before further action can occur. Too often, money, time and the energies of both client and consultant are wasted because the reason for hiring someone remains vague, and the client relies on the consultant to define both the problem and the solution. A need that is vaguely defined will result in a product that is equally ill defined and poorly suited to the character of the commercial district. The client must be familiar with the local situation in order to evaluate the consultant's recommendations and to develop a realistic implementation plan tailored to local capacity.

Proper timing is crucial to using a consultant successfully. It may be premature to turn to consultants early in the revitalization process if people are neither organized nor prepared to move ahead with recommendations. Know the community's political situation -- the middle of a hotly contested local election no time to bring in a consultant.

2. Can all, or part, of this project be completed with local resources? Local groups should determine whether they can achieve their goals with local resources before turning to outside consultants. Depending on the kind of work that is needed, it may be possible to use municipal staff; technical assistance from state government agencies, regional planning commissions, local schools and colleges; or help offered as a public service to the community by local attorneys, designers, accountants and other professionals.

For example, if a market analysis is needed to determine the potential for downtown commercial development, investigate the following:
3. Can existing staff do the work? Consider the project's time frame when deciding whether to handle the project in-house. Does existing staff have the time to take on additional responsibilities or be trained for the necessary work? Does the Downtown Project program's annual work plan have that much flexibility? There will be times when downtown organizations will not be able to solve problems with local resources. If the task is short-term, it is usually more cost effective to hire an expert rather than seek funding for a permanent new employee. It is important, however, to realize that hiring a consultant to conduct a project will involve a great deal of staff time as well. To ensure a successful project, the client should be working as hard as the consultant.

4. What does the consultant need from the client? Consultants who have dealt with unprepared clients advise that it is worth spending up to one-fifth of the allocated budget to define the project thoroughly at the outset. This recommendation indicates the importance of taking the time, if not the money, to think through all the steps that a consultant contract-and its resulting actions-will entail. One way to evaluate the usefulness of consultant services and examine alternative course of action is to hire a professional on a short-term contract to review the steps a specific project might involve. The consultant could give the community a preliminary assessment of options, including resources that can be tapped on a local, state or federal level and the kinds of expertise that might be needed. In order to define the scope of services for a project, the client must know the type of research that will be necessary as well as the products that will result and their potential use.

Scope of Services

The scope of services describes the project and everything that must be done to complete it. One way to develop a scope of services is to determine what the final products should be -- both tangible items, such as reports and maps, and intangible results, such as increased community awareness and new staff skills. Take this list and work backwards, noting all the steps needed to accomplish those activities. Be as specific as possible, including such details as frequencies and times of meetings (be aware, however, that circumstances will change as the project develops). Decide what the ultimate product is to be: a facade study, which the project manager can use to stimulate enthusiasm; a draft of legislation affecting mixed use in the downtown; or a plan to finance inventory at lower interest rates. The final product must be clearly defined for the consultant.

What is the timetable for the delivery of the product? The timetable should include not only the completion date, but also a schedule for on-site visits, data collection and submission and review of draft reports.

The Downtown Project project manager and the board should identify local resources required to complete the work, such as people who have access to pertinent information, volunteers to help with the work or maps and other documents. Other resources could include logistic support for visits, presentations and other meetings.

Defining the Consultant's Role

How the consultant will interact with the community should be well defined by the Downtown Project project manager and board of directors. Will the consultant meet with the client group only or with the steering committee and outside groups as well? How many meetings will be required? What is the purpose of each meeting? Will public presentations of the consultant's interim and final reports be required? If so, how is public debate to be handled? Will background educational presentations be required to inform the public about the intentions of the study? Who will be liaison with the consultant, and how much decision-making power will the liaison have? Finally, how will the media be handled throughout the process?

In some instances, the project manager and board may wish to retain review and endorsement authority over the consultant's ideas before they are made public. This may be particularly important when the work being conducted is of a highly speculative or sensitive nature.

Implementation and Products

How will the report's recommendations be implemented? Will the contract include responsibility for helping the client implement recommendations? All too often, good reports with valid recommendations do not result in action because realistic strategies for implementation were not included in the consultant's work plan.

What products will be required as part of the contract? How many copies of each product will be delivered? What form will they take? For example, if the contract is for a facade study, will the designs produced by the consultant be rough sketches, renderings, line drawings or construction-quality documents? By what standards will the products be judged adequate and complete? Will the consultant produce and print the required number of final reports and other printed materials, or will the client pay for them? Will the consultant turn over all rough notes and preliminary materials to the Downtown Project program as part of the final product? Can portions of the base data be withheld by the consultant as confidential? Will the consultant be free to use the report to market his or her services to future clients? Finally, who will retain publication rights for the materials?

Methods of Payment

The method of billing the client for the consultant's services should be detailed in the contract. How will time, travel, lodging and expenses be calculated? How much overhead and profit are included in the contract price? It is also necessary to stipulate the method and period of payment. Will payments be linked to calendar periods such as months or quarters, or will they be linked to phases of the work? Will the consultant be allowed to shift costs between line items in the contract without approval and only be required to get the client's agreement on cost overruns?

Selecting a Consultant

After reviewing the full range of consultant and client responsibilities, the client should draft a statement outlining the purpose for hiring a consultant and the proposed scope of services. This statement will become the basis for advertising the job or soliciting proposals from qualified firms.

The identification of suitable candidates for a consultant contract should be as systematic as the definition of the scope of services. The first step is to establish a pool of prospective applicants that have done similar work. Referrals can come from many sources, including other communities, state and other governmental agencies, universities and professional associations. Although most agencies and organizations will not be able to endorse a consultant, they may be able to furnish a list of consultants with experience in particular kinds of projects. In addition, many state and national associations publish directories that list their members according to geographical location and areas of expertise. Many associations also have guidelines explaining the consultant selection process and the contractual standards to which their members should adhere.

Interview several consultants so that you can compare their experience, personalities and approaches. A good working relationship is essential to the success of any project; so be sure that the person who would work on your project comes to the interview, not just a representative of the firm. Check with at least three recent clients and ask questions about the quality of work ability to meet deadlines and relationships with the client. Ask the consultants interviewed for samples of work and check for thoroughness, clarity and the degree to which the product was tailored to the local situation. Check to be sure the consultant has had actual experience with downtown revitalization programs -- the needs of traditional commercial areas differ significantly from those of shopping malls, shopping centers and other commercial environments.

The final step is to prepare a contract based on your scope of services end negotiations with the consultant. Contact other communities and government agencies for examples of contracts or use model contracts obtained from professional associations. Be as clear as possible about performance standards for products, conditions for payment, deadlines, penalties and the terms for re-negotiation of the contract should conditions change. Include in the contract your responsibilities as client as well as those of the consultant. These are the areas in which many problems typically arise. By defining the task and thinking through the questions, the client will have a better chance of choosing the right consultant and obtaining a useful product.