Developing a Downtown Project Program
Table of Contents
I. ESTABLISHING A DOWNTOWN PROJECT ORGANIZATION
- Principles of Organization
- Identifying the Participants
- Selecting an Organization for the Downtown Project Program
- Creating a New Organization
- The Ideal Local Downtown Project Organization
- The Board of Directors
II. DEVELOPING A WORK PLAN
- The Purposes of the Annual Work Plan
- The Elements of a Work Plan
III. WORKING WITH CONSULTANTS
- Answer four basic questions
- Scope of Services
- Defining the Consultant's Role
- Implementation and Products
- Methods of Payment
- Selecting a Consultant
I. ESTABLISHING A DOWNTOWN PROJECT ORGANIZATION
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
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.
- Widespread community support
- Broad-based community representation in an advisory capacity
- A distinct constituency
- A clear, shared sense of mission and a well-defined set of goals and
- Committed, dependable funding
- Working committees
- Full-time management
- A well-thought-out work plan based on the four points of the Downtown
Project approach: design, organization, promotion and economic restructuring
- A commitment to work, and succeed, over time
- Strong public-private partnerships
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
Selecting an Organization for the Downtown Project Program
- Merchants. Retail activity is an important part of the downtown's
base economy; thus, merchants have a vested interest in the success of the
downtown revitalization program. Merchants are often most interested in-and
the most valuable contributors to-downtown promotional activities, but their
representation in other downtown programs can also be beneficial.
- Property owners. Since they virtually own the downtown, property owners
have a direct interest in the Downtown Project program's success and often
become active participants in the revitalization process. Absentee owners
may show little or no interest in the program. Nonetheless, they should
be kept informed about revitalization activities. As the program develops
greater competency in directing downtown's economic growth, they should
continue to be invited to take part in its projects.
- Chamber of commerce. The chamber of commerce is an important player
in most downtown revitalization programs because of its interest in the
community's commercial development. The chamber can help the Downtown Project
program by providing liaison with local and regional economic development
agencies, helping businesses expand, recruiting new businesses and sharing
information resources. Remember, though, that the chamber must be concerned
with community wide development. Focusing too much on the downtown can contradict
its direct mission.
- Financial institutions. Local financial institutions benefit from
a revitalized downtown in many ways, from making new business loans to being
able to attract new industry to the community. Banks and, savings and loans
can support the revitalization program by helping package loans, taking
part in interest buy down and other financial incentive programs. They provide
leadership and seek innovative ways to stimulate downtown economic development.
Many financial institutions also find that participating in the local Downtown
Project program helps satisfy their directives under the Community Reinvestment
- Civic clubs. By taking part in the revitalization program, civic clubs
can help improve the community's quality of life and make the downtown a
more pleasant and vibrant place for community activities.
- Historical societies and historic preservation organizations. These
groups can contribute expertise in local history, preservation technology
and related fields to the downtown revitalization program.
- Consumers. In many ways, consumers stand to benefit the most from
a revitalized downtown offering goods and services that meet their needs.
Many local consumers who may not belong to an existing community organization
will still be interested in participating in the revitalization effort and
in helping make the downtown-and the community-a more lively place to be.
- City and county government. Without the support and involvement of
local government, it is doubtful that a downtown revitalization program
will achieve long-lasting success. Local government can help provide financial
and information resources, technical skills and leadership to the revitalization
effort. Because local government plays a major role in directing the community's
economic growth, it must be an active participant in restructuring the downtown's
economic base and developing innovative solutions to downtown issues.
- Regional Planning commissions and councils of government. These groups
can provide the local Downtown Project program with market data and other
technical information about the downtown's market area. They can also help
the program identify resources and establish relationships with regional,
state and national economic development agencies.
- Schools. Schools can contribute to successful downtown revitalization
in several ways. First, by involving young people in the revitalization
process, the Downtown Project program can reach a segment of the community
that may not be familiar with downtown. Second, they can help students become
positive contributors to the community's quality of life. Finally, by giving
students opportunities to use their academic skills in a "real world"
environment, they can help the downtown revitalization effort implement
programs and activities.
- Media. Downtown revitalization means creating new jobs, generating
new investments and bringing more money into the community-all newsworthy
activities. Thus, the media are usually major supporters of a downtown revitalization
effort. In addition to publicizing the local program's successes, media
can provide information about local market characteristics to help the revitalization
effort find better ways to meet consumer needs.
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
- City government. Housing a Downtown Project program within city government
may provide the greatest level of initial security, but can also inhibit
the development of private sector advocacy and participation. Often, Downtown
Project programs housed in city government become too closely aligned politically
and, consequently, are perceived as pro-government, not pro-business. The
security of the political alignment can dissolve with the next election.
If the Downtown Project program can be given special status, however-as
a revitalization commission or a downtown development authority-with a nonpolitical,
broad-based advisory board, this option may be a viable choice.
- Chamber of Commerce. Like city government, the chamber is usually
an immediate, convenient option for housing a Downtown Project program.
Sharing offices, clerical staff and equipment can be useful, low-cost benefits
when starting a revitalization program, but there are several potential
disadvantages to consider. While the chamber represents the private sector-an
advantage for the Downtown Project program-its city, county or regional
focus can hamper the operations of a program concentrating exclusively on
the downtown. Tension often arises from conflicts between the chamber's
special interests and the need for a strong downtown program.
- Often, the Downtown Project project manager's focus becomes diffused
if he or she is perceived to be chamber staff and asked to put energies
and resources into activities and projects not specifically related to the
downtown. If either groups' constituents confuse the roles and agendas of
the chamber and the Downtown Project program, they may begin funding only
one of the organizations. As with city hall, the chamber's leadership is
elected-and a change of officers could seriously weaken the downtown program's
stability. If the 10 organizational principles can be followed and a clear
downtown focus established, a chamber-housed program may be an acceptable
- Downtown merchants' association. Initial interest in establishing
a Downtown Project program often springs from the downtown merchants. While
downtown merchants' groups represent the private sector, they frequently
have histories of insecure funding and weak organizational structures. In
some instances, Downtown Project programs housed in downtown merchants'
associations become too closely aligned with the retailers and, by association,
with retail promotion-leading to a one--sided public image for the program.
The public's perception of the Downtown Project project as comprehensive-with
broad community representation-is essential to its credibility and should
be strongly considered when setting up the program. If, however, the downtown
merchants' association is seen as a credible, farsighted organization with
a secure base of funding, it may be a feasible option for housing the Downtown
- An existing Downtown Development Organization. A downtown development
authority (DDA) often has many of the qualities and characteristics desirable
in a new Downtown Project program, but its appropriateness depends on its
past track Carefully and objectively examines its past performance and evaluates
community perceptions of the organization. If the public perceives the group
as being ineffective in dealing with downtown issues, the new Downtown Project
program might suffer. Also, analyze the legalities of the authority; states
define the legal power of DDAs in different ways. In some states, these
groups may not be appropriate because of their legal inability to perform
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.
- Establish a clear focus, not hindered by past history
- Develop a consistent program, unhampered by the constraints of local
- Serve as a visible symbol of renewal, new activity and a new future
for the downtown
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
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:
- The board has ultimate responsibility and accountability for the Downtown
Project program. Although it may delegate daily management-even long-range
planning-to the project manager and committees, it cannot delegate the proper
review of program plans, budget review and the monitoring and evaluation
of program effectiveness.
- The board must always represent the larger view of why downtown revitalization
is crucial for the entire community. It must constantly serve as a private-sector
advocate of downtown revitalization in order to ensure: a comprehensive
understanding of the principles of Downtown Project revitalization; community
acceptance and involvement in the revitalization process; private-sector
commitment to the revitalization effort; and ongoing private-sector initiative.
- The board must attempt to maximize volunteer involvement in the downtown
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.
- Ensuring orderly planning and fiscal control for the Downtown Project
- Ensuring that projects and activities are consistent with the program's
goals and objectives and that objectives can be met with available resources
- Setting the Downtown Project program's budget plan, and periodically
reviewing the budget in accordance with the work
- Continually evaluating the program's activity by staying aware of
costs and income associated with all projects, monitoring performance, providing
feedback to volunteers and staff and critiquing the entire program at least
- Hiring and managing the project manager and other staff
- Serving as ambassadors to the community by promoting the goals and
successes of the Downtown Project program and advocating downtown revitalization
through public relations activities, fund-raising and financial support
- Planning goals and objectives and establishing direction and priorities
for the Downtown Project program
The board members are jointly responsible for:
- A demonstrated interest in the Downtown Project program's purpose
and its goals
- Specific experience in or knowledge of administration, finance, program
development, advertising, public relations, downtown business activity,
communications, design or economic development
- Representation of a public or private organization or segment of the
- 4-10 hours per month of available time
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
- A responsible Downtown Project program board member should meet the
following individual standards.
- Supports board decisions, even when he or she may disagree with the
- Understands the mission of the Downtown Project program and promotes
the goals and activities to his or her own constituent groups and to the
community as a whole
- Attends board meetings
- Contributes knowledge, financial resources or labor to the Downtown
- Respects the need for the project manager to report to only one boss
- Offers opinions honestly, without reservation and constructively
- Does not commit more time to the Downtown Project program than he
or she can realistically afford
- Delegates responsibilities to committees when appropriate
- Promotes unity within the organization and seeks to resolve internal
- Encourages orderly, systematic and incremental implementation of the
Downtown Project program's work plan, discouraging the board from being
distracted by secondary issues or projects not included in the program's
- Encourages staff and other board members to express their opinions
openly in board meetings
- Is loyal to the program and honors his or her commitment to it
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
- An interest in the program's purpose and its goals
- A position of leadership within the community
- Representation of a public or private organization in the community
- 10-15 hours per year of available time
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
- Assist the board of directors and the project manager in the development
of an annual work plan for the program
- Provide liaison between the Downtown Project program and other organizations
- Advise the board of directors on the implementation, administration
and growth of the program
- With the board of directors, ensure that the program has sufficient
funds to meet its objectives
- Advise the board of directors on sources and methods of funding the
- Give sponsorship and prestige to the program and inspire confidence
in its activities
- Act as ambassadors in promoting the goals and activities of the program
to other organizations and agencies
- Serve as advocates of economic development through historic preservation
in the downtown area
Advantages of establishing an advisory board. Advisory boards can
benefit the local program in the following instances:
- When the number of community groups that need to be informed about
the activities and progress of the downtown revitalization program is greater
than can be practically represented on the board of directors
- When the creation of an advisory board can assist the local program
with fund-raising activities
- When it is necessary to involve influential people who do not have
the time to serve on the board of directors
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
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.
- Will constituents be confused about the advisory board's and the board
of directors' responsibilities? It should be made clear that the board of
directors -- not the advisory board -- is responsible for the daily operation
of the local program.
- Will the advisory board represent a number of community groups and
interests, or will it become insulated from important issues by having limited
representation? While an advisory board should contain influential citizens,
it should also include individuals who represent community groups that do
not have as much influence or prestige.
- The advisory board's direct responsibilities are not as extensive
as those of the board of directors. Will advisory board members understand
that, although their positions are less active than those of the board of
directors, their involvement is just as important?
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.
- Coordinate activity of Downtown Project program committees, ensuring
that communication between committees is well established; assist committees
with implementation of work plan items.
- Manage all administrative aspects of the Downtown Project program,
including purchasing, record keeping, budget development and accounting,
preparing all reports, assisting with the preparation of reports to funding
agencies and supervising part-time employees or consultants.
- Develop, in conjunction with the Downtown Project program's board
of directors, downtown economic development strategies that are based on
historical preservation and utilize the community's human and economic resources.
Become familiar with all persons and groups directly or indirectly involved
in the downtown commercial district. Mindful of the roles of various downtown
interest groups, assist the Downtown Project program's board of directors
and committees in developing an annual action plan for implementing a downtown
revitalization program focused on four areas: design/historic preservation;
promotion, organization/management; and economic restructuring/development.
- Develop and conduct ongoing public awareness and education programs
designed to enhance appreciation of the downtown's architecture and other
assets and to foster an understanding of the Downtown Project program's
goals and objectives. Use speaking engagements, media interviews and personal
appearances to keep the program in the public eye.
- Assist individual tenants or property owners with physical improvement
projects through personal consultation or by obtaining and supervising professional
design consultants; assist in locating appropriate contractors and materials;
when possible, participate in construction supervision; provide advice and
guidance on necessary financial mechanisms for physical improvements.
- Assess the management capacity of major downtown organizations and
encourage improvements in the downtown community's ability to carry out
joint activities such as promotional events, advertising, uniform store
hours, special events, business recruitment, parking management and so on.
Provide advice and information on successful downtown management. Encourage
a cooperative climate between downtown interests and local public officials.
- Advise downtown merchants' organizations and/or chamber of commerce
retail committees on Downtown Project program activities and goals; help
coordinate joint promotional events, such as festivals or cooperative retail
promotional events, in order to improve the quality and success of events
and attract people downtown; work closely with local media to ensure maximum
coverage of promotional activities; encourage design excellence in all aspects
of promotion in order to advance an image of quality for the downtown.
- Help build strong and productive working relationships with appropriate
public agencies at the local and state levels.
- Utilizing the Downtown Project program format, develop and maintain
data systems to track the process and progress of the local Downtown Project
program. These systems should include economic monitoring, individual building
files, thorough photographic documentation of all physical changes and information
on job creation and business retention.
- Represent the community to important constituencies at the local,
state and national levels. Speak effectively on the program's directions
and findings, always mindful of the need to improve state and national economic
development policies as they relate to smaller communities.
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
An effective project manager should have the following characteristics.
- Should be a strong advocate for the downtown, supporting the goals
of the revitalization program
- Should be a self-starter, capable of working in independent situations
- Should be diplomatic -- able to work well with people
- Should be a skilled one-on-one communicator
- Should have a good sense of design and an awareness of historic preservation
- Should be very adaptable
- Should be capable of fitting into the community, while also bringing
new ideas and a fresh approach to the revitalization process
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
- Determine and prioritize the objectives required to meet each goal
in its subject area
- Develop a balanced range of short-term and long-term activities for
each objective to give the program a record of accomplishment at year's
end as well as a basis for more complex efforts in the future
- Implement several high visibility projects that keep the Downtown
Project program's efforts in the public eye
- Establish, empower and monitor ad hoc task forces to accomplish specific
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
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
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
- Directing retail promotions, traffic-building activity and image improvements
for the downtown, or establishing liaisons and developing joint promotional
strategies with existing organizations active in one or more of these areas
- Assuming primary responsibility for defining the marketable image
of the downtown and ensuring continuity of that image in all downtown promotional
- Monitoring community and consumer perceptions of the downtown and
seeking to reverse negative attitudes and build on positive ones
- Allocating funds for promotional activity in accordance with the Downtown
Project program's annual work plan and budget
- Working toward building new sources of funding for a portion of the
program's total annual promotional budget
- Building a strong network of volunteers to help implement promotional
programs and establishing good working relationships with community organizations,
charities, school clubs and other groups who might participate in promotional
- Working with the economic restructuring committee to monitor changes
in the downtown's market and adjusting the promotional plan accordingly,
always building on downtown assets, to increase the commercial district's
- Working with the design committee to ensure a consistent, high-quality
graphic image in signs, advertisements and other graphic material associated
with the Downtown Project program
- Establishing a sound working relationship with local and regional
- Monitoring the effectiveness of promotional programs on an ongoing
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.
- Directing design improvement activity relating to building maintenance
and rehabilitation, historic preservation, new construction, public and
private signs, graphic material, public improvements, visual merchandising,
traffic and parking
- Working with the promotion committee to ensure a consistent, high-quality
image in signs, advertisements and other graphic material associated with
the Downtown Project program
- Establishing a sound relationship with local design and construction
professionals, sharing technical information on historic preservation, rehabilitation
and maintenance of traditional commercial buildings
- Promoting awareness of downtown design and historic preservation issues
throughout the community
- Monitoring design changes throughout the downtown
- Working with the economic restructuring committee to plan, implement
and administer appropriate incentives to encourage design improvement and
property development activity
- Allocating funds for design improvement activities in accordance with
the Downtown Project program's annual work plan and budget
- Monitoring local ordinances and other applicable regulations affecting
downtown design issues and working toward developing a supportive regulatory
environment for downtown revitalization activity
- Establishing a sound working relationship with the state historic
preservation office and other state and regional agencies that provide assistance
in areas related to downtown design improvement through historic preservation
- Conducting and maintaining a thorough inventory of downtown properties
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
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.
- Working to strengthen existing downtown businesses and, eventually,
to recruit additional businesses through the following types of programs:
development of business assistance teams; sponsorship of business seminars;
identification of downtown market opportunities; dissemination of relevant
information to existing and potential businesses; development of promotional
literature describing the downtown business environment; and development
of incentive programs to stimulate business growth
- Monitoring changes in the local market on an ongoing basis; assessing
the downtown's market share within the community and the region; measuring
the involvement of various market groups in downtown commerce; monitoring
sales leakage or surplus; and assessing downtown's mix of retail, commercial,
residential, recreational and civic space
- Directing activity related to downtown commercial and real estate
- Working with the design committee to plan and implement appropriate
incentives to encourage design improvement and property development activity
- Working with the promotion committee to monitor and adjust the downtown
promotional plan to increase the downtown's market share
- Establishing a sound working relationship with local and regional
financial institutions, business assistance organizations and other businesses
and agencies that provide assistance in areas related to downtown economic
- Conducting and maintaining a comprehensive inventory of downtown businesses
- Allocating funds for downtown economic development activity in accordance
with the Downtown Project program's annual budget and work plan
- Becoming familiar with city, county and regional economic development
strategies and coordinating projects when possible, utilizing economic development
programs already in place and investigating the creation of new programs
- Promoting the downtown as a good place for commercial and real estate
The membership and development committee's responsibilities include:
- Planning and conducting annual fund-raising activities for the Downtown
Project program and ensuring that adequate funding is in place at all times
- Organizing and conducting an annual nomination program for board of
- When applicable, organizing and conducting an annual membership drive
- Helping the design, promotion and economic restructuring committees
recruit new members
- Promoting the development of a strong volunteer network within the
Downtown Project program
- Encouraging leadership development within the Downtown Project program
- Working with the board of directors to acquaint new board and committee
members to the Downtown Project program's goals, activities, policies and
The tasks of the membership and development committee are so important that
many Downtown Project programs divide its responsibilities into three standing
- Nominations subcommittee. Effective board and committee candidates
rarely emerge from the recommendations of a nominating committee formed
one week before board elections. Instead, nominating good candidates requires
year-round awareness of the Downtown Project program's organizational needs
and of the contributions of productive volunteers. This subcommittee is
responsible for ensuring that the nominations process is handled in a responsible
and democratic way. In addition, the nominations subcommittee is often responsible
for orienting new board members. Subcommittee members should collect materials,
accompany new board members to their first meeting and call them afterward
to see if there are any questions. As corny as it seems, assigning a "buddy"
to new Board members helps make them feel at home.
Often, former and current board members who do not wish to run for office
again make good nominations subcommittee members. Be sure this subcommittee
is aware of the importance of its responsibility. Give it sufficient lead
time to find suitable candidates.
- Membership subcommittee. Every volunteer organization needs
a committee that encourages people to join and finds a place for them where
they will be happy and productive. The task of the membership subcommittee
is to monitor the skills and talents of existing members, develop a "wanted
member" profile and, with the board, set goals for the number of new
members to be recruited each year.
The best time to recruit new members is usually in early fall or January
because many businesses plan their yearly activities at one of these two
times. Divide subcommittee volunteers into teams and make sure everyone
is thoroughly familiar with the organization's mission. Provide them with
newsletters, news articles, the organization's mission statement and goals,
lists of committees, the annual work plan and any other information that
will help them explain to others the purpose of the Downtown Project program
and the good projects it is involved with.
Surveys have shown that 70 to 80 percent of the people who join volunteer
organizations do so because they were invited by a friend. Publicity alone
does not produce members; one-on-one contact is the best way to recruit
them. Many organizations have found that if a member sponsors a friend's
membership for one year, that person will often buy his or her own membership
the following year. Remember, however, that paid memberships should usually
be considered a way to build consensus and involvement, not necessarily
a way to raise money. It is better to have 100 members who each contribute
$ 10 each year to the Downtown Project program and who, as a result, participate
actively in its activities than to have one member who contributes $ 1,000
but who never joins in.
Do not overlook community events as a way of recruiting new members. Set
up a table, staffed by a volunteer, displaying printed program information
whenever the Downtown Project program sponsors an event.
- Fund-raising subcommittee. This subcommittee's primary responsibilities
are to plan and conduct annual fund-raising activities for the Downtown
Project program and to ensure that adequate funding is available at all
times. The fund-raising subcommittee requires an energetic, enthusiastic
chairperson. This position must be filled by a board member, not a staff
person. It is neither productive nor efficient to ask a staff person
to raise his or her own salary.
The fund-raising subcommittee must have a plan to be effective; thus the
board should work closely with this group to establish fund-raising goals
and a realistic timetable.
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.
II. DEVELOPING A WORK PLAN
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:
- To manage the wide range of activities that must take place for the
revitalization effort to succeed
- To develop a time table and budget for activities
- To explain the organization's purpose and its activities to the public
- To help measure -- in quantifiable terms -- the downtown revitalization
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:
- A clear mission statement explaining the purpose of the organization
- One or more goals for each of the four points of the Downtown Project
- The specific objectives that must be met to reach each goal
- A list of the activities that must occur to accomplish each objective
- A timetable for completing each activity and the name of the committee,
group or individual responsible for implementing it
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
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.
- Goals should state broadly what the program wants to accomplish
in each of the four points of the Downtown Project approach
- Objectives should outline what the organization needs to do
to accomplish the goals
- Activities should describe the specific methods or actions
needed to accomplish the objectives
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.
Objective #2: Gather information about downtown real estate.
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.
- Visualization exercises. Volunteers think about, then describe, their
vision of what downtown could be like in five or ten years. Working from
the assumption that their visions have become reality, they then discuss
how the Downtown Project program was organized, what its initial priorities
were, what its biggest achievements have been, what steps it took to accomplish
its goals, and which groups and individuals were involved in the revitalization
- Force-field analysis. In a brainstorming session, volunteers list
all the positive and negative factors about the downtown. Then, each negative
characteristic is analyzed to see how its impact can be minimized or eliminated.
This process is repeated for the positive characteristics, with volunteers
identifying ways to enhance them or use them to combat negatives.
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.
- The committee and board should list as many objectives as possible.
Encourage participants to suggest all their ideas; everyone should feel
that his or her suggestions are valid.
- Discuss which objectives can be combined. Often, objectives will overlap
and it may be possible to consolidate them.
- Give participants time to advocate the objectives they feel are the
- Vote to establish priorities; each participant should vote for only
half the objectives. For example, 12 possible objectives means six votes
for each participant.
- Rank the objectives according to the number of votes received to establish
priorities for the work plan.
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:
- Projects are realistic. Projects should be able to be accomplished
within one year. If a project is long-term, the portion of it that will
be accomplished within the year should be included in the work plan.
- Committee activities do not duplicate each other. Sometimes a committee
will develop activities that are similar or identical to ones outlined by
other Downtown Project committees. While a small amount of overlap indicates
that committees are working in the same direction, too much overlap can
cause confusion and dilute the Downtown Project program's focus.
- Activities are quantifiable. Objectives and activities must be measurable
if a Downtown Project program is to gauge its progress, set standards for
future activities and demonstrate its successes. Almost all projects can
be measured in quantifiable terms -- for instance, rather than adopting
the objective "Increase volunteer involvement," a Downtown Project
program might decide that "Increase volunteer involvement by 15 percent"
is a reasonable and measurable expectation.
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
III. WORKING WITH CONSULTANTS
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:
- Is there a local economist, urban planning professional or university
professor who can help define the study and gather preliminary data?
- Has the Downtown Project program collected all recent studies so that
the consultant does not duplicate efforts?
- Is there any information that can be easily collected? For example,
does the Downtown Project program have such information as the most recent
Census of Population, regional population projections, a list of businesses
with approximate square footage, a list of surrounding shopping centers
and tenants, a list of apartment complexes and vacancy rates, and other
data necessary to conduct a market analysis?
- Prepare to make the most effective use of the consultant's time and
your organization's budget by carrying out the simple, time-consuming task
of data gathering in-house. Examine all data and, when possible, make preliminary
conclusions about the downtown's market opportunities. (Remember that, although
a consultant may be able to tell you what market opportunities exist, he
or she cannot identify which ones the program should pursue; this depends
on local values and local goals.) Use the consultant's expertise to analyze
data, project future trends and recommend strategies.
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
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.