ELLEN BOUKARI/Alachua County Today
Alachua's downtown area and the larger historic district will be beneficiaries of a public/private partnership between the City of Alachua and area businesses and organizations.
ALACHUA – A firm contracted by the City of Alachua to prepare a Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) development plan presented its study to the city commission Monday night.
Redevelopment Management Associates submitted an 86-page report to the commission in which it explained the results of its market study and recommendations after taking into consideration public comments from a workshop held June 13.
The CRA district comprises 256 acres, focusing primarily on the downtown district adjacent to Main Street and surrounding neighborhoods.
The main emphases of the study were directed at establishing an identity for Alachua’s downtown.
Of 10 recommended initiatives, the first five centered on creating a cohesive vision for the downtown area, including the creation of a “branding, marketing and messaging program,” the hiring of a downtown coordinator as a new city staff position, and hosting community events by partnering with local businesses.
“While ‘The Good Life Community’ describes the city’s sense of small town charm and friendly atmosphere, a clearly defined targeted message with a strong comprehensive campaign is necessary to catapult the downtown area into a thriving hub of social activity,” the report states.
The report goes into detail regarding several possible options the city could pursue to assist in establishing a brand, from hiring a CRA marketing and events professional to creating an image committee and a Downtown Alachua website.
If every branding suggestion were followed by the city, the estimated annual budget could be as high as $175,000, per the report.
Other key recommended initiatives included implementing a façade improvement grant program (something common to other local community CRAs), improving wayfinding and directional signage downtown, and targeting a business hotel near the downtown area.
An additional point of emphasis the report noted concerned enhancing the customer base for local businesses and improving “public perception related to entertainment / social offerings and overall atmosphere in Downtown Alachua.”
One suggestion was to “create a monthly Downtown Alachua discovery tour event, activating the theatre pocket park [Alan Hitchcock Park] as the central gathering spot / information space. Consider wine and / or craft beer tastings in each business…Place sidewalk musicians through the downtown to draw people to walk the entire area and invite juried arts / crafts business vendors to set in front of vacant storefronts.”
The entire report is available at the City of Alachua homepage at www.cityofalachua.com.
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