Choosing the right projects to catalyze downtown revitalization can vary greatly depending on the community size, location, and assets. Aside from detailed research and/or economic analysis (which should always be a part of any strategic planning effort for a community), there are some key economic development features that can focus downtown revitalization to begin to ignite a spark and foster catalytic change. These features include capitalizing on an existing community asset (or liability), community involvement, political support, economic incentive, and a lot of perseverance.
While this recipe can be further expanded based on community need and/or desire, Milwaukie Station Food Cart Pod in Milwaukie, Oregon offers one example of a successful catalyst project. Food carts have become a staple in the fabric of urban cities and they are expanding into more suburban areas. Food carts offer a unique and flexible opportunity for micro-entrepreneurs. With lower start-up costs, owners can experiment with family recipes, incubate business ideas, or just provide for themselves and their families. As an economic development tool, a food cart pod can activate an area and bring potential customers to neighboring businesses. Although the permitting and implementation process takes time and patience, the finished product for a site like Milwaukie Station has catalyzed the downtown in a little as one month as a result of the tenacity and interest of the community that came from one underutilized, city-owned site.