Main Street After COVID: Lessons Learned on Design and Land Use
March 3 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Assuming we are past the worst of the COVID-19, what happens to our downtowns? Before the pandemic, people were rediscovering the traditional New England town center. You can stop in a few different shops, maybe pick something up for dinner at a local fish market or bakery, and enjoy the building and people. Once COVID hit, people were reluctant to leave their houses, let along go downtown. Some experts, citing research that suggests people like working remotely and don’t want to return to work in an office, suggest that downtowns may be dead. Other suggest that the natural open air character of downtowns means they are well-positioned to adjust to a post-COVID world. This webinar will present the findings of a multi-year research project on this topic. Working with funding from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Department of Urban Studies & Planning, we set out to see what these small downtowns would need in the future to grow and thrive. We found that, with the right planning and bold and consistent actions, small city downtowns continue to have great potential. We based on research on six communities in New England and the Upper Midwest, including Nashua, NH; Haverhill, MA; and Portland ME. After completing an initial report, we have created two additional reports to date. One is on redesigning downtown Main Streets in response to best practices learned during COVID, and the second is on the challenges of creating upper story housing downtown.