Downtown Design District


I have been meaning to share a concept with you for some time…in fact, since I read the January edition of Mainstreet News. It’s about the 16:62 Design Zone. It’s located in a funky old neighborhood of Pittsburgh. They had some cool historic buildings in need of a little investment and a community that wanted a certain kind of economic development

The business leaders believed that this combination of assets had real potential. They decided to promote the area to a specific market niche – businesses that focused on arts and design. The business owners got together to look at branding the district through a shared vision and to promote the neighborhood’s assets to attract similar businesses and, ultimately, bring more customers to the area for everyone.

The local non-profit community development corporation helped to bring the businesses together. They were more focused on getting the business owners’ support than asking them for funding. The branding strategy didn’t cost much because they were basically repackaging what already existed. The CDC just asked local business owners to go visit with their neighbors and get the word out and bring back ideas. Sound familiar Block Heads?

Since the program started in 2000, the effort has attracted 51 new businesses to the area, 30 of which have an arts and design focus. The area now is recognized throughout the region as the place to go for these types of goods and services. They call what they did “Building the Buzz”.

In my first blog about getting recognition as an Art Town, I noted that we have attracted a number of creative industries: arts and design, architecture and engineering, graphics and words. I suggested that they might be assets on which we could build as part of achieving the Art Town recognition. Perhaps there is more than one possibility for leveraging these assets, perhaps branding our downtown district would provide a synergistic boost for economic development.

I think it’s an idea that merits further consideration. Check it out at: 16:62 Design Zone.