Small Towns Making Big Investments to Revitalize and Improve Livability

July 12, 2013 at 7:01 am CDT

Across the country small towns are investing big in projects to revitalize downtown areas and improve livability for all residents. Our new list, The Top 10 Best Small Towns 2013, highlights some of the truly exceptional small towns, but these places have competition. In this week's roundup of livability-related stories from around the Web, we look at improvements small towns are making to attract new residents and businesses, and keep the residents they have.

Transportation Projects Help Small Cities

Transportation Projects Are Key

Transportation for America put together a collection of case studies aimed at showing how livability projects can and should be applied to small towns and rural regions. A case study in Laconia, N.H. shows how, with help from the EPA, residents created a comprehensive master plan designed to maintain the city's small-town character while encouraging investment in core neighborhoods. One of the most successful projects involved improvements to the Weirs Beach area to make biking and walking safer. Another success story comes from Meridian, Miss., where a declining city center received reinvestment and a transportation hub was created to connect the city to networks such as high-speed rail, public transit and intercity buses.

“Some may think livable communities is a phrase that refers only to urban areas,” former Meridian mayor John Robert Smith tells Transportation for America. “I assure you, it is not. A safe, strong and efficient transportation system in our small towns and rural areas, in addition to our larger cities, is necessary if we are to continue to grow...”

Plan Wins Award in Woonsocket

A plan that guides and coordinates public and private investments toward a vibrant downtown in Woonsocket, R.I. received an award from the group Smart Growth Rhode Island. The focal point of the plan is to make Main Street a more attractive and inviting place. It also includes recommendations to utilize the small town's arts and entertainment venues, and modify land use and zoning, streetscape improvements, and the creation of bikeways and better pedestrian connections.

First Comes the Vision

City officials in Dickinson, N.D., one of our picks for the best small towns in America, have taken a key step towards revitalizing the rapidly growing city's downtown area. The project begins with the creation of a “vision statement” that would explain what residents and city leaders want downtown to become.

Paying for Progress

An entrepreneur in Kansas City hopes his new site, neighbor.ly can help local governments, neighborhood associations, nonprofits and civic groups raise money for a variety of projects that would enhance the livability of their residents. The site allows anyone to invest in civic projects through a form of crowd funding, much like Kickstarter. So far, the site has raised more than $100,000 for things like a bike sharing program, playground and skate park. Among the campaigns currently listed on neighbor.ly is a project to expand the Children's Park in Tyler, Texas.

Painting the Towns

Paint maker Benjamin Moore has announced the winners of its Main Street Matters contest. A total of 20 small cities across the country will receive materials and labor to help spruce up their Main Streets. Among the winners is Texarkana, which straddles the boarder of Texas and Arkansas. The group Main Street Texarkana is behind a movement to revitalize historic downtown Texarkana.

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