Thanks to an organizational strengthening grant from Polk County Community Foundation, TDDA was able to bring back certified planner, Philip Walker who spent two days in Tryon in 2015 and assisted TDDA in developing a Strategy for Downtown.
Since Walker visited in 2015, TDDA and the Town of Tryon has completed the majority of his recommendations, including hiring a full time executive director and diversifying funding to support the position, streetscape completion, and increased promotion of the downtown.
Now that some time has passed and the streetscape improvements on Trade Street are completed, TDDA sought a refreshed community input through a downtown charrette and public forum. The focus is on how to make Tryon a more livable community with opportunities to live, work, eat, shop, recreate and enjoy culture and greenspace, as identified and desired by the existing residents. The goal is not to grow the population of Tryon but to better serve those who choose to live here now and to keep a sustainable population. To enhance the “magic” appeal of Tryon.
This public forum was held on Monday, July 29, 2019 from 5-7pm at the Grace Church Community Space (next door to the Tryon Theatre).
During Mr. Walker’s visit, he worked with the TDDA Board of Directors to develop a workplan, and met in smaller groups with key downtown stakeholders.
Following Mr. Walker’s two-day visit, TDDA’s board of directors will use his recommendations, guidance and best practices to develop and implement a workplan for the next 2 years.
The workplan (spreadsheet document) and final report from Mr. Walker are found on this page.
Top Tier Priorities
The recommendations portion of this report begin on page 7, and recommendations are organized consistent with the Main Street “Four Point” approach. It is proposed that the top priorities for implementation consist of all five (5) of the recommendations tied to Organization. Those recommendations, in summary, include the following:
O-1) Enhance the Effectiveness of TDDA Board Members
O-2) Increase TDDA General Membership
O-3) Leverage the Potential Contributions of TDDA Members
O-4) Achieve Sustainable Funding for TDDA
O-5) Create a Targeted Approach to Engage Elected Officials
The reasoning behind this focus on improving the TDDA organization as the starting point includes the following:
- Experience has shown a strong correlation between effective downtown entities and success with revitalization. There are numerous success stories across the country of downtowns that either had no downtown entity or one with very limited resources, only to turn things around with more resources. After a downtown organization was established in communities such as Bryan (TX) and Clarksville (TN), for example, the downtown revitalized relatively quickly. Similarly, once greater financial resources were provided to the downtown entity in Pensacola (FL), it was able to become much more effective and eventually achieve true success. Tryon itself is such an example in light of being able to hire a full-time Executive Director relative to the TDDA’s previous effectiveness.
- The organization-related recommendations are “low hanging fruit” because they are inexpensive and can occur quickly. Compared with many of the recommendations tied to the other downtown issues (design, economic vitality and promotion), the organizational recommendations have very low costs. In fact, the primary requirement will be “sweat equity” from TDDA staff and members. Not only are these recommendations extremely cost-effective, but they can be achieved relatively quickly, allowing the organization to then move on to more challenging tasks.
- While recommendation O-4 for sustainable funding is not urgent, the timing is good. At present, there appear to be no immediate threats to the current funding sources for TDDA, which included the Community Foundation, the Town government, grants, special events, and other fundraising efforts. Normally this recommendation might be given a lower priority in sequencing relative to other recommendations. However, based upon discussions with Town officials and others, there appears to be support for greater funding from the Town and overall positive energy, so the timing may be good to proceed with this recommendation. The objective is not to expand TDDA’s annual budget of roughly $100,000 within the near future, but rather to adjust the ratio of funding sources.
Next Tier Priorities
The following priorities represent the most important recommendations to pursue within the very near future, and they include the top few for each of the other three Main Street “points” (design, economic vitality, and promotion).
Of the eight (8) recommendations under this topic area, the following are the top priorities in order of their suggested sequencing:
- D-8) Implement the Local Historic Overlay District that Exists in the Zoning Ordinance
This recommendation is the top priority among the design recommendations, as the entire Downtown remains vulnerable to potential negative alterations to historic buildings, building demolitions, and incompatible new development until protections can be put in place.
- D-3) Maximize Parking in Downtown Tryon
This recommendation may not seem very urgent since finding on-street parking is only a challenge at times, so it does not appear to be a critical issue. However, the unknown is how often potential shoppers and diners (particularly the elderly) may come Downtown, not be able to find a convenient parking space, and elect to not visit Downtown Tryon. Even if it is not critical at present, it will become critical as Downtown revitalizes further in the future. Also, this is very “low hanging fruit” given that it can be solved through a voluntary program of employees parking in parking lots, which can be orchestrated by TDDA.
- D-7) Animate Vacant Storefronts with Window Displays and Pop-Up Retail
The pop-up retail part of this recommendation is more complex and challenging to implement than the simple animation of storefronts, so the storefront portion is what is being advocated here as a short-term task. The key requirement is coordination between property owners and potential partners to create displays, including Downtown businesses and non-profit entities (particularly arts organizations). Given the recent announcement of the pharmacy closing, many stakeholders are concerned about the image that empty storefronts might project onto Downtown, so this is a high-visibility issue at present.
Economic Restructuring Recommendations
Of the six (6) recommendations under this topic area, the following are the top priorities in order of their suggested sequencing. They are also all tied specifically to business development:
- E-1) Update TDDA’s Existing Business Development Documents
This recommendation is the easiest to achieve and is something that TDDA has intended to do in the near future. The key will be assembling the updated relevant data to update the market analysis / business development plan and the “how to” guide. Since these two documents are important tools to get into the hands of business owners being recruited to Downtown Tryon, they are a vital piece of the puzzle.
- E-3) Determine Potential Niche Markets & Candidate Uses for Recruitment
Until TDDA has a clearer picture of the potential markets and uses to recruit to Downtown Tryon, the recruitment tools recommended above cannot be leveraged very effectively. This recommendation already includes a list of the potential niche markets and candidate uses provided earlier in this report, so achieving it will only require tweaking based upon the market analysis work to be completed via recommendation E-1.
- E-2) Initiate a Proactive Business Development Campaign
Once clarity occurs regarding the niche markets and candidate uses to recruit (E-3), and once the recruiting tools are updated (E-1), the actual business development campaign can be triggered. As with the other related recommendations, this one will not require any funding other than perhaps the printing of the documents (market analysis / business development plan and the “how to” guide). It will rely, however, an an army of volunteers supporting the TDDA Executive Director, which is just one more reason why the organization-related recommendations should be the overall top priority.
Of the six (6) recommendations under this topic area, the following are the top priorities in order of their suggested sequencing:
- P-1) Clearly Define Downtown Tryon’s Brand
If a person were to decide to become a political candidate for a public office, one of their first steps would be to craft a concise “elevator speech” describing why they are running and their vision for the future. In promoting a downtown, that same principle applies. A downtown’s identity needs to be conveyed within the space of a bumper sticker. The brand for Downtown Tryon is already suggested in this report’s recommendation and the proposed logo already exists. Thus, the only real need for this recommendation at this point is to confirm a consensus on the suggested themes and to use the existing logo consistently.
- P-2) Expand Downtown’s Web-Based Presence
The two options proposed are to either develop an independent website for TDDA or to piggyback onto the existing tourism website. While TDDA already has a Facebook presence and utilizes other forms of social media, a conventional website needs to be added to that media mix. For either suggested scenario, this recommendation will likely require minimal costs and might even be accomplished through donated or reduced-fee time by a website designer.
- P-3) Promote Downtown Tryon with Signage Outside of Tryon
The two forms of signage recommended are billboards and brown-colored cultural site signs. Since there is very little cost associated with the latter type of sign, yet approval and installation may take a while because of governmental red tape, that idea should be pursued first. The billboard idea will require money, so once the alternatives are narrowed regarding locations and costs, the funding source must be identified.
There are two additional promotion recommendations that are very important, but will take more time and money than the three ideas listed above. Those recommendations include establishing an arts and craft market in Downtown Tryon (P-4) and developing public restrooms (P-6). The market can be realized more quickly than the restrooms since it can function on an interim basis (or even permanently) with temporary tents rather than requiring a more permanent structure such as a pavilion.