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A downtown expert visited the community for two days then presented her findings this past week



Photo Credit: KEVIN SPERL - Local business owners were told that some of the downtown businesses would benefit from more sidewalk decorations.

Michele Reeves of Civilis Consultants believes that local officials and business owners need to approach downtown Prineville as if it were a single store.

Hired by city leaders to examine downtown Prineville and find ways to improve business and tourism, Reeves spent two days in the community last month. Monday evening, she presented her findings to a group of local business owners and city leaders.

Reeves, who has provided similar services to multiple cities throughout several states, stressed that a downtown area should try to draw in customers in the same manner as a storefront, making use of a metaphorical front door, aisles, fixtures and products. She addressed each of those aspects individually as she explained to the audience how downtown Prineville could improve upon its current look and impact on travelers.

“A district has to be inviting to get somebody to come in, just like a store,” she said of the front door concept. “You have to know that you’re in the store, that you are somewhere interesting and special.”

Highlighting the four corners of Third and Main streets, Reeves noted that while some of the buildings had plenty of intriguing and historic elements to showcase, they lacked eye-catching color schemes, or inviting and open windows and entryways. In short, people are less likely to get curious and stop to check them out.

Reeves then discussed aisles, her metaphor for the streets, alleys and sidewalks throughout the downtown area. Like the aisles of a store need items on the shelf to attract customers, she believes that the aisles of a district need businesses and storefronts that catch the eye and draw people in. Most important of those aisles, Reeves said, are the sidewalks.

“We really want to be comfortable and engaged from the sidewalk,” she said.

The goal, Reeves said, is to figure out what people are passing through town and what sorts of storefronts and displays will make them want to stop and shop. She went on to emphasize the need for businesses to feed off of what each other offers. For example, people visiting a restaurant should easily notice the clothing store across the street and consider checking out what they have to offer. Consequently, they would walk the downtown streets and potentially increase the sales of other retail outlets.

“Downtowns do not make money off of having a couple businesses that people drive up to, go to that business and then leave,” Reeves said. “Downtowns make money from the cross-pollination between businesses.”

She added that sidewalks should feature, whenever possible, outdoor displays that advertise what the business inside has to offer. For instance, a restaurant could feature some outdoor tables and chairs, or an athletic club could include a display of colorful exercise balls outside its front door.

In assessing downtown Prineville, Reeves was struck by the unique businesses available. She highlighted Miller Lumber, Independent Meat Market, and Prineville Athletic Club in particular, saying other communities would love to have those types of downtown businesses.

“You have some amazing amenities in your downtown,” she said.

At the same time, Reeves noted that most, if not all of the businesses, lack the eye-catching color schemes and other features that draw immediate interest. She showed several pictures of businesses, all of which were a similar shade of beige.

“You want to think about how to interconnect it,” she said. “You want to make it look great on the outside, and unique and interesting on the inside. You want to reflect your community’s authentic character from the sidewalk. You want people to feel and see who you guys are.”

Reeves stressed that such changes do not happen overnight, and she encouraged business owner and local leaders to focus on small changes over time. She further stressed that such improvements work best when local officials develop relationships with property and business owners.

“The other role that cities can play is collaborating and figuring out where to find resources and funds to jumpstart things,” she added.

So far the City of Prineville has not moved forward with any specific plans regarding downtown revitalization. However, local leaders may use the information presented Monday to go forward with future plans.

“I really see this workshop as the kick-starter to that conversation,” he said.

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