Destination Towns: Planning the Road Ahead

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Destination Towns is a new series on Rural Resurrection. These towns are those that are unique and boldly different. Towns that stick out in a crowd and draw people in, rather than letting them fly through.

You have to get started somewhere when considering making your community a Destination Town and planning the road ahead is that starting point. There are a number of planning activities that your community can undertake to put the right foot forward.

The Comprehensive Plan

Of course, when talking about planning the road ahead, your mind goes right to the Comprehensive Plan. Amending your comprehensive plan is a great time to get public input. Many ideas can come from the public input process if framed properly. From there you can set goals and objectives that create steps toward becoming a destination town. Your future land use map could change as well based on the decisions you make.

But understand, that implementing the Comprehensive Plan is just as important as drafting the plan in the first place.

City of La Vista Comprehensive Plan

City of La Vista Comprehensive Plan

Downtown Revitalization Plans

There are also many specific area plans that your community can undertake that help to implement the objectives set forth within the Comprehensive Plan. Downtowns are your community’s central gathering space. Even if your concentration is on recreational activities outside of town or a special event held at the local fairgrounds, the downtown will see more traffic. It’s representative of your community in one way or another.

Downtown revitalization plans outline a design vision for the central cores of communities. They analyze the existing transportation and utility infrastructure, public spaces, and overall neighborhood conditions. The plan compiles potential economic development strategies and often branding and marketing concepts.

Streetscape Plans

Streetscape plans can help your downtown, but they can also help make a welcoming entrance to your town as well. These plans typically concentrate on an area’s public right-of-way, which includes sidewalks and streets. Design considerations for these spaces generally include streetscape elements such as landscape, street lighting, public art, street furniture, infrastructure, and signage.

As discussed in The Curbside Appeal of Your Town’s Front Door, the look and feel of the entrances to your community can have a big impact on the first impression of visitors to your community. This is also true of the main streets within your community. Much like in real estate sales, curbside appeal affects first impressions and can have a significant impact on the overall impression of your community.

Furniture and Signage Rendering - 84th Streetscape Schematic

Furniture and Signage Rendering – 84th Streetscape Schematic, by Design Workshop – Courtesy City of La Vista

Wayfinding Plans

That entrance to your community should be just the start of visitor’s initial experience, they’ll need the proper wayfinding to get through town. Trusting Google Maps doesn’t always work, especially when the “navigator” in your car is flipping between TikToks and the maps.

Implementing a wayfinding plan is also a great way to implement your community’s branding. The colors, font, and other design characteristics of your brand can be integrated into wayfinding in a way that it makes a bold impression of your brand on residents and visitors.

Wayfinding Signage Concepts


Conceptual Development Plans

Conceptual development plans help convey the dream your community is trying to achieve. The actual development never turns out the way it’s drawn in these plans, but they spark interest and imagination. Which is what you need.

The little town of Brownville, Iowa, drafted a conceptual development plan that is aimed at helping it become a Destination Town. “Activate the Riverfront” calls for the full redevelopment of the riverfront southeast of downtown Brownville into an amenity for residents and visitors alike. The plan calls for additional parking, trails, event lawn and open space, play areas, shelters, an art garden, and an amphitheater. A visitor center along the highway, between the riverfront area and downtown Brownville, would connect the two areas in a cohesive manner. It’s a bold plan for this small town of 140 residents. But as famous planner Daniel Burnham once stated, “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood.”

Brownville Riverfront Revitalization Plan

Brownville Riverfront Revitalization Plan – Final Concept; Courtesy Lamp Rynearson

Keep Planning the Road Ahead

Those communities that believe that they are never a finished product make the best Destination Towns. They keep planning the road ahead. Looking for ways that they can make their community better not just for visitors to the community, but the residents and businesses as well.

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