One of the first things that groups should do after deciding to revitalize their community is set some goals they want to achieve, and list a number of objectives they need to address. A solid plan with the goals and objects, spelled out in simple terms with a time line for attainment provides a map for the flow of the revitalization.
I like to separate the Goals into the four points of the Main Street Program. The four points of the program are Organization, Design, Promotion and Economic Restructuring. Normally these Goals can be interrelated with overlapping committee assignments to achieve attainment. The four points are to work in a manner that they complement each other, and do not work on a cross-purpose collision course.
An example of conflict is, if through the design point, the committee wants to initiate a façade program, and under the economic development point, the committee wants to knock down a historic building. The points must mesh together and work in an interconnected manner. They also have to reflect reality to make sense in the overall plan.
Normally there are two or three goals that are agreed upon for each point. Goals can be broad, but need to be specific enough that the committee can then come up with action items for the object they want to achieve, in order to move closer to the goal. I have done a bunch of these, and there were times when I thought the Goals were a little too broad. “Have a fully revitalized downtown” is normally one that can be the heading for all of the Goals as the main Goal, but it cannot be the only goal with a bunch of action items underneath.
The Organizational Goals are usually the ones that keep the organization going. “Create and organization for the Revitalization” with objectives like, “raise necessary dollars” to “fund the organization,” and “hire a main street manager.” Another Organizational Goal would be, “To create linkages with existing organizations and plans” with objectives like, “gather and review all existing plans,” and “contact local politicians and planning agencies to discuss funding for projects.”
These kinds of things seem simple, and to a great extent much of it is self evident to anyone who puts in the time to take a close look at the project. Much of what the committee will come up with is common sense. As long as the process is an open process, and the input is given in a manner that it does not become a complaint session, but rather recognizes assets as well as liabilities. You cannot ignore an obvious problem when the group is planning.
When I arrived in Phoenixville and reviewed the Goals and Objectives, nowhere was there a objective concerning making the downtown safe, and no mention of the drug dealers on the corner of Bridge and Main Streets, and I asked about it. “Why is there nothing concerning the safety of the district?” I asked. I was told that the group did not want to state the downtown was less than safe because everyone knew it and why write it down and make it more of an obstacle by publicizing it. I understood what they were saying. I revised many of the Goals and Objectives and slightly hinted to action to “move foot traffic through the downtown unobstructed” or something worded gently to address the issue.
I soon realized that was going to be a main focus of my tenure there, dealing with the street people both good and bad. I also found that when Pennhurst closed down, many of the people who were patients were housed in the downtown area. I was unsure how to write about dealing with that issue, because I had already acceded in my mind that some of those folks were outright scary.
I remember my first day on the job, I recognized that there was something up in Phoenixville’s Downtown that I failed to recognize when I was walking around before my interview. I was walking down the street with Board President Dale Martin and some guy was standing in front of Orion Communities yelling an obscene word at the top of his lungs “F….xxxx” over and over again. So, as my first act, I said to him, “Yo my man, you can’t yell “F…xxxx” here like that. He looked me in the eye and said “Oh Okay” and screamed at the top of his lungs “AHHHHHHH, AHHHHHHH” which was equally disturbing but not on the level of the obscenity.
The words “safe” or “clean” appeared nowhere in the Goals and Objectives, because they did not want to make it a self-fulfilling proposition. They acknowledged it was an issue, but did not want to list it. This was the wrong thing to do. There is no way to create a reasonable strategy using objectives if you do not want to mention the problem. This means that the planning committee may have deal with social problems that they do not feel fall within their prevue. This is a fair opinion to have but it could come under linkages in the organizational category. Links with mental health agencies, police departments and the like would be an appropriate objective.
When a committee works on the goals and objectives, they need to be realistic in the assessment of the downtown. There may be things that go on in the downtown which have happened for a long time and people get used to them. It does not mean that they do not need to be changed even if they have been going on for decades.