Downtown Improvement Blog

New Guide: Landscaping Tip Sheet for Downtowns

Landscaping Tip Sheet

Download our new free guide: Landscaping Tip Sheet

Landscaping can instantly transform the street-level atmosphere of a district. Whether it’s hundreds of hanging baskets throughout your district or a handful of planters in a central gathering spot, landscaping programs create positive perceptions and keep you green and clean.

Try these landscaping best practices to attract more activity, better welcome visitors and residents, and create a new and improved vibe in your downtown district:

1. Make a routine.
Ongoing water and maintenance are essential to keeping your plants’ growth steady. Be habitual and make a schedule to cover your entire district.

2. Consider seasonality and climate.
Your landscaping selections should consider the realistic upcoming weather conditions in your district. Plant and care for your landscaping accordingly throughout the year.

3. Be creative.
Landscaping is an art. The composition of your landscaping should implement creative deployment of flower types and colors to create a unique character throughout individual parts of your district.

4. Think vertically.
It’s easy to get lost in flowerbeds and ground-level plants. Don’t forget to consider hanging planters, trees and larger plants to add to the view.

5. Prune often.
Plants are resilient, and may grow into sightlines, over walkways, or near powerlines. It’s important to prune trees and pluck weeds to keep landscaping working for your district, not against it.

6. Remove unwanted plants.
Pull weeds and pick up fallen branches to remove any distraction from the rest of your fresh plants.

7. Invest well.
Plan ahead to allocate the right amount of resources to maximize the vibrancy of your landscape program.

Download the full Landscaping Tip Sheet

We use landscaping strategies like these every day, in every season, across the nation to help downtowns stay green and clean. Bring some new life to your downtown district. Download our free Landscaping Tip Sheet.

Download Landscaping Tip Sheet

Spotlight On: Block by Block Operation Supervisor, Faneca Porter

Meet a Block by Block Operation Supervisor from Waterfront Partnership in Baltimore

Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore shared an excellent introduction to one of our very own, Block by Block operation supervisor, Faneca Porter!

We wanted to share the intro to give you a closer look at the Operation Supervisor role and how someone like Faneca serves her district and her team everyday. So without further adieu, we’ll hand the reins over to Megan, Event Coordinator from Watership Partnership:

“Hi! I’m Megan, Event Coordinator for Waterfront Partnership. I have the best job in Baltimore and work with some pretty cool people. Our team out on the promenade work tirelessly day and night to make sure that folks are safe, answer any questions asked of them, and help to make sure our grounds stay clean.

We can’t keep the awesomeness of these guys and gals to ourselves so I’m going to interview a few of the team members and spotlight them on our blog.

If you see our staff out in the Inner Harbor make sure to stop them and say hello!

Block by Block Operation Supervisor Faneca Porter

I walked into the Harbor East Starbucks to meet Faneca, our Operation Supervisor to interview her for this blog post. As I walked through the doors I heard her before spotting her. She was laughing and chatting with a patron and if I didn’t know Faneca I would assume they were already friends. But as I walked up they parted ways and she confirmed my suspicions, “she just wanted to thank me for all I do and asked if I was keeping warm”. Faneca Porter has become a staple in the Inner Harbor. Her contagious positivity, beaming smile and belly laughs are hard to ignore. Listening to her talk to tourists and locals alike about her love for Baltimore is inspiring and it’s easy to assume that she grew up here based on her deep rooted love for the city.

However, that’s not the case. Faneca made the move to Baltimore from Alabama in 2009. She wanted diversity, opportunity, and a change of pace which she was sure Baltimore could offer. After moving to Charm City her thoughts were validated and she soon learned that most Baltimoreans judge on character first. After talking to Faneca for a few minutes you will easily see why she’s loved by so many people.

After moving to Baltimore she took a position with Waterfront Partnership and quickly moved up through the ranks. On an average day Faneca does everything from internal paperwork, training new hires, monthly training sessions, updates the team on news happening around the harbor, hits the bricks and walks through the district to check on everything. Her favorite part of the day is interacting with businesses and folks walking through the harbor.

Faneca was quick to assure me that there is no typical day on the job. Whether she’s sitting at her desk cranking out payroll, helping our team with event set up or buzzing through the Inner Harbor on a segway, she’s always on the go.

For Faneca the best part of working for Waterfront Partnership is the team. Moving up North she left her extended family behind and found that her co-workers quickly filled that void. Working for an organization that “supports one another from all sides” has been life changing and allows Faneca to enjoy coming to work every single day.

When she’s not working you can find Faneca enjoying a rack of ribs at Dinosaur BBQ or checking out the view from the Top of the World observation deck. She is also a member of Meet Up and enjoys exploring Maryland while meeting new people.

There is one thing I HAD to know about her time in the harbor- what is the strangest question someone has asked?

“Have you ever seen a whale in the harbor?” Faneca laughed and shook her head. Considering the harbor is only 30 feet deep (at it’s deepest point) that would be pretty interesting to see!”

Thanks for all you do, Faneca! And thank you to all of our operation supervisors and managers for helping make our downtowns great!

Read the story in it’s original location via Watership Partnership.

Meet the Grand Rapids and Detroit Ambassadors

How Grand Rapids and Detroit Ambassadors Make A Tremendous Impact Everyday

Our Grand Rapids and Detroit Ambassadors recently received a feature in Michigan blog, A Healthier Michigan, which included an interview with Grand Rapids operations manager, Melvin Eledge. Julie Bitely, of A Healthier Michigan writes:

“They don’t wear capes, but ambassadors working the downtowns of Grand Rapids and Detroit sure know how to save the day.

Whether providing directions to lost visitors or changing a flat tire, their job is to ensure a warm and hospitable encounter for everyone they meet.

‘We get to be superheroes for the day,’ said Melvin Eledge, operations manager for the Grand Rapids program, which started in Sept. 2013. ‘We get to turn people’s bad days into much better days.’

The ambassadors who work in downtown Grand Rapids and in midtown and downtown Detroit are part of Block by Block, an organization which has implemented ambassador programs in over 70 cities in the United States. The Grand Rapids and Detroit programs are the only two in Michigan so far, working closely with Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. and the Downtown Detroit Partnership, respectively.”

Grand Rapids and Detroit Ambassadors

Bitely continues, “Ambassadors make their rounds during a typical shift, working to help with clean-up activities, graffiti removal and general Midwest friendliness. They guide out-of-towners to their destinations and answer questions about downtown events. They’ll help people in need of a car battery jump or tire change and even scrape car windows in the winter.

In addition to making downtowns friendlier, ambassadors also serve as an extra set of eyes and ears for police. They’ve been trained in CPR and first-aid, and can also help make connections to services for the homeless men and women they meet during their rounds.

‘There’s not much we don’t do,’ Eledge said.”

View the full story at A Healthier Michigan.

Photo courtesy of A Healthier Michigan.

Georgetown Ambassadors Clean After Winter Storm Jonas

Ambassadors Clean After Winter Storm Jonas to Keep Georgetown at it’s Best

We want to give a shoutout to all the hardworking ambassadors at Georgetown BID in Washington D.C. to keep their district clean and safe after an intense visit from Winter Storm Jonas.

Georgetown Ambassadors Clean After Winter Storm

Georgetown recapped the clean-up efforts by sharing, “A big thank you to the Georgetown BID’s 10-person Clean Team, our “men in blue”, who stayed in Georgetown from Friday night – Tuesday night to try and clean up the commercial district after Winter Storm Jonas.”

“The Team cleared handicap ramps, crosswalks, bus stops, pedestrian bridges, and fire hydrants. They also loaned out shovels and provided salt and sand to BID member businesses to assist in their sidewalk clean-up efforts. The BID’s goal is for Georgetown’s commercial district to be clean, safe and beautiful year-round, and it’s accomplished in large part due to the tremendous efforts of our Clean Team!”

We are honored to receive these kind words from one of our downtown partners, and want to thank each of our Georgetown ambassadors once again for their successful clean after winter storm Jonas!

A Day in the Life of a Downtown Ambassador Video

Watch this Downtown Ambassador Video to Follow a Typical Day in the Life of an Ambassador

Welcome to a day in the life of a Block by Block Ambassador! Created by some of our talented team in beautiful Downtown Santa Monica, check out this fresh take as you follow an ambassador around from morning briefings and assisting visitors to cleaning patrols and communication with businesses. THIS is what being an Ambassador is all about!

Read more about our program at Downtown Santa Monica.

How to Say No to Panhandlers

How to Say No to Panhandlers

How to say “No” to panhandlers

Research shows panhandlers could become aggressive both by being acknowledged or ignored. Learn how to say no to panhandlers using either approach to minimize aggression.

In areas with heavy panhandling activity, encourage stakeholders, visitors and residents to consider these options to keep their district safe.

If you choose to acknowledge…

  • Make eye contact, do not break your movement and verbally give a succinct, “No.” Most panhandlers will recognize your firm stance and move on.
  • Engage the panhandler with a verbal, “No,” plus a statement of explanation or encouragement.
  • Suggest resources. Remove the attention from yourself and recommend a local shelter.

If you choose to ignore…

  • Do not say anything, and use your body language to say, “No.” Do not make eye contact or break stride. Panhandlers are unlikely to waste their time on someone who doesn’t engage.
  • Leave the area. Silently, directly and calmly walk away from the panhandler.

If the panhandler still gets aggressive…

Do not try to engage them. Suggest to your stakeholders to enter a building or crowd, and contact the local authorities.

For more information on the risks of giving to a panhandler and how respond to aggression, download our free tip sheet How to Say No to a Panhandler.

Download Now

DDD Introduces New Paths Program

Assisting the homeless and ex-offenders return to the workforce

New Paths ProgramNEW ORLEANS — The Downtown Development District (DDD) announced a new plan designed to help both homeless individuals and ex-offenders re-enter the workforce. The New Paths initiative includes two programs – Back In Stride and Second Chance.

“The DDD is excited to introduce these new programs,” said DDD President & CEO Kurt Weigle. “By creating opportunities for people to transform their own lives we can reduce recidivism, unemployment and homelessness. While each of these impacts individuals and families, we all pay in the form of higher taxes and decreased quality of life; so, it’s time to interrupt the cycle and the DDD welcomes the opportunity to play its part.”

The Back In Stride program is part of the DDD’s commitment to reducing and eventually ending homelessness. In addition to this new effort, the DDD has demonstrated this commitment by its long-time advocacy for permanent supportive housing, support for affordable housing Downtown, the hiring of a full-time homeless outreach worker as part of its Downtown/HOME partnership with the City of New Orleans, and current work on creating a low barrier homeless shelter.

The Second Chance program for ex-offenders is intended to provide employment opportunity for individuals who may normally be considered unemployable because of a felony conviction. The program will help remove barriers to employment for individuals that, based on a reasonable screening process, are not deemed a threat to public safety.

“Louisiana and the United States are vexed by high incarceration and recidivism rates costing citizens billions of dollars each year,” said DDD Chairperson Judy Barrasso. “According to the United States Department of Justice, the annual cost of incarcerating the approximately 1 in every 100 American adults who is in state or federal prison stood at $80 billion per year in 2010. Fifty-two percent (52%) will be back in jail within three years of their release. However, there are good models for how to break this cycle, and New Paths takes it cue from them.”

For example, the recidivism rate in Norway is 20%, one of the lowest in the world. Several factors likely contribute to the low recidivism rate, including more focus on rehabilitation within the prison system and less on punishment.

As part of its new policy, the DDD will extend extra consideration to RFP respondents who institute a program that successfully employs and supports one or both of the two targeted groups.

The New Paths program will officially begin in August with the DDD’s most recently awarded contract for Sidewalk Cleaning Services, to Block by Block.

Currently, Block by Block operates similar programs in other cities including Cleveland, where through its partnership with a local service provider the SEEDS of Change program provides landscaping skills training to individuals. On average, 12 persons per year gain skills and exposure to employers through the SEEDS program that leads to fulltime employment opportunity.

“We’ve found the job opportunities offered through cleaning and landscaping programs are fantastic first steps for individuals to build their resume,” said Block by Block President Blair McBride. “We’re excited to formalize a program in New Orleans to create such opportunities for persons in transition.”

In New Orleans, Block by Block has partnered with the Urban League of Greater New Orleans to fully implement the DDD New Paths Program, which will include on-the-job training opportunities in safety, cleaning, hospitality, landscaping and technology. As the local service provider, the Urban League will assist with outreach and recruitment and provide career and workforce fundamentals training.

“Our experience working with unemployed, underemployed and re-entry clients throughout our 77-year history, has proven the importance of strong foundational “life” skills as a panacea to sustained employment and reducing recidivism,” said Urban League of Greater New Orleans President & CEO Erika McConduit-Diggs. “We are pleased to partner with the New Paths Program to offer jobseekers essential workforce fundamentals training that is so critical to their success.”

“We look forward to working with Block by Block and the Urban League as we strive to rebuild lives by offering to those in need of a second chance, gainful employment,” concluded Weigle.

Read more at Downtown NOLA.

Learn more about our Ambassador program at Downtown Development District in New Orleans.