Downtown Improvement Blog

How to Make Your Downtown Friendly [Free Guide]

Gain a reputation for being the friendly downtown

Make your downtown friendly and watch the district bloom. The more comfortable and welcome people feel in your district, the more likely they are to not only return again, but to tell others about their great experience.

Change perceptions of your district and become known for your hospitality by following these best practices.

Ambassador Making Downtown Friendly

1. Hire for personality

Ambassadors are the single most important factor in making your improvement district more hospitable.

People with outgoing and caring personalities need only to be equipped with knowledge of the district to become excellent ambassadors.

2. Train to serve many “publics”

Consider the different “publics” your ambassadors will encounter and train them to identify and understand the needs and approach for serving each group.

3. It begins and ends with parking

Because an unfriendly or disinterested parking attendant can ruin a great experience downtown, it is important that parking facility operating companies are committed to achieving the same customer service standards.

Free hospitality guide

Seven more hospitality strategies are included in our hospitality guide. Improve your hospitality experience, make your stakeholders happy, and bring more visitors to your district by implementing these strategies. Make your downtown friendly, and download our hospitality guide to get started today.

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How to Encourage Employee Safety

Encourage employee safety

Ensuring employee safety for all the workers in your district could make a tremendous impact on overall safety in your downtown. Encourage your stakeholders to share the following personal safety best practices with their employees.

Be Aware1. Be aware.
The number one tip for personal safety is to maintain awareness of your surroundings. You have a better chance of noticing a possible threat in advance.

Protect Yourself2. Protect Yourself.
Let others know where you are and when to expect you. Remember, there’s safety in numbers. Don’t look or act like an easy target. Be purposeful in your actions.

Protect Your Car and Valuables3. Protect your car and valuables.
To protect your parked car, think “Lock, Take, Hide.” Lock and secure your car. Take your keys with you. Hide anything valuable that must be left in your car.

Simple strategies, substantial results

These quick safety strategies can yield big results. Just like the two-second click of a seatbelt, remind your stakeholders how crucial it is to prioritize simple safety habits.

Get more tips when you download our free Employee Safety Tip Sheet.

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New Block by Block Website for Downtown Improvement Districts!

Safe. Clean. Helpful

Welcome to our new and improved website!

As a provider of cleaning, safety, hospitality, outreach and landscaping services to downtown business districts around the nation, we decided it was time to spruce up our own home base online.

  • You can read more about each of our services and our strategy behind them on the Services page.
  • View our Cities page to find a neighbor near you served by Block by Block ambassadors.
  • Head over to the new Downloadable Resources page for free tip sheets and guides full of best practices to help you in the ongoing development of your district.
  • Learn why Block by Block is your best choice for improvement district services.

Our aim is to continually develop our processes to better partner with downtowns. See what some of our customer have to say about us, then let us know how we can be of service to you.

Stay tuned to our new website and the Downtown Improvement Blog you are currently reading for strategies on creating an experience worth sharing for the visitors, residents, businesses and stakeholders of your district.

Lancaster Ambassadors: Same but Different


My Lancaster News, a partner with Lancaster Online, reports that Downtown Lancaster has decided to expand their partnership with Block by Block. Under the new contract, Block by Block will be supporting both the clean and safe programs of the city’s Downtown Investment District.

Ambassadors will be cross-trained to perform cleaning functions as well as the security functions of the patrolling bike squad. Read more at My Lancaster News.

Photograph by Marty Heisey.

5 Safety Strategies from 5 of the Safest Cities in the World

Last month, we pulled cleaning strategies from 5 of the cleanest cities in the world. This time, let’s look at 5 of the safest cities in the world to figure out what they’re doing right.

Travel the globe with us once again to uncover 5 strategies for safety taken from 5 of the safest cities in the world.

1. Be available and visible like Vancouver, Canada.

Both Vancouver’s local police force and the federal Royal Canadian Mounted Police work hard to be available and active throughout Vancouver. Citizens and tourists know they can easily find and rely on authorities who are dedicated to service, crime prevention and law enforcement.

Encourage the authorities in your district to be available and visible. Just having a law enforcement presence can have a big effect on criminal activity.

Block by Block Ambassadors are an active part of their districts everyday. Our programs help leverage the limited time of law enforcement officers in your district by directing them to specific situations and alerting them to trends. Your safety program can also integrate the efforts of law enforcement and security professionals in your district.

2. Be hospitable like Munich, Germany.

Munich’s slogan is, “Munich loves you.” Along with being available, authorities should be friendly and engage the people in their districts. Munich’s welcoming mantra has given authorities a contagious and hospitable charisma. Munich has reduced crime and increased quality of living largely with changing attitudes.

Efforts to be sociable and pleasant among your law enforcement could create a similar effect.

Block by Block recognizes the power of hospitality. Our Ambassadors specifically seek to find meaningful ways to improve someone’s district experience and focus on continual engagements to deliver smiles and greetings to as many people as possible.

3. Prioritize cleanliness like Tokyo, Japan.

Tokyo can attribute much of its high levels of safety to its high cleanliness. In Tokyo, cleanliness is considered public etiquette. Its citizens generally hold each other accountable to keep the city both clean and safe.

At Block by Block, we have seen time and time again how cleanliness directly correlates to safety. Neglecting low level issues such as litter, graffiti, weeds and overflowing trash cans sends a message to visitors that an area may not be well cared for or safe.

This is why Ambassadors remove graffiti as soon as possible, maintain landscaping before it’s overgrown, and actively remove litter and trash.

4. Create safety standards like Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Dubrovnik regularly passes safety standards to ensure the safety of its citizens and visitors. For example, Dubrovnik motorways require enclosed service areas and gas stations, tunnels must be equipped with modern safety equipment, and traffic laws maintain a strict blood alcohol limit to reduce traffic accidents.

Even when government mandated safety standards like these are not the norm, creating a set of standards for your district can drastically reduce risk.

Consider pinpointing a couple safety challenges in your district. Reach out to Block by Block to assess those safety challenges and identify standards that could increase security and lower risk in those areas.

5. Create a culture of safety like Seoul, South Korea.

Seoul has several safety disadvantages, such as its dense population, large number of international residents, volcanic and tectonic activity, and less-than-friendly neighbor, North Korea. Despite these challenges, Seoul successfully created a culture of safety for its inhabitants and guests.

Like Seoul, establish safety as a norm of everyday living in your district. Start by identifying advocates of safety in your city and encourage them to connect and pursue safety awareness initiatives.

Block by Block Ambassadors can help you connect citizens, businesses and organizations and challenge them to focus on putting safety first and spreading their results. Increasing communication about safety can snowball into the culture of safety your district deserves.

Bonus Strategy: Look past your obstacles.

Each of these cities has experienced unsafe times of war, loss or turmoil. And each of these cities now ranks on several “Safest Cities” or “Best Cities to Live In” lists across the web.

These cities work hard despite difficult challenges in their pasts. Don’t hold on to your district’s specific trials and history. Look past those limitations and focus on creating a safer environment for your district.

Free Safety Guide

Download our free 360° Approach to Downtown Safety for Business Improvement Districts Guide to discover an overall strategy to improving safety and perceptions in your improvement district.

5 Cleaning Strategies from 5 of the Cleanest Cities in the World

What exactly are the cleanest cities in the world doing to keep their districts so clean?

Zoom out for a moment and discover 5 strategies for cleanliness taken from 5 of the cleanest cities in the world.

1. Think small like Singapore.

The city-state of Singapore maintains its cleanliness by considering the little things. Stickers in bathrooms remind citizens to always flush the toilet. Littering fines are high and well communicated. Chewing gum sales are forbidden to avoid gum stuck to public subway stations or benches.

While you probably won’t be outlawing chewing gum anytime soon, Singapore has established a high level of cleanliness with consistency in minor actions.

Every scrap of litter adds up. Small actions, like reminding the public to avoid dropping a straw wrapper on the sidewalk or tracking mud onto public transportation, can lead to big results.

2. Recycle well like Adelaide, Australia.

By emphasizing recycling, Adelaide drastically reduced their dependence on landfills, leading to a much cleaner living environment. The city encourages citizens to consider giving quality, unwanted items to charity and to urge each other to rely on the city’s recycling services.

Look into your city’s recycling options. Work with your city and neighboring cities to pursue more recycling initiatives and minimize waste.

3. Remove graffiti quickly like Minneapolis, Minnesota.

We are especially proud to see Minneapolis on so many “cleanest cities” lists, as Block by Block works hard everyday to keep the city clean. Minneapolis’ stance on vandalism and graffiti is to remove it within 24 hours. This reduces new graffiti and keeps areas looking welcoming.

Make it your goal to erase graffiti within 24 hours. Read more graffiti fighting techniques here or watch the video below to hear more from Minneapolis.

4. Aim for cleaner and more public transportation like Zurich, Switzerland.

Zurich citizens often choose to travel via public transportation. They have many options available including tram, bus, boat and train. Public transportation reduces carbon emissions by decreasing the number of individual cars in transit everyday. The city keeps their systems well kept and reliable.

You can encourage the use of public transportation by keeping your cities public transportation options as clean as possible. Create carpools to decrease carbon emissions.

5. Spread environmental awareness like Reykjavik, Iceland.

Reykjavik discovered that once it decided to implement green cleaning programs in its government, environmental efforts became a more attractive proposition in the local economy. Many businesses in Reykjavik now implement environmental policies to encourage employees to consider cleanliness in their everyday work and commutes.

Set a good example by establishing environmental awareness campaigns at in your district. A movement toward a cleaner city can only start with someone like you taking action and inviting others to join.

Along with these strategies, most cities that regularly rank on “cleanest cities in the world” lists have organizations working hard to prioritize efficient and effective cleanliness measures.

As a business improvement district, rally together and implement these 5 cleaning strategies to re-energize your city on cleanliness and how it can improve standard of living.

Remove More Than Just Graffiti


In the minds of your residents, tourists and stakeholders, fun and welcoming areas of your district can quickly become “shady” and “run-down,” almost overnight. How? All it takes is a few scribbles of graffiti to create negative perceptions that are much more difficult to erase than the graffiti itself.

Build your graffiti-fighting techniques

Chances are, you’ve felt the sting of graffiti before. Avoid getting “tagged” with negative perceptions and keep the sound reputation of your downtown intact by adding these graffiti-fighting best practices to your repertoire.

1. Act fast

Locate and remove graffiti as quickly as possible. Quick removal is important for a few reasons:

  • Allowing graffiti to linger in your district often rapidly breeds more.
  • If taggers regularly see their work removed immediately, they will likely move to another area.

Make it your goal to have all graffiti tags removed within 24 hours — before public perception even has a chance to be affected.

2. Get strategic with landscaping

Plant shrubs or thorny plants around the base of open walls, signs and other surfaces that could become graffiti targets. It makes access more difficult while still beautifying the area.

3. Start a graffiti hotline

Starting a graffiti hotline can expand your eyes and ears substantially. It allows you to enlist the help of business owners, residents and workers in your district to spot new graffiti. This can help you identify new tags immediately, which will also help you reach your 24-hour removal time.

There are plenty of ways to make this fun for your community, such as recruiting an anti-graffiti street team or awarding prizes for consistent graffiti spotting.

Learn more

Download our free Graffiti Tip Sheet for a better understanding of why, when, and where graffiti occurs as well as 5 more strategies to prevent and reduce graffiti in your city.


The Vandalism Plan

Broken windows in a vandalized building.

Say your garage was a jumbled heap of clutter. (Hypothetically speaking of course. Right?)

To really clean it well, you would have to get organized and make a plan to figure out exactly where everything needs to go and what leads it to such disarray in the first place.

Address the mayhem with structure

Vandalism is a safety and security issue that affects all communities. However, if attack vandalism with the same head-on approach you would cleaning your cluttered garage, you can make strides to keep vandalism at bay.

The key is to define the problem. Gather the hard facts and take a look at vandalism in your district from all angles.

Start with the data

Ask your team some questions to kick up the dust and really discover the full extent of vandalism in your district:

  • Find out how many vandalism incidents occur every month in your district.
  • Do you know what type of vandalism occurs most often?
  • Who are the recurring offenders in your district?

Take a thorough look at when and where vandalism frequently occurs. You will likely detect ongoing vandalism occurring in specific neighborhoods or streets.

Move from organization to action

Take your newfound data and develop some specific, tangible action items to combat the destruction of vandalism:

  • Start a neighborhood watch program in the areas you identified as frequent vandalism hot spots every month.
  • Check out the lighting in all the trouble spots in your district. Ensure there is adequate lighting, and place lights behind covers and out of reach.
  • Talk with business owners near previously vandalized property and encourage them to report incidents immediately to the police.

Make your Vandalism Plan

Develop your plan of action and communicate it to your team. Be specific, set goals, assign tasks and give deadlines. Approaching vandalism with an organized front is likely to make a big impact on preventing vandalism in your district.

Download our free Vandalism Tip Sheet to help you define your vandalism problem and discover more strategies to fight back.