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

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.

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You Can’t Spell “Spray Paint” Without “Pain”

You can’t spell “spray paint” without “pain”

The pain graffiti can cause your district — extra costs, lost investors, negative perceptions — warrants a moment to understanding graffiti better. Know more about the issue to make it your number one target and minimize its impact.

Before and after graffiti

1. It’s intentional.

Graffiti is typically not senseless damage to property.

It’s often committed to send a message, show dissatisfaction, get revenge or make money. Finding out “why” collects insight on the source and how to proceed next.

2. It happens late.

Graffiti is often committed late in the evening, as less people are likely to be around and businesses have less surveillance. After-school hours can be common for juvenile offenders.

Contact and encourage security to be in the right place at the right time to deter new tags.

3. It’s public.

The most common targets are properties where no single organization or individual has direct responsibility.

Consider additional surveillance and communication around public property or private property in public view, especially areas that have been tagged before.

Learn more

Download our free Graffiti Tip Sheet for a better understanding of why, when and where graffiti occurs as well as 8 more strategies to prevent and reduce graffiti in your city.

Download Now

Take the Downtown Cleaning Checklist

Downtown Cleaning Checklist

This downtown cleaning checklist allows you to do a quick audit of your district’s cleanliness. Get refreshed with some helpful cleaning ideas and learn strategies for how best to accomplish them.

It’s always great when your district booms with so much activity. But, the little things that help make your district so attractive in the first place can get lost during busy seasons. It’s the perfect time to tackle some of these cleaning projects, and keep your district looking its best.

How many of these could you check off with confidence?


Remove graffiti


Clean and paint fixtures


Remove gum spots


Power wash surfaces


Remove litter


Plant and prune landscaping


Sweep curbs


Set up pet waste receptacles


Our complete Downtown Cleaning Checklist provides helpful tips and tricks for getting your city in top shape. We’ve compiled best practices based on examples across the nation, so you can check each of these off with confidence and 100% this list.

Download your cleaning checklist

Download your free Downtown Cleaning Checklist for cleaning ideas and strategies to tackle trouble spots, garnish a fresh, bold look and keep it that way.

downtown cleaning checklist

5 tips to improve business safety in your district

Improve Business Safety In Your Downtown District

Don’t let your business stakeholders become targets for criminals. Maximize business safety by encouraging the business owners in your district to follow these safety procedures:


Suspicious Persons1. Report suspicious persons.
Be mindful of suspicious persons and those who ask probing questions about security or operating procedures.


Backdoor best practices2. Limit backdoor access.
Keep backdoors closed and locked. Install peepholes if possible. Check who it is before opening the backdoor.


Secure valuables and devices3. Secure all personal valuables.
Every employee should have a place to lock away valuables. Don’t leave electronic devices used for point-of-sale, such as cellphones or tablets, lying around unattended.


Money Handling4. Be safe with money handling.
Lock your safe. Don’t keep large amounts of cash on the premises. Do not openly discuss how much money comes in or how cash and checks are transported for deposit.


Document Storage5. Safely store important documents.
Any document with financial information or personal information should be secured out of reach and public view.


Learn more

Download our Business Safety Tip Sheet and send it to the businesses in your district so they can learn strategies for keeping their employees, finances and properties secure.

Download Now

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 help create a tremendous impact on overall safety in your downtown. Invite your stakeholders to share the following personal safety best practices with their employees.

Encourage Employee Safety - 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.


Encourage Employee Safety - 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.


Encourage Employee Safety - 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 employee safety tips when you download our free Employee Safety Tip Sheet.

Download Now

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.

cleanest cities 1

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.

cleanest cities 2

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.

cleanest cities 3

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.

cleanest cities 4

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.

cleanest cities 5

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.