Our Work

How to Measure Downtown Health

What exactly is a “healthy” downtown? How will new programs – like the Growth Center and Vermont Neighborhood Programs – impact our downtowns? What data do we have available to justify and defend existing programs?

“Investors will take a look at the downtown, the business mix, and the economic mix of the downtown. The downtowns need to be healthy because they are going to create jobs and increase quality of life,” said one of the Steering Committee members for our Indicators of Downtown Health research project. “If you can illustrate that the downtowns are getting better, that is a positive story and people gravitate towards success. More activities, better shopping, more dining, whatever it is that creates a positive buzz does an awful lot.”

Smart Growth Vermont’s Indicators of Downtown Health research project, conducted in partnership with the UVM Center for Rural Studies, The Vermont Downtown Program and Preservation Trust of Vermont, sought answers to these questions. The four pilot communities – Saint Albans, Montpelier, Burlington and Bristol – collected a wide variety of data that was compiled so that they can now track trends such as downtown vacancies, and make informed decisions about how to grow their community. The findings, and guidelines on how to collect indicators in other downtowns, have been published on our website, along with relevant documents for download.