Downtown Planning for Smaller and Midsized Communities

Give Your Downtown a Boost

A good plan will help revitalize a struggling downtown or sustain a successful one. But what constitutes good downtown planning? Downtown-planning consultant Philip L. Walker offers practical tips for preserving a sense of place, improving fiscal efficiency, and enhancing the quality of life in Downtown Planning for Smaller and Midsized Communities, recently published by APA Planners Press.

Planners and revitalization officials will learn how to address economic restructuring and marketing strategies, in addition to the physical components of the downtown. Walker also explains how to develop an organization to implement a downtown plan; how federal, state, and local policies can influence the planning process; and how to fund a downtown revitalization effort.

Planning principles and best practices are augmented with numerous graphics and real-world examples. This book is a valuable guide for anyone interested in improving his or her downtown. 

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Meet the Author

Philip L. WalkerPhilip L. Walker, AICP, is the principal of the Walker Collaborative, which is involved in downtown planning and neighborhood revitalization, historic preservation, and community visioning. Prior to that, he was the director of planning for the Nashville office of Looney Ricks Kiss Architects. Previos positions include principal of Community Planning & Research, Inc. in Nashville; senior associate at Christopher Chadbourne & Associates in Cambridge, Massachusetts; the director of city planning for the city of Natchez, Mississippi; associate at Hintz/Nelessen Associates in Princeton, New Jersey; and executive director of the Downtown Improvement Board in Pensacola, Florida.

Walker earned a Master of Design Studies (Real Estate Development) degree from Harvard University, a Master of Arts degree in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Florida, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Historic Preservation from Middle Tennessee State University.

Walker is affiliated with several planning and preservation groups. Among these are APA, the American Institute of Certified Planners, The Urban Conservancy, National Trust for Historic Preservation, and National Main Street Center.


"To make this a century of wise environmental stewardship (rather than one of more sprawl and urban disinvestment) will require us to take much better care of the places we've already made. If you care about the center of your town, and wish to make it better, you must keep a copy of Downtown Planning for Smaller and Midsized Communities nearby and at the ready."

Alex Krieger, professor
Harvard Graduate School of Design

A Q&A with Philip L. Walker

Please describe in paragraph form what your book is about. What are the benefits or values for readers?

"This book is about downtown planning for smaller and midsized communities. For some readers, it will offer a first-time comprehensive account of how to approach downtown planning and an understanding of 'best practices.' A key idea emphasized throughout, and not traditionally conveyed on the topic, is the need to take a holistic approach to downtown planning and downtown revitalization in general. Most downtown plans emphasize the physical planning issues (such as streetscape improvements), but this book also emphasizes economic restructuring and marketing strategies that are critical for success.

"This book covers virtually every conceivable aspect of downtown planning and downtown revitalization in general. It is well organized, should the reader wish to use the book as on ongoing reference. There are also good graphics and numerous real-world examples to illustrate the book's content. Many of these examples from across the country are conveyed as sidebar stories, so readers can choose either to read the sidebar or disregard it, depending upon the level of detail they are seeking."

Is there a particular segment of the planning profession that might be especially interested in your book?

"The two most likely segments of the planning profession who would be interested are: 1) public sector planners and downtown revitalization professionals who are interested in creating a downtown plan for their community either in-house or through the hiring of consultants; and 2) planning consultants who might be involved with, but lack extensive experience in, downtown planning."

Are there any nonplanning professional groups that might be interested in your book?

"The following 'nonplanning' allied professionals who might be involved with downtown planning should be interested in the book:

  • Architects
  • Landscape architects
  • Civil engineers
  • Transportation planners
  • Urban designers
  • Economists / economic developers
  • Historic preservationists
  • Downtown managers

"The major benefit for all of these groups is gaining a better overall understanding of downtown planning."

List any associations or groups that might be interested in your book.

"The following groups should be interested:

  • National Main Street Center of the National Trust for Historic Preservation
  • State Main Street programs
  • Local Main Street programs
  • Downtown revitalization organizations that may not be a part of a formal Main Street program (including business improvement districts)
  • Chambers of Commerce and economic development authorities

"The key benefit of the book for all of these groups would be the exposure to new ideas and approaches to downtown planning and revitalization that they might not have tried yet. The real-life applications of these ideas are particularly useful."

Does your book have a potential for classroom use?

"Yes, the book has potential for classroom use. It would be most appropriate for graduate level courses in urban planning and perhaps even in historic preservation. It is the only book of which I am aware that covers the issue of downtown planning in a comprehensive manner rather than focusing on merely one aspect of the subject, such as urban design."