The Marketing of Carlisle : Part I

The Marketing of Carlisle : Part I

by Charlie Andrews

Prologue

A town is a living thing that has an identity, spirit and personality that makes the community unique and alive. Towns are old enough to have seen generations grow, walk their streets, live their lives and pass on. The town itself continues on. This is what gives a town special meaning in our lives. Changes occur, of course, but the essence of the town remains the same. The essence of Carlisle is its downtown, the face and heart of our community. Downtown Carlisle is beautiful, historic, and has a core of unique shops, galleries, antique stores, an art center, a performing arts center, lodging and restaurants. Carlisle overall is an economically diverse town with three colleges, that is growing culturally, intellectually and socially. It has tremendous (yet unrealized) potential.

In the 27 years I have made my living here in the downtown, I have worked alongside fellow merchants, other businesspeople and public officials for the betterment of Carlisle and its downtown.

Today, however, those efforts are no longer moving Carlisle forward. We are slipping into decline. If this decline is allowed to continue, more downtown storefronts will become offices, converted into residences, or increasingly occupied by less-than-credible merchants. I know that this sounds over the top, but I would suggest that it isn’t, and the process has already begun.

We have reached the point of diminishing returns with our current marketing programs as they are currently designed and funded. Complacency has set in as infrastructure ages and economic factors shift. In the mean time, new economic dynamics begin to present opportunities, brought upon by the recent revitalization of our existing malls.

Why is the downtown so important? It is a vital economic factor to Carlisle and the surrounding area that it serves. It is our county seat, an important crossroads and our most significant image of our community to the world. Can we survive without it? Yes, but only as the suburbs of the greater Harrisburg/West Shore area.

To counter this decline, Carlisle must present itself to the world as the unique, beautiful, historic and interesting town that it is. It must do this creatively, energetically, and head on. Carlisle ranks with the Georgetowns and New Hopes of the world, and it needs to show it. This would be the marketing of Carlisle.

Go to Part II

Image Credit: Wonderlane

The Marketing of Carlisle : Part III

by Charlie Andrews

The Decline Again

Over time, most organizations, businesses or communities fall into a routine. There is no individual fault, yet we are all at fault as we become comfortable, and complacency creeps into our routine. This is a difficult thing to combat, but it is particularly disastrous for what is essentially a marketing effort. We need to continue finding ways of increasing our marketing to the outside world, and ways of funding it. Our efforts have stalled, because our current plan for addressing this is no longer effective.

The downtown’s new decline is now apparent and has begun a vicious cycle. As empty storefronts appear, they are not soon filled with new merchants. They remain empty, become trashy looking, weeds are beginning to grow and tree wells are not maintained.

Stores become harder to rent, and rents start dropping. This allows less-credible merchants in who do not maintain or improve their storefronts, sidewalks, window displays, etc. The gutting of the sign ordinance further enhanced this deterioration. These less-credible merchants don’t stay long, and we are left with either another empty and now further- deteriorated site, or another less-credible merchant who is not going to last either.
All this means fewer people on the sidewalks, so they become attractive to skateboarders and bicyclists. This is illegal, but because there are fewer merchants or shoppers to complain, even less attention is paid to the downtown. Even traffic and crosswalk enforcement declines for the same reasons.

An ominous indicator of the downtown’s decline is that this year (2004) a building owner applied for and received a zoning exemption to convert a storefront into a residential apartment. For the downtown, this is “the kiss of death.”

Go to Part IV

The Marketing of Carlisle : Part IV

by Charlie Andrews

A Return To Growth

What does a viable, dynamic and prosperous downtown offer?
• Increased employment.
• Increased property values.
• The adaptive reuse and renovation of older existing structures.
• Increased tax revenues.
• A more attractive community for new business, industry and residents.
• Enhanced quality of life for all of Carlisle.

The “Marketing of Carlisle” concept is supported by significant data and research. A 1997 study commissioned by the Greater Carlisle Chamber of Commerce and prepared by the Danth Corporation is called A Retail Marketing Strategy for Carlisle, PA. The study cites the strengths and weaknesses of Carlisle, and recommends strategies for revitalization. In regards to the downtown it says: “This downtown has a number of important assets, not the least of which is a leadership that fashioned an effective positioning strategy and made important improvements. Because of these improvements and policies, as well as the downtown’s other development assets, DANTH believes that Downtown Carlisle is ready to emerge from its chrysalis and become a true regional destination.”

In 2000, an actual blueprint for the downtown’s revitalization came from the Cumberland County Redevelopment Authority, and was approved by the DCA. It is titled Carlisle MainStreets Plan: The Road to Shaping the Downtown into a Commercial and Retail Power Center. The plan describes the leasing of 30,000 square feet of first floor space for prime retail space, the development of 20,000 square feet of class A office space on second floors, and 25 market rate apartments in the downtown. It also addresses public relations and business recruitment, facade and public private site improvements and even public and semipublic art. In conclusion, the report states: ”Consensus on a downtown strategy is of critical importance. National retailers overall want to know what the overall goals of the downtown revitalization effort are before locating in a downtown. Funding agencies such as state government also want assurances that there is consensus on an overallstrategy. For these reasons, Carlisle MainStreets can be an important document to help guide the downtown effort in both the short and long term.”

The recently completed Drive Shed Report by the South Central Assembly for Effective Governance states that within a 20 minute drive of Carlisle: “The population in this area is estimated to change from 393,935 to 395,848, resulting in a growth of 0.5% between 2000 and 2004. Over the next five years (2005-2010), the population is projected to grow by 1.6%”.

The return to growth for the downtown will require a resurgence of the DCA. The DCA’s executive director’s position needs to be upgraded in salary and benefits. The position’s job description needs to have an overriding emphasis on marketing and communications. There needs to be an increase in funding for materials, memberships in outside marketing groups, advertising packages in outside areas we are targeting, etc. Again from the DANTH study: “The responsibility for implementing the Downtown development strategy presented in this report would fall mainly upon the Downtown Carlisle Association (the DCA). While in the past the DCA has shown itself to be an effective organization, it is highly doubtful that this small staff and modest budget will be sufficient to implement the proposed strategy. The required heavy promotions and advertising, in both the print and broadcast media, means that the DCA will need substantially more program funds for air time and print ads. The additional recruitment efforts, targeted though they might be, will also require additional program funds. The ads, promotions and recruitment materials will all have to be designed. All of this will require additional staff who have the proper training and job experience.”

Funding this effort initially for the first five years should be a coalition of the Borough, County, Chamber of Commerce, DCA, major businesses and industries. It should also include any state or federal funding sources such as Community Development Block Grant funds and the Department of Community and Economic Development and other private and local sources detailed in the Carlisle MainStreets Plan. Two years before the end of this funding period, the borough should enact an ordinance for the creation of a “Business District Authority” (BDA), or as described in the DANTH study: “DANTH strongly recommends that Carlisle’s leaders seriously explore the feasibility of establishing a Downtown Investment District to provide some of the additional funds the DCA will require.”

The report further states: “These districts are a mechanism that allow downtown business operators and property owners to assess themselves and thus raise the funds needed to provide the special services and improvements that can revitalize a downtown. The other citizens of the municipality are not assessed! but all who might benefit from a special service district are assessed according to some fair and agreed upon formula.”

The bottom line is that we will know if this course of action is working within three years, and if it is, the BDA or some other formula to sustain it will be doable.

Development a marketing plan is crucial, and this responsibility would be that of the executive director of the DCA. This would become a strategy to use our funds tactically to derive the greatest return.

Go to Part V

The Marketing of Carlisle : Part VII

by Charlie Andrews

Where Do We Go From Here?

The responsibility for this community ultimately falls to our Borough Government. That does NOT mean that they do it all. We all share in the responsibility for this effort and it’s implementation. It does, however, mean that the Borough has the responsibility to show leadership in this effort themselves and through their appointees.

I would suggest a moderated, strategic planning meeting, hosted by the Borough at a public place in the downtown. The critical participants are the Borough of Carlisle, Cumberland County, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Downtown Carlisle Association. Other individuals or organizations such as the Historical Society, Dickinson College and others deemed necessary should also be included.

The object of this meeting is to design a specific action plan and assign responsibilities, with the ultimate goal of reshaping the Downtown Carlisle Association into a true marketing office. This office would be responsible for promoting and marketing Carlisle to the outside world, with a view to attracting people to Carlisle and its downtown for shopping, tourism, recreation, education, and culture. Concurrently, efforts should continue for attracting and recruiting quality merchants to the downtown.

I think a moderator would be helpful in keeping the meeting on track. Some of the objectives of this meeting might be:

• Establishing of a committee responsible for moving this forward.
• Outlining the scope of responsibilities of a rebuilt DCA.
• Identifying initial funding sources (to cover first 5 years).
• Identifying tasks and entities responsible for them.
• Establishing of a timeline for completion of actions.
• Establishing of any other subcommittees needed.

Thank You for . . .
taking the time to look this over. This document is meant to bring attention to a serious situation in our community. None of this will change overnight, but it will change, to first stop our decline and then to move us forward. Carlisle is a beautiful, historic and charming town with tremendous potential to thrive, and not just survive. This effort requires some courage and effort, but we have nothing to lose and the world to gain.

Sincerely,
*
Charles W. Andrews
249-1721
c2464@aol.com

A&F Rental Property Management Partners

A&F Rental Property Management Partners

Started in 2000, Allen & Fleming Rental Property Management Partnership is a family owned and managed property management business founded in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Our goal is to find unique, historic, and ideally situated apartment and commercial units to renovate, restore, and revamp into modern day havens for both living and conducting business while maintaining the historic charm and architecture of downtown Carlisle.  Currently A&F has renovated and restored several buildings in downtown Carlisle including the home of the Gaia Fresh Food Café.  As of 2012, A&F was located exclusively in Carlisle, Pennsylvania focusing on restoring old buildings in the town’s beautiful historic district.

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Carlisle Rents A&F Rental Property Management Partners
36 S Pitt St, Suite 105
Carlisle, PA 17013
302-827-3681