Mark Kauffman is a retired surgeon, major real estate investor, and board member of the Downtown Improvement District. He is not, however, a marketing expert.
That’s why, as DID assesses its priorities for the immediate future and the next five years, Kauffman is reluctant to pay too much attention to the details of setting up a promotional campaign.
The DID recently focused on an advertising campaign promoting downtown as a destination. The members of the DID board of directors hope to unite the various downtown organizations around the same message. One thing works to the advantage of the group: they have money available for marketing, generating funds through a tax on commercial properties within DID limits.
Kauffman, like the rest of the board, is comfortable spending a portion of DID’s $634,000 annual budget on advertising. But as the council works alongside local advertising agency atLarge Inc. to develop a unified marketing campaign, Kauffman advocates hiring an outside professional to make decisions on how best to promote the downtown area. .
“I just don’t want to be the one deciding how the money is spent,” Kauffman said.
In a meeting on October 3, atLarge Founder Anand Pallegar provided an update on DID’s ongoing branding and marketing efforts. Working with marketing firm Boost Studio, atLarge is focusing on using the existing We Are Downtown campaign and adapting it to different downtown neighborhoods.
The group wants to promote the city center as a mosaic, made up of different segments that produce a dynamic whole. Through this strategy, DID hopes that other areas, such as Burns Court and Rosemary District, will be more willing to participate.
After reviewing preliminary designs for the banners shared by Pallegar, council member Daniel Volz suggested that the neighborhood-focused branding effort could also help visitors navigate different downtown neighborhoods.
“If we can accomplish a rudimentary wayfinding system by marking our different mosaic pieces, if you will, then we get a bonus on the whole exercise,” Volz said.
Pallegar will return at an upcoming DID meeting with more details on branding and marketing.
On October 18, DID continued another ongoing exercise: a strategic planning effort, designed to help clarify the group’s agenda for the next three to five years.
Future capital improvement projects could include adding public restrooms and crosswalks, improving sidewalks, landscaping and storefronts, and installing signage and other guidance tools.
Board member Steve Seidensticker suggested that DID could do more to lobby city officials to meet the needs of downtown stakeholders. The group said DID is too often called upon to do things the city should be doing, such as maintaining the landscape.
“We have a voice,” Seidensticker said. “We have to use it.”
The board also discussed the possibility of expanding its limits to generate more revenue. In 2015 and 2016, the DID considered incorporating the Rosemary neighborhood, but landowners in the area said they were not interested.
Although there is still some interest in increasing DID’s purchasing power, Kauffman believes it would not be effective for the group to expand into the still-developing neighborhood of Rosemary.
“They have their own issues,” Kauffman said. “They should have their own DID.”
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