Five Cheap Downtown Placemaking Ideas

It was my pleasure to present Cheap Downtown Placemaking Ideas for Iowa State University OLLI programming. It’s a topic that garners attention because it allows a small town the opportunity to get into action and help make their downtown more attractive, welcoming and inspires economic development.

Here are five ideas from the 90 minute presentation and conversation.


Encourage people to linger downtown by sharing your Wi-Fi. Just post a sign with the guest password. Ask downtown businesses to share their Wi-Fi with customers and visitors, too. It’s easy enough to set up a guest account separate from your business Wi-Fi.

And it doesn’t cost you a thing.













Remind people there’s lots to do with a Pinterest Board like this one from the Stone’s Throw Café, in Alberta: “What to do in CrowsnestPass.” Make it a group board and gather your crowd through group pinning.

It doesn’t cost you any money to promote what you already have.













Another way to deal with a fence is to grow flowers or vines that crawl up the fence! Actually, this can work on any fence.

This is in Savanna Illinois, just across from Sabula, Iowa.












Great use of flowers in a parking garage! This is in Huntington, West Virginia. What other unique areas could you put flowers in?














How many of your potential entrepreneurs have a garage-sized business idea, but don’t have a usable garage of their own? Or they don’t own a house, or they can’t afford to buy a house just to get a garage to get started?

Twisp, Washington (pop 1,500) converted a former forest ranger station into spaces for local businesses. This is the old equipment shed. They are slowly converting it into small shop spaces by adding the fronts. These are rented to local craft entrepreneurs, including a blacksmith and a conservation birdhouse maker.












That’s just a sample taste of ideas and stories that we share at SaveYour.Town.

If you’re interested in learning more about bringing a webinar or me in person to your town or event, please email and let’s visit!