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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Evaluation planning for downtown revitalization projects Warner, Frances


Downtown areas across Canada have been deteriorating physically and economically due to a number of factors such as age, suburban growth, and shopping centre development. Downtown revitalization programs were created in response to this deterioration. In the last decade millions of dollars have been spent, by all levels of government and the private sector in an attempt to achieve revitalization. More than five hundred revitalization projects have been undertaken. However, few project evaluations have been completed. Project evaluation is necessary to determine which program components are effective, to clarify goals and to provide accountability. The purpose of this thesis is to develop improvements in downtown revitalization project evaluation concepts and tools. Interviews with administrators from five downtown revitalization programs revealed that most projects cannot be evaluated at present because the majority of administrators have yet to identify performance measures. The few evaluations that do exist were not adequately controlled and do not provide compelling evidence that any economic changes that occurred can be attributed to the revitalization project. This thesis focuses on two research objectives. The first is to identify performance measures and methods of data collection. This in turn, requires an examination of program goals and components. The methods exployed to collect this information included: a review of academic literature on downtown revitalization and evaluation methodology; a review of agency literature and current evaluations for five Canadian revitalization programs; interviews with program administrators; and a survey o-f program clients and administrators. The second objective o-f this thesis responds to the need -for assessing the effectiveness o-f program components. Municipal officials and business representatives in one hundred and eleven Canadian communities which undertook revitalization projects were surveyed in order to determine current revitalization practices and client perspectives on which program components are effective. Their opinions and recommendations provide an interim answer, to be revised as more evaluations are undertaken. The survey findings indicate that the typical approach to downtown revitalization has broadened beyond physical improvements to include promotional activities and organizational development. However, respondents identified the need for further assistance in the initial planning process and the development of marketing plans. Recommendations for improvements to the revitalization programs in this study are proposed in order to address these needs. In addition, the survey results reveal how program administrators and clients prioritize goals and which performance measures they prefer. Finally, the input from the surveys, the literature review, the interviews and the author's experience in the field are used to determine a descriptive framework for downtown revitalization project evaluation. Performance measures, data sources, and collection methods are specified. The importance of using a systematic approach to evaluation, as well as collecting data for control groups is stressed. This evaluation framework is intended to assist program administrators and community groups interested in evaluating downtown revitalization projects.

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