Alachua Community Redevelopment Agency
Marketing/Branding & Economic Development Analysis & Plan
January 2016-July 2016
Alachua Market Study & Economic Development Implementation | Downtown District
The City of Alachua, located in northwest Alachua County, has a population of approximately 10,000. The Downtown District is an authentic example of an Old Florida Downtown and the charming Main Street, where several yearly festivals are held, is one of Alachua’s most revered assets. During the economic downturn many Main Street businesses closed, with the domino effect of fewer visitors coming to what once was a lively downtown. The City Commission and the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) discussed the need to devise methods to revitalize Main Street and the Community Redevelopment Area in order to enhance the character of downtown, provide for business retention and expansion, and market the uniqueness of Downtown Alachua.
The City, through its CRA, hired RMA to perform a market study and provide an economic development implementation plan for the Downtown District. This market study included analysis of the potential for new businesses, opportunities and activities to draw visitors, branding, and recommendations for implementation of the findings.
The market study was comprehensive and provided information about the surrounding businesses outside of the downtown district that served as feeders for the downtown. A delineated market study area was defined and tested for market accuracy. This in-depth analysis, using RMA’s BusinessFlareTM approach, led to an implementation plan that included strategies for attracting businesses to the downtown district. These strategies included branding, marketing and messaging, recommendations for wayfinding and directional signage including interstate signage to increase awareness of the downtown, and a program to create partnerships with the business community to host regular downtown events.
In fact, dynamic downtowns with events geared toward community involvement is something that is especially attractive to millennials as they decide where to work and live. RMA also recognized that downtown development in suburban areas like Alachua needed to target specific uses to promote the uniqueness of the area and take advantage of current market trends, with a special focus on drawing customers from the greater Gainesville area. Those target businesses include:
- Specialty markets including fresh vegetables and fruits, beer and wine offerings.
- Specialty sporting goods, including cycling, hiking and diving, and horseback riding goods.
- Coffee and sweets shop, including desserts and bakery items with outdoor patio seating.
- Genuine antique stores, with an emphasis on exclusion of thrift stores.
- Breweries to include tastings.
- Hotels with special event hosting.
Our survey results for businesses located in Progress Park and the Alachua Commerce Center indicated an unmet demand for hotel room nights and conference facilities. One of the initiatives recommended for the Alachua Downtown District is the targeted recruitment of a business class hotel.
RMA’s implementation plan is a holistic plan that provides for community and business outreach throughout the area and includes ten steps for the City to focus on to encourage business development and events in the Downtown District. Utilizing recommendations from RMA, Alachua has already realized a surge in business in the downtown area!
RMA had recommended regular monthly events as a tool to bring people to the downtown area, and Alachua now hosts a “Third Thursday on Main” community event sponsored by the City of Alachua Community Redevelopment Agency. Visitors can relax and enjoy a free concert, outdoor dining, and shopping on a walkable boulevard closed to traffic during the event.
These monthly events have been received enthusiastically by the existing businesses and have resulted in additional events taking place in the area, including a country music fest and car shows. The turnout has been strong for all the events, and local businesses have reported increased sales and foot traffic during these events. Another recommendation was a walking map detailing shopping and dining for visitors coming to downtown Alachua. This strategic implementation plan is a blueprint for the City to follow to achieve success, supported by RMA’s commitment to assist as requested going forward.