Downtown Cincinnati is on display (and a model) for Midwest Urban District Forum

Downtown Cincinnati Inc. (DCI) hosts the Midwest Urban District Forum April 6-8, the first time the conference been held here. The theme is “Progress 360,” which makes Cincinnati a fitting host city, according to DCI’s Mindy Rosen.
“The idea is to look at the city holistically,” says Rosen, Senior Vice President of Communications and Strategic Initiatives. “We believe what is going on in Cincinnati is relevant. We have had progress on all fronts, including our retail efforts, the arts scene and financing development. We want to share those stories with other cities.”
The conference, part of the International Downtown Association, begins on Wednesday evening with an optional walking tour and a Cincinnati Reds game. Conference sessions run all day Thursday at venues across downtown including the Taft Center, the Contemporary Arts Center, 84.51, Chamber of Commerce offices and the Backstage Event Center above Nicholson’s. Conference attendees are encouraged to walk between sessions.
“We want to have people out and about,” Rosen says. “We really hope they get a wonderful flavor of downtown Cincinnati.”
That flavor will include a progressive dinner with stops at Prime 47, Nicholson’s and the Palm Court as well as a Friday breakfast gathering for attendees to “Goetta Jump Start” on their departure day.
Speakers at the Midwest Urban District Forum represent local and national organizations. The session topics and presenters were selected by the conference steering committee led by DCI and representing downtown management organizations from across Ohio.
The meat of the conference takes place on Thursday with a day-long schedule of “master talks” and breakout sessions. Subjects range from financing development and attracting retail to working with local artists on creative placemaking initiatives in business districts.
The program begins with a presentation by LPK Creative Director Bryan Goodpaster on the future of cities. He is part of LPK’s division that monitors and anticipates consumer trends.
The closing “master talk” will feature Dave Palm, Senior Vice President of Operations at 84.51, and David Brecount of US Digital Partners. Their presentation will consider how data collected by restaurants, retail establishments and businesses can be shared, compared and interpreted to better understand customers and grow audiences.
“We were very deliberate to get a variety of speakers, and at the same time we wanted to tap in to some of our local experts,” Rosen says. “I am really excited about Dave Palm’s presentation. I think it’s going to be a really cool session on using data to determine the health of your downtown.”
The keynote speaker, author David Giffels, might be considered a little outside of the box for a conference on downtown development. But his book, The Hard Way on Purpose: Essays and Dispatches from the Rust Belt, explores the challenges and rebirth of formerly industrial cities like Akron, his hometown.
Cincinnati will be welcoming attendees from Detroit, Pittsburgh, Ft. Wayne, Indianapolis and cities across Ohio as well as from Hamilton and Covington. Although geared for the staff of downtown management organizations, the conference is open to anyone with an interest in urban growth and revitalization.
Conference registration is available online.
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Read more articles by Julie Carpenter.

Julie Carpenter has a background in cultural heritage tourism, museums, and nonprofit organizations. She's the Executive Director of AIA Cincinnati.