Big or small, urban or rural, on the coast or in the heartland, every city wants growth and a better quality of life for its residents. But that goal hasn’t ever been an easy one – and it’s not getting any easier as the world’s population grows and demographics change.

The answer is in our streets – specifically, our “Vibrant Streets.”

Vibrant Streets is a program that helps communities revitalize neighborhoods by creating thriving retail districts through technical expertise and community engagement. The focus of the program is to give neighborhoods necessary tools to create a Vibrant Street of their own, regardless of population, ethnic composition, location, income, or budget.

Originating from a study commissioned by the DC Office of Planning (OP), the Vibrant Streets Toolkit quickly became a roadmap used by district agencies to guide neighborhood improvements, spur job growth and revive DC’s retail economy. Following the release of the DC Toolkit, a Vibrant Streets website was created, 14 Vibrant Streets webinars drew over 350 participants from almost 300 communities, and initiative’s founders, Heather Arnold and James McCandless, were invited to speak in a variety of cities across the country. In 2012, the International Downtown Association awarded Vibrant Streets a Downtown Merit Award for its contributions to research in the field of downtown revitalization. In 2014, the National Capital Area Chapter of the American Planning Association awarded the DC Vibrant Streets toolkit initiative the Current Topic Award for Innovative Smart Growth.

Since implementation within DC, Vibrant Streets has since grown into a more comprehensive program, and in April of 2014, Vibrant Streets published a National Toolkit that built upon the themes and ideas developed in the DC Toolkit. The National Toolkit presents a version of the Vibrant Streets program that can be applied to developing thriving retail corridors in cities nationwide.

Ultimately, Vibrant Streets objectives – DC and nationally – remain the same. The program seeks to help communities grow economically by promoting business and development, creating jobs, expanding tax bases, increasing property values, and improving quality of life. Vibrant Streets creates a point of intersection for residents, workforce, and visitors in a community, thus encouraging a sense of mutual investment and fostering strong relationships. And, finally, Vibrant Streets gives neighborhoods the necessary tools to become change-agents and advocates for the type of market-appropriate retail they desire.