Merchant Center

The Work of Downtown Inc

The mission of Downtown York is to drive, enhance, and encourage investment in Downtown York.

Who We Are

Downtown Inc is the trade name for a joint venture between the York Business Improvement District Authority and Main Street York, a 501(c)(3) not for profit.

Together they work to enhance and foster reinvestment in Downtown York. The organization is comprised of a staff of six, a Board of 11 directors and more than 125 dedicated and committed volunteers. Those volunteers serve in various capacities on standing committees that support the mission of the organization.

What We Do

Downtown Inc is THE organization working to enhance and encourage investment in York’s central business district. We do that through:

Economic Development
Business recruitment and retention. Learn More.

Promotions
Advertising, marketing and special events. Learn More.

Placemaking
Beautifying the landscape, improving physical elements such as traffic patterns, public spaces, cleanliness, walkability. Learn More.

Public Safety
Working with police and sheriffs to mitigate criminal and vagrant activity. Learn More.

Our Vision

Through leadership and community collaboration, we will drive York’s prosperity and be a national model for successful downtown organizations.

Our History

In 1980, the National Trust for Historic Preservation began a comprehensive downtown revitalization effort when it formed the National Main Street Center. In 1986, York was selected by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as a designated Main Street community according to downtown revitalization standards established by the National Main Street Center. Main Street York, Inc. established itself as a private, nonprofit (501c3) organization governed by a board of directors who represent downtown businesses and downtown stakeholders. In 1998, Main Street York, Inc. and the Downtown York community were recognized for their efforts in revitalizing Downtown York with a Great American Main Street Award. Five of these awards are presented annually by the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s National Main Street Center to outstanding downtown organizations.

In the fall of 1998 the York Business Improvement District Authority (YBIDA) was proposed and approved for the commercial district in the City of York.

In 1999, Main Street York entered into an agreement with the York Business Improvement District Authority (YBIDA) to oversee and manage the assessment and programming in the District.

In 2006, the board of directors for Main Street York Inc and the YBIDA board determined that due to the similar missions of the organizations a merger of the two entities would be the most effective use of time and resources. This merged entity would be called Downtown Inc. Although the two merged entities share the same board and mission their financials are kept separate due to funding sources and differing tax exemption determinations. The board of directors is tasked with oversight of the YBIDA and also the vitality of the charitable arm of Downtown Inc, formerly Main Street York Inc. Financial support for the organization is paid entirely through a joint funding effort between Downtown Inc’s charitable fundraising efforts and the YBIDA assessments collected annually from downtown property owners.

A constant for the Downtown Inc organization has been its commitment and work on the four points of the “Main Street” programs:

  • Economic Development/Restructuring
  • Physical Appearance/Design
  • Promotion and Marketing
  • Organization/Administration

The organization enjoys unprecedented and much envied partnerships with both the public and private sectors. Downtown Inc’s organizational desire and willingness to remain open to change and challenges continues to serve the York community well.

Why Downtown Matters

It is the mission of Downtown Inc to drive, enhance, and encourage investment in Downtown York.

  • A downtown is home to locally owned, independent businesses that keep 68% of their revenue recycling back into the community.
  • A healthy, vibrant downtown is an indicator of the economic condition of the City and the County.
  • Downtown businesses provide employment opportunities at all skill levels.
  • Successful downtown businesses can pay higher business privilege and mercantile taxes, contributing to the overall growth and economic improvement of the City and County.
  • A healthy downtown enhances property values and expands the City’s tax base.
  • A vibrant downtown creates a sense of place and pride for the community.
  • A downtown reduces sprawl by concentrating commercial activity in one area.
  • It serves as an incubator—for new, small, and locally owned businesses.
  • Downtowns preserve and improve property values—in both immediate and surrounding residential neighborhoods.
  • The rehabilitation of old buildings supports the local economy by employing local trades… and local tradesmen usually purchase local building materials.
  • A downtown serves as a community space where members of all segments of the community can come together for parades and other community events.
  • The downtown is usually home to a community’s arts and cultural offerings—which also act as an economic driver and catalyst for business development.

Economic Development

We are striving to create a positive climate for investment in Downtown York and advance specific economic development projects and initiatives. Business recruitment and retention, capital projects, Land Bank Authority, development financing

Recent Highlights

  • Regular communication with downtown merchants:
    • E-Newsletters: 900+ recipients
    • Facebook Merchant Group: 300+ members
    • Attendance at monthly micro-district merchant meetings.
  • Through York County Economic Alliance launched BLOOM Classes:
    • Provided $261,650 in BLOOM Business Empowerment Center Grant funding to 98 businesses in the City of York
    • Host 11 BLOOM Business Series Workshops annually with 300+ business owners in attendance
    • 73 graduates in 2023
    • 56% of graduates are looking to start a business
    • 77% of graduates are women
    • 84% of graduates are BIPOC individuals
    • 67% of graduates have a household income of less than $50,000 per year
  • Covid Recovery
    • Facilitated $3,492,989 in YoCo Strong Restart funds to 227 recipients in City of York in 2020 and $1,668,077 to 217 recipients in 2021.
    • Facilitated $1,190,000 in CHIRP funding to 51 recipients in the City of York
  • Promote businesses across the three micro-districts (Royal Square District, Market District, WeCo District) on the Downtown York Facebook page (27,000+ followers), Instagram page (8,500+ followers), Twitter (4,900+ followers) and TikTok.
  • Host and promote annual Small Business Saturday with 39 participating shops and restaurants.
  • Launched York County Trail Towns Program with 13+ Trail-Friendly Designated Businesses in Downtown York

Promotions

We are striving to promote Downtown York through communications, public relations, and special events designed to draw patrons into downtown businesses.

By the Numbers: 

  • Downtown Inc events have an annual economic impact of more than $1 million in our community, according to figures by Americans for the Arts (First Friday, Go Green in the City, Hanging of the Greens, Downtown Update, Downtown First Awards, Sweetest Pint Tasting Tours)

  • Over 58,000 people attend Downtown Inc events annually.

  • 70+ Downtown businesses participate in First Friday activities each month.

  • 8,000 copies of the quarterly Downtown York Magazine distributed to 146 downtown businesses, 11 county-wide locations, 300+ direct mailers, and 14 PA Welcome Centers and Rest Stops.

  • More than 28,000 followers on the Downtown Inc Facebook Page, with 135,000 people reached monthly, and over a million reached in the past year.

  • More than 8,500 Instagram followers, with an average monthly reach of 10,000

  • $265,000 spent in destination marketing efforts in 2022-2023.

    • Google Discovery Ads: 1.2M impressions, 4% CTR

    • Google Video: 65k impressions, 57% view rate

    • META: 592K impressions, 1.80% CTR

    • TikTok: 285K impressions, .14% CTR

    • Spotify: 65K impressions

  • Launched the distrx app with 70+ active downtown businesses.

  • Average 30+ ribbon cuttings for new businesses each year.

  • $12,000 in First Friday grant funds distributed each year.

  • Celebrate 12 Merchant of the Month winners each year.

  • Launched the Downtown Inc Ambassadors Program with 30+ active members.

  • Created and promoted listing of 97 Black-owned local businesses.

Placemaking

Downtown York is a beautiful place, and we continually strive to make improvements. We refresh public spaces, improve cleanliness, spruce up landscaping, and much more to ensure an enjoyable environment for everyone. Beautifying the landscape, improving physical elements such as traffic patterns, public spaces, cleanliness, and walkability

  • Built upon our partnership with the York County Solid Waste Authority and Powder Mill Foundation by entering into a contract with ABM Janitorial to fully staff our Downtown Clean-Up Crew, covering all 26 blocks of Downtown York with removal of litter, graffiti, weeds, cigarette butts, leaf and debris, gum, stickers and posters, etc.

  • Installed five artistic crosswalks along the York Heritage Rail Trail in Downtown York, increasing pedestrian safety, adding to the aesthetic appeal, and enhancing the experience for Rail Trail users.

  • Worked closely with the York County Economic Alliance to bring the Codorus Creek Beautification Initiative into the design and engineering phase.
  • Funded the replacement of five deteriorating trench drain covers to increase accessibility and enhance aesthetic appeal.

  • Installing new Downtown York wayfinding including 19 vehicular signs, 6 parking garage signs, 3 map kiosks, and 20 pedestrian signs.

  • In partnership with the City of York, the York County Community Foundation, and downtown’s three micro-districts: Market District, Royal Square District, and WeCo District, installed 104 new Historically Edgy pole banners representing the work of 11 local artists, throughout the downtown area.

  • Installed 18 new cigarette litter receptacles throughout the downtown thanks to a partnership with Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful.

  • Continued partnerships with the Garden Club of York and the City of York to plant seasonal plantings in 90+ hanging baskets and 230 on-street planters and to mulch downtown tree wells.

  • In partnership with the York County Economic Alliance, launched the York County Trail Towns Program.

ABM Industries

Downtown Inc has contracted with ABM Industries to serve as the Downtown York Clean-Up Crew. With a proven track record of cleaning services in downtown improvement districts nationwide, ABM is a national leader in this field. Despite their national presence, they prioritize the local economy through hiring within the service community as well as second-chance and inclusive hiring practices.

Covering all 26 blocks of the York Business Improvement District, this new crew will be responsible for removal of litter, weeds, debris, cigarette butts, graffiti, and unsightly posters and stickers. The crew consists of 3 part-time members and 1 full-time supervisor. The crew will be out cleaning Monday through Friday 8am to 4:30pm. Members of the public may contact Bronley Martin, Urban Revitalization Manager, at bmartin@downtownyorkpa.com if they have an question, concerns, or notice areas needing special attention.

Special thanks to the Powder Mill Foundation, theYork County Solid Waste & Refuse Authority, and the local business community for financial support of this new program.

York County Heritage Rail Trail

The City of York, York County Department of Parks & Recreation and Downtown Inc announce that the 1.4-mile portion of the York County Heritage Rail Trail improvement project is complete!

The bituminous surface from Lafayette Plaza to Kings Mill Road was repaved, with porous bituminous pavement being installed from Kings Mill Road to Grantley Road. Improvements were also made to the grading and storm water management facilities, and more than 100 new LED light fixtures were installed along the corridor.

Funding for this City of York project was provided by a Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (PA DCNR) grant, with local matching funds provided by 19 local businesses and organizations.

General project coordination on the Rail Trail reconstruction was provided by Downtown Inc. The General Contractor on the project wass Shiloh Paving & Excavating. Engineering and inspection on the project was provided by C.S. Davidson and Buchart Horn.

For future project updates and progress, the public is encouraged to follow Downtown Inc on Facebook (www.facebook.com/downtownyorkpa.com) and Twitter (@downtownyorkpa). Additional questions can be directed to Downtown Inc, 2 West Market Street, York, PA 17401. The public can call (717) 849-2331 or email info@downtownyorkpa.com.

York Country Trail Towns

In partnership with the York County Economic Alliance, the York County Trail Towns Program was launched in 2020. The goal of the program is to leverage the York Heritage Rail Trail as a platform and driver for economic development in towns located along or near the popular multi-use trail. The pilot program will include 5 towns: York, Seven Valleys, Glen Rock, Railroad, and New Freedom. The intention is to expand the program as more of the trail is built.

Partnering with the York County Department of Parks, the York County Rail Trail Authority, Explore York, and our municipal partners, the Trail Towns Program is a collaborative process with outreach to local governments, residents and business owners in order for each town to reach its potential as a vibrant hub for trail users. By enhancing each town as a trail user-friendly destination and creating a cohesive Heritage Rail Trail experience, visitors will stay longer and spend more money, it will expand existing businesses and attract new ones.

Urban Landscape

We strive to improve the cleanliness, attractiveness, and walkability of Downtown York’s landscape and properties.

A cared-for place is one that draws people in and makes them feel both energized and at home. We are working toward this goal by taking on projects such as creating efficient way-finding, parking and transit for all modes of transportation; addressing beautification, infrastructure, gateways, walkability, public spaces and the physical environment.

2023 Highlights:

  • Worked with local artists to install five new creative crosswalks at five Downtown intersections along the York County Heritage Rail Trail.
  • Began placement of new Wayfinding Signage across Downtown York including vehicular, pedestrian, and parking garage map signage in collaboration with Explore York
  • Began development of strategic partnership plan for urban tree forest maintenance to replace dead and dying trees in Downtown York.
  • Contracted with ABM Janitorial to introduce an enhanced Downtown Clean-Up Crew with expanded scope of services including weeding, periodic graffiti and gum removal, litter removal, and more.
  • Continued partnerships with the Garden Club of York and the City of York to plant seasonal plantings in 110 planters and to mulch downtown tree wells, with expansion of plantings in the WeCo District funded through a grant from York County Community Foundation planned for 2024.

 

Public Safety

Working with police and sheriffs to mitigate criminal and vagrant activity

A safe downtown hinges on open communication and effective collaboration with and between the police, sheriffs, elected officials, and the business community. We work towards this goal by taking on projects such as environmental design, addressing vagrancy and nuisance issues, community policing, and data collection and monitoring.

Recent Highlights:

  • Deployed an additional 130 law enforcement hours Friday & Saturday evenings in the summer, in partnership with Better York.

  • Released quarterly merchant safety tip sheets discussing interior safety, exterior safety, cyber security, and holiday shopping

  • Installed pedestrian flags at 6 key mid-street crossings, increasing the visibility of those using them while crossing.

  • Working with York City Police Department for the implementation of a Downtown Police Resource Center.

  • Served as main hub of communication between downtown merchants, downtown officers, and other community partners.

  • Lead downtown walking tours, connecting downtown officers with merchants and other business leaders.

Annual Report

Downtown Inc is an affiliate of the York County Economic Alliance. Click the button below to view the organization’s latest annual report.

​Business Resources

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