Thank you for your question to ask and advisor. And thank you for your patience on my response.
Before diving into my personal response, I would recommend taking a look at chapter 3 (https://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/assessment/assessing-community-needs-and-resources), chapter 17 (https://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/analyze/analyze-community-problems-and-solutions), and chapter 44 (https://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/finances/invest-in-community-resources) in the community toolbox (https://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents). You may also browse through some of chapters to see if they fit your issue.
To give a more in-depth response, I would recommend conducting a needs assessment/problem identification study of potential users of the commercial district. I may consider, for example, going to the local college with an audio recorder and asking students the questions, “Do you ever go to the business district?” If not, “What is the biggest barrier to you visiting the business district?” If they do, I may ask, “What do you like about the business district?” These are just examples, you may want to use other questions that are more specific/relevant to the area. But my point is, you may want to think about assessing the barriers to people visiting the district and the strengths of the district once they are there. When you identify those, you can address the barriers and enhance the strengths. In addition, I think it is very important to get the voice of those potential visitors. It seems like you have the voice of the business owners, but their perspectives will likely be different than potential visitors.
I wish you well! Good luck!