Over the course of the past decade, America’s downtowns have experienced a renaissance, with boomers and millennials choosing to live in communities that are walkable and that provide distinctive character and diverse amenities. This is true for the biggest of counties and smallest of towns.
But even with these powerful demographic forces at work, downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts can still face an uphill battle. Achieving the right mix of housing, retail, restaurants, transportation, green space, and more is a complicated calculus.
For a lucky few downtowns, greatness may happen effortlessly with a strong sense of place that seems to develop organically and simply sustain itself. For most places, success doesn’t happen by chance.
Vibrant downtowns—like Lake City, Colorado, Woodbine, Iowa, or Birmingham, Alabama are successful because of long-term, strategic, tactical growth and management.
Over the past 35 years one tool in particular—the Main Street Approach—has helped communities to effectively organize, execute, and achieve their vision for success downtown.
A refreshed version of the Main Street Approach was launched in the Fall of 2015, and is in beta mode now. It’s aimed at helping communities of all sizes embrace a more strategic, outcome-oriented approach to revitalization.
In successful communities, lasting revitalization depends on strong partnerships and coordination between the Main Street organization, local government, and small business owners.
Where special district financing is available, it can be particularly effective at generating a sustainable revenue stream for revitalization work.
The Main Street Approach was developed by the National Main Street Center. Established in 1980 as a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the National Main Street Center, Inc. works with a nationwide network of coordinating programs and local communities to encourage preservation-based community revitalization, and has equipped more than 2,000 older commercial districts with the skills, and organizing framework they need for renewal during its 35-year history.
An exciting new chapter for the organization began on July 1, 2013, when the National Main Street Center was launched as an independent subsidiary of the National Trust. This transition enables Main Street to build on its three-decade record of success, with new leadership and new resources that will help communities respond to evolving needs and opportunities in the commercial district revitalization field.