Three U.S. community initiatives are recognized for excellence in comprehensive, preservation-based downtown revitalization

On May 16, 2022, Main Street America recognized Heart of Biddeford in Biddeford, Maine; Hammond Downtown Development District in Hammond, Louisiana; and Laramie Main Street Alliance in Laramie, Wyoming as the 2022 Great American Main Street Award (GAMSA) winners.

Image courtesy of Heart of Biddeford.

This award recognizes communities for their excellence in comprehensive preservation-based commercial district revitalization.

The 2022 GAMSA designations, sponsored by The Hartford, were presented at the opening plenary for the 2022 Main Street Now Conference in Richmond, Virginia.

Biddeford, Hammond, and Laramie demonstrate that our community-driven approach to commercial district revitalization is a powerful transformation tool,” said Patrice Frey, President and CEO of Main Street America.

While each program’s story and work are unique, the 2022 GAMSA winners share the same commitment to grassroots community development through initiatives that center principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion,” she added.

Heart of Biddeford – Biddeford, Maine

For many years, Biddeford, Maine’s downtown was colloquially known as “Trashtown” due to the presence of a large incinerator in the center of the historic mill district.

Revitalization work led by Heart of Biddeford began in 2004 with a focus on beautifying the area, creating opportunities to bring people downtown through events, and promoting economic vitality through preservation-focused redevelopment.

With the support of forward-thinking city leaders and passionate residents, today downtown Biddeford is known as a quintessential New England town. From a 4th generation bakery and the oldest diner in Maine, to a thriving parks program and engaging annual festivals, Biddeford offers all the pleasures of coastal living with a growing array of amenities, diverse cultural attractions, green space, and entrepreneurial opportunities.

Heart of Biddeford’s continued success is made possible through their commitment to creating places of shared prosperity, equal access to opportunity, and inclusive engagement across all Four Points of the Main Street Approach.

Notable examples of this commitment include partnering with veterans’ organizations to host parades downtown, collaborating with Black Owned Maine to increase the organization’s capacity to incubate and promote Black-owned businesses in the district, and raising the inaugural Pride flag in the city in 2021.

The impact of Heart of Biddeford’s commitment to inclusive revitalization has yielded impressive results. Today the district’s 4.5% commercial vacancy rate is an additional point of pride and drastic improvement compared to 20.7% in 2006. To date 200 net new jobs and 167 net new businesses have been created, 99 buildings rehabilitated, and $216 million in public and private funds invested in the downtown area.

Hammond Downtown Development District – Hammond, Louisiana

When the Louisiana Main Street program began in 1984, Hammond was one of four Louisiana communities initially selected.

Since that time, the Hammond Downtown Development District has worked tirelessly to execute an ambitious portfolio of revitalization projects and events that have been carefully planned in partnership with residents, merchants, property owners, community leaders, and other stakeholders to dually create spaces that reflect the town’s diversity and bring shoppers, diners, and purveyors to the district.

As a result, they have achieved an impressive record of impactful projects that have truly transformed the city.

Signature outcomes—past and present—include championing forward-thinking and innovative adaptive re-use and preservation projects, resulting in the rehabilitation of 115 buildings and $20.3 million invested. Downtown Hammond has also made significant strides in establishing a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem.

This includes welcoming 60 new businesses to the district, decreasing the vacancy rate from 80% in 1984 to just 6% today, and partnering with community-based groups to increase opportunities for Black-owned enterprises in the Main Street area.

Seasonal events, artisan and farmers’ markets, and street festivals, bring residents and visitors downtown, complimenting and contributing to the organization’s community building, economic development, and people-centered design initiatives.

Laramie Main Street Alliance – Laramie, Wyoming

Sitting along the Union Pacific Railroad Line, downtown Laramie is a lively pocket among the rural plains and home to a melting pot of longtime residents and University of Wyoming students.

Work to preserve and revitalize Laramie’s downtown began in the 1980s and gained momentum in 2005 when the Laramie Main Street Alliance was founded as a program of the Wyoming Main Street.

Over the span of the following 17 years, Laramie’s revitalization efforts have created a climate that has resulted in more than $21 million in public and private investment, 398 private rehabilitation projects, and the creation of 148 new businesses and 689 new jobs (net).

Laramie Main Street Alliance’s success is credited to the organization’s steadfast use of The Main Street Approach, strong culture of lifelong learning, service, and community connection, and robust volunteer program.

Volunteers—from board members to university students—have logged over 59,000 hours of service valued at over $1.2 million.

The organization’s leadership in the Laramie Mural Project, Big Hollow Food Co-Op, and Cowboy Cash pandemic-response program are just three examples of Laramie Main Street Alliance’s excellence in addressing the economic and social needs of the community through coalition building, bold action, and innovative solutions.

Featured photo (courtesy Office of the Governor of Maine) shows Maine Governor Janet Mills congratulating Heart of Biddeford on their win.

See Main Street America website.

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