Why Main Street Still Works

The Four Point Main Street Approach works well in communities that employ the strategy faithfully. The four points are organization, promotion, design and economic restructuring.

The points cannot be looked at singly, but as being integrated together in a strategy. Most downtowns, as part of their organizational process, establish goals and objectives. Goals and objects are given a reasonable time frame in which to initiate action and conclude programs that result from those actions. Five years is a good time frame to plan around. The goals and objectives are then crafted into a narrative plan.

Through the main street process, the plan reflects the four points as part of an integrated strategy. The strategy that provides the four points working together will enable the town to move forward. It is not that hard to do. If you have the four points delineated and they are doable, linking the actions will become apparent.

Think of the design point and the promotion point linking together in the strategy. Most downtowns in Pennsylvania are historic by the fact that they were settled during the early years of the nation. Almost all of the towns have historic building stock that can be used as a selling point to come to the town.

Once you define what you want to be as a downtown, the rest becomes obvious. How do you want to promote your downtown?  What is your strength economically? Do you have a tourist area or do you seek to provide for the needs of the community? Perhaps a town could meet the needs of a certain segment in the nearby population (college or large institution)? Maybe you have many artists and the town can easily become an artist destination?

Perhaps the town has no historic value at all and you want to replace all the fronts with glass from floor to roof. Maybe you want to market the town as “Glass Town” and that is the design strategy. Grants would be made available to install glass from head to toe.  Once you are looking good with all glass you need to tell people about being all glass all the time. It could spur a tourist trade as people will come to marvel at the glass. 

Many times when a new façade is developed, code dictates that the systems in the building are updated. Once you have all the glass on the outside people have to have something to see on the inside. The renovation of the inside upgrades the selling space and the economic restructuring point works with the other two points. Part of developing a plan for the town to be “Glass Town” was the organizational point. It is not that hard to have an integrated strategy.

Developing goals for each of the points should reflect some of the visioning sessions where people at large volunteer their opinions, wants and likes in a group setting to better understand the parameters of the revitalization. “Glass Town” is a perfect example, when discussing design point, participants in a group process, desired to turn the town into glass. 

A design can be central theme, whether it be historic restoration or making the world we know, glass. The processes of developing the elements of the design strategy are put into play and change results from that effort.

The four points cover everything that is necessary. A clean and green strategy would offer a cross between the design and the organizational. In order to have a clean strategy there would be a need to employ someone to pick up after others have left. To enable you to hire someone, you must have an organized effort to secure funds. 

It just goes on and on…these four points of the main street approach are made to be blended…made to work together in most every instance. The process enables someone to revitalize no matter how the four points are interpreted.

There is a wide variety of ways of interpreting the economic restructuring point.  Economic restructuring could mean the adaptive reuse of a space without many improvements in an old building. Someone coming up with a good idea like using vacant second floor office space as art studios and attempting to get the floors filled at a cheaper rent.

To some, economic restructuring does not exist if there is not major construction work completed, like rehabbing a building or installing a new streetscape. Sill others are more inclined to have new stores located in the downtown as the only sign of economic restructuring.  The elements of the main street program are fluid. 

The main street process helps to organize the community’s thoughts. Organizing your thoughts within a process, that promotes interaction between your combined goals and objectives, becomes a powerful tool for revitalization.

The communities that can organize their thoughts and come up with a game plan that has measurable goals and objectives are usually the more successful communities. This does not mean that the goals and objectives are static, but instead dynamic, to meet the needs of the community as change happens.