Main Street programs are more than fixing up buildings or building streetscapes. They’re about forming connections between people through social interaction and business development. The human connections play the biggest role in downtown revitalization. When a community puts people first, good design follows.
To achieve successful downtown revitalization, communities need to create people centered places. Too many communities focus on physical improvements and wonder why their downtown still lacks vibrancy real economic success.
Main Street programs give communities a reason to get excited about their downtown!
What do successful Main Street programs do?
1. Support innovation & entrepreneurship to increase the economic and social diversity of downtown while also increasing value and revenue
- Facilitate business engagement—build collaborations and networking, coordinate business to business interaction
- Support real estate development & community initiated development
- Encourage angel investments and develop small grants for targeted businesses in specific sectors
- Serve as an information resource
- Provide education & training opportunities for businesses
- Cultivate local talents to provide goods & services to help businesses
- Coordinate mentoring and support programming for business retention (including business transition)
- Work closely with community colleges & universities
- Support entrepreneurship education in the schools (w/real life applications downtown)
- Showcase businesses and share them with the world
2. Invest in human capital through volunteerism, leadership, building relationships inside & outside the community, supporting each other, financial support for people to build their skills—downtown revitalization is just as much about investing in people and learning downtown revitalization and management skills as it is investing in fixing up buildings and investing in businesses
- Facilitate learning opportunities for the community
- Young professionals groups
- Internships and opportunities for youth to work in businesses or create tools for the community to use
- Establish funds to help community members learn a new skill they can bring back to the community
3. Change attitudes and building a sense of place through design and improving the physical condition of the public and private spaces in downtown
- Public spaces, streets and sidewalks—active and safe landscape & streetscape
- Pedestrian safety and amenities—attractiveness and comfort
- Buildings and businesses (inside and out)—functional and attractive; window displays, signage, interior design, merchandise displays
- Public buildings--setting the example for others to follow
- Accessibility (ADA)
- Places and opportunities for social interaction—creating a distinctive destination
- Ease of navigation--not everyone visiting your town is from there--maps, wayfinding, providing physical addresses not just place names
4. Focus on building social capital and civic engagement
- To change community attitudes and behavior
- To change the attitudes of business owners, employees, and community members
- To make downtown a fun place that is active and welcoming—word of mouth is still the best form of advertising—if one person likes a place and tells others….
- Engaged community members and a shared vision for the future
- Communication, communication, communication!
- Opportunities for social interaction/sharing of ideas and solutions and building networks within the community
- Youth engagement (not “free labor” for projects, but real community decision-making and projects that they plan, choose and implement
5. Commit to the Main Street Program and actively participate in the Nebraska Main Street Network and Main Street America and get things done!