Main Street America

For more than 35 years, the National Main Street Center, a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, has been helping communities revitalize their downtowns. The movement is the leading voice for preservation-based economic development and community revitalization across the country, and has taken root in more than 2,000 communities. The Florida Department of Historic Resources’ Florida Main Street Program, ensures programs maintain the National standards while bringing State guidance and support to local Main Street organizations.

The Main Street program provides an organizational framework that helps communities develop and implement their own ideas to preserve and enhance their historic commercial districts. As a unique economic development tool, the Main Street approach is the foundation for local initiatives to revitalize their districts by leveraging local assets—from cultural or architectural heritage to local enterprises and community pride. The goal is to build a sustainable economic vitality effort. It is a grass-roots movement that has spurred $56 billion in reinvestment in traditional commercial districts nationwide, galvanized thousands of volunteers, and changed the way governments, planners, and developers view preservation.

Main Street Fundamentals

  • The Main Street Approach is centered around Transformation Strategies. A Transformation Strategy articulates a focused, deliberate path to revitalizing or strengthening a downtown or commercial district’s economy.
  • A program’s work on Transformation Strategies should be organized around the Four Points: Economic Vitality, Design, Promotion, and Organization.
  • A revitalization program’s work – and its Transformation Strategies – need to be informed by a solid understanding of local and regional market data, and sustained and inclusive community engagement.

Transformation Strategies – generated through meaningful community engagement and informed by an analysis of the district’s market position — help to guide a revitalization program’s work. An effective Transformation Strategy serves a particular customer segment, responds to an underserved market demand, or creates a differentiated destination. 

Some “ready-to-use” strategies — called Catalyst Strategies — fall into two broad categories: those that are focused on a specific customer segment and those that are focused on an industry, product, or service segment. 

Examples include:

•  Workers and Residents
•  Elder Friendly and Aging-in-Place
•  Family-Friendly
•  Agriculture Center
•  Arts (performing and visual)
•  College Town
•  Convenience Goods and Services
•  Entertainment and Nightlife
•  Knowledge Economy

What Are the Four Points?

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Transformation Strategies are implemented through comprehensive work in four broad areas, known as the Four Points. 

ECONOMIC VITALITY
 focuses on capital, incentives, and other economic and financial tools to assist new and existing businesses, catalyze property development, and create a supportive environment for entrepreneurs and innovators that drive local economies. 

DESIGN supports a community’s transformation by enhancing the physical and visual assets that set the commercial district apart. 

PROMOTION positions the downtown or commercial district as the center of the community and hub of economic activity, while creating a positive image that showcases a community’s unique characteristics. 

ORGANIZATION involves creating a strong foundation for a sustainable revitalization effort, including cultivating partnerships, community involvement, and resources for the district.