Using the Main Street Approach
If your community plans to start a Main Street program to revive your commercial district or reinvigorate a struggling or previously failed revitalization attempt, look over the first steps listed below. These recommendations will help you generate the local support necessary to establish a Main Street revitalization initiative.
Begin by Building Support
- Form a working group: Ask colleagues in your community about starting a revitalization initiative. Canvass all ‘stakeholders’ who have an interest in the future of your downtown or commercial district, including merchants, business owners, property owners, and residents. Contact the mayor and other local government officials, the municipal planning department and economic development officials, and other organizations, such as the chamber of commerce or merchants association. Form a working group or task force of interested individuals and community leaders to explore launching an initiative. The wider the group of people you gather, the easier it is to build support and spread the word. All of these entities will benefit from a revitalized district and should support your effort, both programmatically and financially, so you need to bring them to the table now.
- Take a good look at your district: Look at your downtown or commercial district as if you are a first-time visitor. What are its strengths? What needs improvement? Take photos and make notes.
- Generate broad-based local interest and support: Hold a community meeting to discuss the idea. Call CT Main Street Center for advice and possible attendance at the meeting. Show the Main Street Approach PowerPoint presentation (available from CT Main Street Center). Also use photographs to illustrate what needs to be done. Ask for feedback from participants and invite them to join the effort. Take their contact information and follow up later.
- Join CT Main Street Center: Contact CT Main Street Center to find out about joining as a Member Community.
- Network with successful programs: Invite an executive director or board president from another Main Street community to talk with your working group or community about their accomplishments and answer questions about how the program works. Their enthusiasm, stories, and pictures will make a strong argument for a preservation-based revitalization program. Facilitate discussions among your stakeholders and those already involved with other Main Street programs. This type of dialog is invaluable, especially for members of the working group. Get mayors, business owners, and economic development staff talking.
- Spread the word: Ask the local newspaper(s) to run a story about the commercial district revitalization initiative. Position a member of the working group as a guest on the local radio station to explain how the community can start a program.