Since the 1970s, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Street Center, headquartered in Washington, D.C., has helped more than 1,200 downtowns become active, happening places again. What works for one won’t always work for another, Program Officer Todd Barman said, but there are often common ingredients for success. Things like:

Grassroots involvement, including people willing to go down there and spend again.

“The community as a whole needs to decide it’s important,” said Barman.

Go for the big picture, not the single or quick fix. It didn’t get this way just because the road’s bad.

People living downtown. It gives building owners more income and creates a potential customer base.

Plan, but don’t plan to death.

Work/promote historic resources. Bring people in to see the architecture. Make an experience of being there and they’ll support the businesses.

A well-organized nonprofit (a board, bylaws) to take the lead, with business and municipal buy-in.

“If you try to do this as a department within the city there doesn’t seem to be that sort of three-way partnership,” he said.

Funding, including money for a full-time main street executive to shepherd projects, act as a resource and keep everyone involved.


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