Thursday, January 15, 2009

Design is Key to Saving Main Streets

When people started moving out to the suburbs many downtown areas found they had vacant buildings and declining city centers. The Main Street Program was developed to reverse that trend. They soon found that, along with better publicity for downtown areas, financial incentives for new businesses, and organizing merchants, it is essential to look at how the downtown areas look. So design became one of the key strategies to save America's downtown areas.

The National Trust Main Street Center offers a comprehensive commercial district revitalization strategy that has been widely successful in towns and cities nationwide. There are four points in the Main Street approach which work together to build a sustainable and complete community revitalization effort. Design is one of the four points along with organization, promotion, and economic restructuring.

Organization involves getting everyone working toward the same goal and assembling the appropriate human and financial resources to implement a Main Street revitalization program. A governing board and standing committees make up the fundamental organizational structure of the volunteer-driven program. Volunteers are coordinated and supported by a paid program director as well.

Promotion sells a positive image of the commercial district and encourages consumers and investors to live, work, shop, play and invest in the Main Street district. By marketing a district's unique characteristics to residents, investors, business owners, and visitors, an effective promotional strategy forges a positive image through advertising, retail promotional activity, special events, and marketing campaigns carried out by local volunteers.

Design means getting Main Street into top physical shape. Capitalizing on its best assets — such as historic buildings and pedestrian-oriented streets — is just part of the story. An inviting atmosphere, created through attractive window displays, parking areas, building improvements, street furniture, signs, sidewalks, street lights, and landscaping, conveys a positive visual message about the commercial district and what it has to offer. Design activities also include instilling good maintenance practices in the commercial district, enhancing the physical appearance of the commercial district by rehabilitating historic buildings, encouraging appropriate new construction, developing sensitive design management systems, and long-term planning.

Economic Restructuring strengthens a community's existing economic assets while expanding and diversifying its economic base. The Main Street program helps sharpen the competitiveness of existing business owners and recruits compatible new businesses and new economic uses to build a commercial district that responds to today's consumers' needs. Converting unused or underused commercial space into economically productive property also helps boost the profitability of the district.
Coincidentally, the four points of the Main Street approach correspond with the four forces of real estate value, which are social, political, physical, and economic.

The National Trust Main Street Center is a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Center is the nation's leader in preservation-based revitalization, providing assistance, information, and leadership to grassroots-based organizations around the country. In the 1970s, the National Trust created its unique Main Street approach to commercial district revitalization, a methodology that combines historic preservation with economic development. Today, it advocates preservation-based commercial district revitalization as an ethic that all communities can use to revive their traditional commercial areas.

No comments: