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National Main Street Center

"In the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, thousands of downtowns fell by the wayside. While communities were securing mass construction in areas such as housing and highways, Main Street was undergoing mass destruction. Empty stores, boarded up buildings and deteriorating structures lined the streets that were once the social and commercial center of American Life.

By the late 1970s, community after community began to realize that modernization and progress left them with an empty space that downtown used to fill. Main Street as they knew it was gone and so was their sense of community. The desire to rekindle the lost community spirit was echoed across the country.

Nationwide, efforts to take back Main Street were put in motion, but there was a desperate need for expertise and support. The need was soon filled by the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP). In 1980, after three years of pilot studies, the NTHP established the National Main Street Center to provide the support and encourage the revitalization of Main Street based on historic preservation and sound business practices. To date, 46 states and more than 1,600 communities participate in the Main Street Program nationwide."

Credit: Mississippi Main Street Website

The Approach

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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.

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, produce, or service segment. 

 
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Mississippi Main Street Association

 
 

"In 1984, the State of Mississippi made the first attempt to start a Main Street program. This effort resulted in the designation of nine communities that were to receive technical assistance and guidance from the state program. An earlier budget crisis caused the collapse of this effort, leaving these nine communities with local programs and managers but no level assistance from a statewide program.

Leaders and managers from these nine communities began communicating with each other, ultimately resulting in the creation of the Mississippi Downtown Development Association, a nonprofit organization. This provided an opportunity for these towns to band together, trying to solve their problems through this statewide association. However, lack of funding and staff made this organization a loosely knit core of volunteers and only fulfilled limited networking needs. Dedicated members of MDDA continued to pursue possible sources of funding for the much-needed state Main Street program. In July 1989, MDDA was successful in contracting with the Mississippi Department of Economic and Community Development to develop and implement a statewide Main Street program.

Mississippi Main Street Association (MMSA) was created to provide technical assistance to member towns, which focused on issues embraced by the Four Point Approach of Main Street - Organization, Promotion, Design and Economic Vitality – that are designed to match resources available in their communities.Currently, MMSA has 50 Main Street designated Communities, five Downtown Network Communities as well as numerous Association MembersAllied Members, and Friends of Main Street.

With this rapid growth, MMSA has expanded its resources and consulting services to meet the needs and demands of the many programs. Trainings, technical services, marketing and advocacy are top priorities for member programs. By utilizing MMSA’s expertise, resources and technical assistance, once badly deteriorating downtowns are becoming vibrant and viable, and are taking their rightful place as the heart, center and core of their communities."

Credit: Mississippi Main Street Website

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