Main Street Four-Point Approach
Main Street is a comprehensive, community-driven, and proven approach to revitalizing historic downtowns and commercial areas – the traditional centres of business and cultural life in communities. These areas feature businesses, buildings, people and events that underpin a community’s aspirations and values and make it a unique place to live, work and play. Conserving and capitalizing on the unique assets and strengths of communities promotes pride, improves quality of life and helps ensure that these areas continue to serve as vibrant hubs of commercial and cultural activity.
The Main Street Four-Point Approach is based on four cornerstones of activity that are implemented in a coordinated and integrated manner:
- Community Organization focuses on bringing community residents, merchants and other Main Street stakeholders together to work towards a common goal. This involves establishing a volunteer governing board and standing committees both supported by a paid program coordinator.
- Economic Restructuring means strengthening the existing economic base while developing ways to diversify and expand the local economy by introducing new compatible businesses and building uses. Key to the Main Street Approach is working with other economic development organizations to recruit new businesses to support, nurture and retain existing business owners and to develop initiatives and programs that respond to current and future consumer needs.
- Design/Heritage Conservation involves creating an inviting, pedestrian-oriented downtown for people to shop, work and play. This is achieved through physical improvements and installations such as lighting, landscaping, sidewalks and displays that create a positive and attractive image of the commercial district. Central to this approach is rehabilitating historic buildings and encouraging new construction that is sensitive to the area’s heritage character.
- Promotion involves creating awareness of Main Street assets through a combination of special events, business-enhancement promotions and marketing initiatives. The goal is to create and enhance the perception of the commercial district as a hub of commercial and cultural activity and as a viable place for consumer and business investment.
Main Street Guiding Principles
(adapted from National Trust for Historic Preservation)
The Main Street Approach follows eight guiding principles:
- Comprehensive: Individual improvements, name-brand business recruitment or promotional events will not revitalize Main Street by themselves. An integrated, comprehensive approach involving each of the four cornerstones mentioned above is essential for successful, sustainable and long-term revitalization.
- Incremental: That “Rome was not built in a day” rings true for Main Street programs. Successful revitalization begins with basic, simple activities that show “new things are happening” on Main Street. As public confidence in the downtown grows, and participants’ understanding of the revitalization process develops, the community can tackle increasingly-complex projects. Incremental change leads to longer-lasting, positive change.
- Self-help: Successfully injecting new life into Main Street requires community involvement and commitment. Local leaders are in the best position to mobilize local resources and talent, foster pride and convince business owners of the rewards of investing in Main Street.
- Partnerships: The public and private sectors must work together to achieve the common goals of Main Street revitalization. Each has a vital interest and role to play and each must understand the other’s strengths and limitations to forge an effective partnership.
- Identify and Capitalizing on Existing Assets: Business districts must capitalize on the assets that make them unique. Every district has distinctive buildings and cultural facilities that give people a sense of belonging; these are central to any successful revitalization effort.
- Quality: Quality should be the focus of every aspect of a revitalization program, from storefront designs to promotional campaigns to educational programs. Shoestring budgets and “cut and paste” efforts will only reinforce a negative image of Main Street.
- Change: Engage in better business practices, alter ways of thinking and improve the area’s physical appearance. Main Street programs turn skeptics into believers and will turn attitudes around, though perhaps slowly at first. Public perceptions and support for change will build as Main Street programs grow and meet goals.
- Implementation: To succeed, Main Street must show visible results in the completion of projects. Frequent, visible changes are a reminder that the revitalization effort is successfully under way, creates confidence in the Main Street program and encourages ever-greater participation.
Excerpt from Main Street Saskatchewan Website