Have you ever wondered what an Atlantic beach town has to offer in February? Or maybe pondered what lies beyond Baltimore’s Inner Harbor? Have you ever wished for an alternative to Napa Valley that isn't quite so crowded? If so, you're in luck. The 2009 Great American Main Street Awards introduce us to five communities that answer those questions and a whole lot more.
Each year since 1995, the National Trust Main Street Center has recognized five historic and older downtowns and neighborhood business districts that are truly the commercial and cultural hearts of their communities. These are also places that offer tourists refreshing and authentic experiences.
In 2009, we celebrate El Dorado, Arkansas; Rehoboth Beach, Delaware; Broadway in Green Bay, Wisconsin; Federal Hill in Baltimore, Maryland; and Livermore, California. Led by local Main Street organizations, these downtown revitalization efforts have brought jobs to their communities, filled streets with festival-goers, lined sidewalks with attractive landscaping and lighting, and helped so many business owners meet their markets and thrive.
How did they do it? The challenges and opportunities presented by each downtown are as unique as their spot on the map. However, the common denominator is a commitment to a strategy that incorporates local assets, including cultural and architectural heritage, hometown businesses and community pride. This strategy is known as the Main Street Four-Point Approach®. Devised by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in the 1970s, the approach was crafted in response to a citizen movement that clamored for a stop to the decay and destruction of our nation's beloved downtowns. It consists of a comprehensive methodology for revitalization that is fueled by residents, business owners, civic leaders, elected officials, corporations and foundations.
Since its inception more than 25 years ago, this approach has guided the successful revitalization of more than 2,300 communities nationwide with staggering results. And the annual Great American Main Street Awards celebrate the best of the best. We invite you to take a walk down the great Main Streets of this year's five winners to see for yourself what makes them so special.
- Erica Stewart
Erica Stewart is the outreach coordinator for the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Community Revitalization Program. Stay tuned here and on their official blog as Erica and her colleagues share posts live from the 2009 National Main Streets Conference, which is taking place this week in Chicago.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.