Written by Erica Stewart
Here’s our second installation of Main Street Monday, a monthly round-up of news stories that celebrate America’s historic downtowns and neighborhoods business districts and those people who strive to make them vibrant centers of community life.
With spring weather finally, fitfully unfolding in many parts of the country, this recent story by CNBC on towns that are worthy road trip destinations had me daydreaming. Paducah, Kentucky, Lititz, Pennsylvania and San Angelo, Texas are among those CNBC affectionately named “Time Warp Towns”. According to a local news story out of Paducah about the moniker, Time Warp Towns are “…downtowns populated with former Woolworths-turned-antique-booth malls, neon signs for Rheingold or Schaeffer, gingerbread detailing, town squares, monuments, cobblestones, and/or apple pie!” Fans of Paducah and San Angelo must really be tickled, as this recognition comes on the heels of making the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2011 Dozen Distinctive Destination list.
Whether you’re fond of his films or not, there’s no debating Michael Moore’s devotion to Michigan’s historic downtown theatres. In 2007, Moore jumpstarted a volunteer-driven rehabilitation of the State Theatre in Traverse City that has won rave reviews—both for the top-notch restoration (in just six weeks!) and its tremendous downtown revitalization impact. Mr. Moore recently announced his next act will be the abandoned Vogue Theatre in Manistee, Michigan. He spoke in front of an enthusiastic crowd (especially considering the 10-degree weather) in Manistee to kick start the ambitious rehabilitation plan with his own $10,000 donation and a rousing call to action. The Downtown Development Authority has purchased the theatre, the development team is being assembled, and citizens are donating time and money to support the $1 million rehab. With that, the stage is set for a stunning transformation that puts a 73-year old theatre in the starring role of the community’s revitalization.
Our third story, to be filed under the Main Street® Really Works category, comes from Laramie, Wyoming where a regional CBS affiliate reports this community of 27,000 near the Colorado border is bucking the trend. At a time when our nation’s economic news is more bad than good, the Laramie Main Street program is driving investment downtown, drawing in new businesses, and helping existing ones grow and expand. Laramie has 300 businesses in the downtown district. Ten new ones opened in the last year, four in the last month. Business owners cite the district’s attractive, historic buildings, walkability, and the free marketing and promotion services offered by the nonprofit Laramie Main Street as strong selling points. Executive Director Trey Sherwood is working hard to keep the good news coming, interviewing potential businesses to fill the few vacancies downtown, and brainstorming with existing ones to keep cash registers ringing. Sounds like this “gem city of the plains”, a Preserve America community, deserves a place on summer road trip itineraries as well!
Erica Stewart is the outreach coordinator for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Communications and Marketing department.