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Main Street + Preservation: Daily Debrief from Des Moines, Day 3

Posted on: May 25th, 2011 by Julia Rocchi


You've heard that Main Streets are the future. You've heard the call to grown your entrepreneurial spirit. And today -- the last day of the 2011 National Main Streets Conference -- you'll hear how Main Street can influence and contribute to the preservation movement.

National Trust President Stephanie Meeks delivered the closing plenary, and her theme was how Main Street can help achieve the "dynamic, visible, broadly inclusive movement" we envision. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Last year the Trust recognized Main Street Iowa’s leadership with an Honor Award, and we’re so pleased to be here in Des Moines to help you celebrate your 25th anniversary and mark the remarkable achievement of $1 billion in private investment raised.
  • We’re tremendously grateful for all you’ve done to support this event, especially the record number of in-kind contributions you’ve raised. Your success is a testament to the credibility and partnerships you’ve developed in the state over the past 25 years.
  • As Main Street leaders, all of you are ambassadors for preservation in your local communities, doing the work day in and day out that it takes to build a preservation ethic and create a network of local activists who understand the connection between preservation and economic development.
  • So our first challenge is to make preservation more accessible to people—to build an even broader grassroots movement ... we’ve learned is that one group in particular, the local activists, are of central importance in our efforts to build the movement.
  • It is one of my goals in this job to shift the perception of preservation, to make people inside and outside the field think of us as the ‘movement of yes’ rather than no. My hope is that the Trust’s work on this at the national level will support your efforts at the local level, so that it’s easier for you to make the case in your communities.
  • The Trust is working in partnership with preservationists and advocates at the state level to defend important preservation funding sources, including Main Street programs.
  • Main Street programs offer some of the most compelling proof that preservation works as a tool for economic development—and a very efficient, cost-effective one at that.

Watch the full video of the Closing Plenary here:

Webcam chat at Ustream

General Session

The second General Session focused on "Overcoming Challenges to Growing Your Community." Watch the video for terrific advice from veteran Main Street managers Jeanine Rann, Cristina Sheppard-Decius, and Doris Tillman.

Video streaming by Ustream

Education Sessions

There was just one education session slot today, but a lot of interesting options. Here's what we covered:

  • "What Makes That Building Special? Learning How to 'Read' the Buildings Along Main Street." Presenter: Molly Myers Naumann, architectural historian. (on @PresConf)
  • "Cheap Rent Isn't Always Cheap: Thinking Like a Downtown Property Owner." Presenter: Diane Williams, Business Districts, Inc. (on @estewartdc)
  • "Pop-Ups: Would They Fit On Your Main Street?" Presenter: Kennedy Smith, Community Land Use and Economics Group. (on @NatlMainStreet)

Our Favorite Tweets

Today's tweets almost all quote from Main Street managers, who have a lot of advice and encouragement for their counterparts around the country. Thank you to everyone who tweeted their notes and feedback throughout the conference!

  • @PresConf Tillman: Want to shock your community? Put in a roundabout.
  • @PresConf Tillman: Raising money is like going for a colonoscopy. Who really enjoys it?
  • @PresConf Audience member: When I don't believe in myself, I believe in this program.
  • @NatlMainStreet Sheppard: Dont ever be afraid to ask someone in the [Main Street] network how to do something. Someone has already done it somewhere.

Aaaand ... that's it. Conference is over, and we're on our way home. Please join us next year in Baltimore to celebrate your community and learn from the network!

Julia Rocchi is representing the National Trust's Digital + New Media team at the 2011 National Main Streets Conference.  She has eaten more pie in the last three days that she consumed in the entire year previously.

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.

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi is the director of digital content at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and walks around looking up at buildings.


Through all the hallway conversations, session picking, bookstore browsing, and downtown excursions, one thing has become abundantly clear: This group is committed to making their Main Streets the best they can be. Enjoy today's photos, videos, and quotes that show Main Streeters at their brightest and busiest.

Look, Photos!

Main Street staffer Linda Glisson and other Des Moines attendees have been working overtime to document all the beauty, color, and diversity of the local community. Live vicariously through this Flickr slideshow featuring all of our shutterbugs' excellent work.

General Session

This morning's General Session discussed "A Four Point Approach to Economic Development," asking its panel of four to reexamine if all four committees are indeed working together. The big question: The approach has long been billed as preservation-based economic development, but has it lived up to that?

The panelists and audience had a lively discussion about the challenges, opportunities, and overall pros/cons about shared development responsibility. Watch the session for the full experience.

Video streaming by Ustream


Once again, the conference social media team split up among the sessions to bring you the highlights. You can read notes on our respective Twitter feeds below, or -- if you're an in-person attendee -- check out Pathable for session notes and handouts.

An audience member asks a question.handouts.

  • "Adventures in Culinary Tourism: Exploring Iowa's Place-Based Foods and Cultures." Presenter: Rachelle Saltzman, Ph.D., Iowa Arts Council. (on @PresConf)
  • "Using Economic Gardening and Asset Quilting to Turn Your Main Street into a Power Place." Presenters: Ed Malloy, City of Fairfield; Burt Chojinowski, BrainBelt Consulting. (on @MainStreetsConf)
  • "La Conversacion: Engaging Latinos and Hispanics on Main Street." Presenter: Tanya Bowers, National Trust; Norma Ramirez de Miess, National Trust. (Session 1 on @PresConf, Session 2 on @MainStreetsConf)
  • "Historic Tax Credits on Main: Structuring Tax Act Deals to Maximize Impact on Commercial Districts." Presenters: Andrew Potts, Nixon Peabody LLP; JP Hall, Indiana Landmarks Foundation; David A. Kroll, AIA, Ratio Architects. (on @estewartdc)
  • "Developing Better Entrepreneurs: Micro-enterprise and Downtowns." Presenters: Jeff Sadler, Virginia Dept. of Housing and Community Development; Doug Jackson, Virginia Main Street.  (on @NatlMainStreet)
  • "Making Social Media Work for Your Organization." Presenter: Robyne Beaubien, CMSM, Promotions Program Associate, New Mexico MainStreet. (on @PresConf)
  • "Greening Your Downtown Plans and Guidelines." Presenters: Nore Winter, Mary Phillips, Winter & Company; Laura Carstens, City of Dubuque, Planning Services Department. (on @NatlMainStreet)

We encourage conference attendees to leave their handles in the comments and direct folks to notes/comments you took at your favorite sessions. (For example, Maureen Pedersen did a great job covering Bob Yapp's session on "Keeping Original Windows for Better Energy Efficiency.")

Our Favorite Tweets

And remember, you can follow along by tracking the hashtag #msconf.

The Last Word

Don't yet believe the Main Streets Conference is worth the trip? Enthusiastic attendee Jim Duffy begs to differ:


Julia Rocchi is representing the National Trust's Digital + New Media team at the National Main Streets Conference in Iowa. She would like to submit that pie become the fifth point of the Main Street Approach.

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.

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi is the director of digital content at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and walks around looking up at buildings.


"The future belongs to Main Streets. Let's get ready for it."

Edward McMahon of Urban Land Institute delivered this rousing call to arms to the 1200+ crowd of devoted Main Streeters at this morning's Opening Plenary, and the day kept going up from there. Here are some of the preservation-related highlights and hits from this productive first day.

Opening Plenary

Live video by Ustream

According to Ed McMahon, strip centers and urban sprawl are becoming "retail for the last century." Shifting demographics, evolving technology, economic pressures, and new social mores are leading to greater focus on mixed-use development, city centers, and -- of course -- Main Streets.

McMahon shared a number of interesting concepts during his presentation. Some of my favorite quotes-slash-"new phrases to trot out at preservation dinner parties" include:

  • We're at a bright line moment in history. The sustainability revolution is the new industrial revolution.
  • Historic preservation & Main Street are at the heart of sustainability.
  • Sense of place makes our physical surroundings worth caring about.
  • The biggest development opportunity of the next 50 years will be converting dead strip commercial centers into walkable mixed use centers.
  • The 'placemaking dividend' is about creating a place where people want to stay, spend money, and come back.

Watch the full plenary recording and enjoy McMahon's energetic and hopeful outlook for the next era of placemaking.

Main Street flair in downtown Des Moines.

2011 State of Main Street Report

Main Street director Doug Loescher shared the the six key takeaways from the 2011 State of Main Street Report. Read Andrea Dono's overview, or check out the high-level synopsis:

  1. Main St. communities are holding steady. Despite lower investment, they enjoy good economic health.
  2. Mom & pop shops are still struggling. Business development helps bottom lines, but not necessarily job growth.
  3. A lot of the entrepreneurs are from out of town (and even pop up overnight).
  4. Think "Hot Green." Sustainability/smart growth/green issues continue to mature.
  5. Government funding changes/cuts are affecting Main Streets all around the country.
  6. The public has a growing interest in the Main Street cause, in large part due to higher visibility in news & communities.

2011 Great American Main Street Awards

Congratulations to our five Great American Main Street Award winners for 2011! Read Erica Stewart's introduction of the winning communities and their terrific work.

Session Notes

Stephanie Redman discusses Main Street PR at her afternoon session.

The conference social media brigade covered several sessions today. We won't repeat all our live tweets here, but we encourage you to check them out on our respective feeds. To wit:

  • "Grow Your Support by Telling Main Street's Story." Presenter: Stephanie Redman, ReSurge. (on @presconf)
  • "Public Participation That Does Your Project Good." Presenter: Della Rucker, AICP, CEcD, Wise Economy Workshop. (on @MainStreetsConf)
  • "Understanding Downtown Consumer Spending in the 'New Normal.'" Presenter: Tom Moriarty, The Eisen Group. (on @presconf)
  • "From Zero to Hero: A Main Street Manager's Story." Presenter: Kristina Trevarrow, Rochester Downtown Development Authority, Rochester, Mich. (on @MainStreetsConf)
  • Tour of Historic East Village. (field reports from Trust staffer @estewartdc)

If you're a Main Street in-person attendee who tweeted your session, please share your handle in the comments so others can take advantage of your diligence and brilliance!

Top Tweets & Posts

We enjoyed lively participation from the social media-verse, with a VIP mention going to Main Street staffer (and first-time tweeter @tomasmramirez) Tomas Ramirez for his excellent Exhibit Hall coverage.

Here's a sampling of our favorite comments:

@PresConf: McMahon: Tear up parking lots, rebuild paradise. Turn NIMBYs into YIMBYs. A parking lot is a terrible thing to waste.

@natalieburg: Wow. The fact that there are now 400 vacant Wal-Mart stores in the US just got a hilariously large uproar of applause.

@DSP_PresNation: Recommended reading: The Great Reset. It answers how the crash will reshape America. // by Richard Florida (Fun aside: Richard Florida himself retweeted and said thanks for this one!)

The Michigan delegation struts its stuff with "cow"-boy hats and cowbells.

@LaFeinman: 88% of young adults would choose neighborhood over size of house. "That's revolutionary" #edmcmahon

Robin Wasielewski Brekke:  As a past attendee of several NMSCs, it's been great to join virtually when I couldn't be there in person. It's nice seeing familiar faces and keeping up with conference/event happenings.

Closing Thought ...

Valecia Crisafulli, the National Trust's Senior Director of Partnerships, put it this way at the plenary: "They don't tell you in the brochure how addictive this conference is!" And now I see why.

Main Street attendees have tremendous energy and enthusiasm. They personify team spirit with their sincere support for other programs and the movement as a whole. I feel privileged to help deliver this spirit out over the interwebz, and hope you can all come experience it in person one day!

Julia Rocchi is representing the National Trust's Digital + New Media Team at the Main Streets Conference. She is grateful to Tweetchat for supplying hashtags and to Iowa for supplying pie.

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.

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi is the director of digital content at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and walks around looking up at buildings.

Austin In One Word

Posted on: November 24th, 2010 by Julia Rocchi


Home. Comfortable. Outside. "Mom." Confused.

These are just a few of the terms Austinites picked to capture their hometown when we put them on the spot during Austin Unscripted interviews and asked, "If you could describe Austin in one word, what would it be?"

Some people had their word right away. Others pondered it for a few minutes. Still more couldn't pick just one. But they were all able to pinpoint what they loved about their city -- and the responses were as varied as the people themselves (if you don't count 'eclectic').

See for yourself!

What's your one word for Austin?

Full Austin Unscripted videos now available! Check out the incredible stories on the PreservationNation YouTube channel.

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.

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi is the director of digital content at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and walks around looking up at buildings.

Go Behind The Scenes With Austin Unscripted

Posted on: November 4th, 2010 by Julia Rocchi


Jason, Caroline, and I (Julia) made it back alive from Austin Unscripted. Sick. Exhausted. Taco-deprived. But definitely alive.

We can't believe it was only two weeks ago today that we arrived in Austin armed with handheld cameras, a roll of duct tape, and a dream no clue how it was all going to turn out. Well, now we know: 95 interviews, 13 stops, and 2 pounds of guacamole later, we've learned that most Austinites are preservationists -- some intentional, others accidental -- and all of them love their city.

But in the immortal words of "Reading Rainbow," you don't have to take my word for it. Watch the interviews for yourself and see what folks in Austin said about their home.

Also, you'll notice we don't have 95 interviews posted yet. That's because we on the Austin Unscripted team -- now that we've moved past our colds and food cart withdrawal -- are still banging out the finished versions. Keep an eye on the PreservationNation YouTube channel to see the complete batch over the next week or so.

In the meantime, come behind-the-scenes with the Austin Unscripted team for some of our favorite moments. (You can watch the full slideshow here.) If you ever wanted to know what extreme weather patterns we faced, or why we sounded so giggly in our tweets, or how in the world we could put away so much food, well ... here are your answers.

The back of our rental car. It was like the Jenga of equipment transport. Next year we're hoping the Container Store will sponsor us for more efficient carrying cases ... hint hint ...

Who said responsible, wage-earning adults can't indulge in the occasional toy store visitation? We worked out our nervous energy pre-meetup #1 at Toy Joy, an awesome shop that dazzled us with all its colors and games. Jason snapped this shot right after our 'funny sunglasses modeling session.'

We love publicity. We also love highlighters. And when the two combined at Wheatsville Co-op? Priceless.

One of many interviews over the course of the weekend. This terrific chat happened outside the historic Victory Grill in Austin's East End. If you've never stopped by, by all means go! You'll feast your eyes on the murals outside and commune with Janis Joplin's spirit inside.

The life of an Austin Unscripted team member wasn't all fun and games, you know. We also had to do things like organize release forms, check audio levels, and keep equipment dry in the midst of freak rainstorms at the Austin Farmers' Market.

Can you believe this photo was taken the same day at the previous one? Obviously, the sun came out once we reached the Hey Cupcake and Frigid Frog food truck lot in South Congress. Because if there's one thing that will bring sunshine to your life, it's sugar.

Just looking at this picture of Caroline's lunch makes me hungry. Torchy's Tacos is where we may or may not have consumed two pounds of guacamole while talking to friendly folks from around town. Also, Jessica Alba reportedly showed up there too that day. Sadly, our paths did not cross. I would love to know if she considers herself a preservationist.

There's more where these came from! Check out our complete behind-the-scenes set on Flickr.

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.

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi is the director of digital content at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and walks around looking up at buildings.

How We Spent Our Summer Vacations

Posted on: September 2nd, 2010 by Julia Rocchi 1 Comment


For National Trust staffers, summer means playtime -- a chance to visit all the historic places we love studying and sharing. What follows is a sample of our colleagues' adventures. But it's not all about us -- please share your travels in the comments!

Citizenship Ceremony at Mt. Vernon

Charlotte's husband poses with George and Martha Washington at his swearing-in ceremony at Mt. Vernon.

Charlotte Bonini, Senior Education Planner

July 4th, 2010 – it was a glorious day! My husband Driss became an American citizen on July 4th at Mt. Vernon. Yes, that’s right, Mt. Vernon!

Driss has been in the US for 12 years. Becoming a citizen was always something that he talked about doing and that day was finally here. Even with temperatures soaring toward 100, I still had goose bumps.

One hundred and one new citizens were to be sworn in; Driss was #100. Families, friends, and regular visitors to Mt. Vernon were there to witness our little piece of history. George Washington spoke, and we were led in the Pledge of Allegiance by a Marine who’d served in Iraq and was also being sworn in as a new citizen. Finally they all took their oath -- 101 of our newest citizens from the four corners of the Earth.

It was official. Driss had realized his dream of becoming a citizen. I can't say it enough -- it was truly a glorious day, exciting, thrilling, and downright moving. We have always enjoyed and celebrated the 4th of July; now we will do it as a proud American family.

David Brown, Executive Vice President

On this year's vacation/college tour with my kids, I paid my first visit to the Vassar campus. I must admit I’m a sucker for great libraries and the Thompson Memorial Library there didn’t disappoint.  The outside is fine early 20th century Gothic, but the inside is terrific.  I could study here all day!  As a friend of mine said, these really are cathedrals for learning.

Erica Stewart, Outreach Coordinator, Community Revitalization

Diamond Cove

The author visited the abandoned fort in the early '80s -- a preservationist in the making!

This summer I had the opportunity to return to a place I hadn’t been in almost 30 years but, as a favorite childhood destination, I had re-visited many times in my mind and in pictures.

When I was a young girl living in Maine, my grandparents would take me sailing along the coast and islands. If the winds and seas were favorable, they would give in to my pleadings to visit Great Diamond, a largely uninhabited Casco Bay island near Portland. We would quietly slip into a deserted cove, beach our rowboat on the shore, and then wander among the ruins of Fort McKinley.

Built at the turn of the century, the fort guarded Portland Harbor during the Spanish-American War and through World War II. During that time as many as 1,000 soldiers lived among its brick barracks and Queen Anne-style officers’ quarters which framed a grassy parade ground. Before that, the island was an artist retreat and vacation colony, attracting the likes of Harriet Beecher Stowe and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

The fort was abandoned in 1945 and was totally deserted when we visited in the early 80s—the grounds overgrown and its artillery eerily silent.  My seven year-old imagination found the remains peaceful, mysterious, and a little bit scary.

Diamond Cove (restored)

The author returned to the island to see the graceful restoration of Diamond Cove, nearly 30 years later.

After forty years of vacancy, a private developer stepped in and restored the barracks and officers’ quarters into Diamond Cove, a community of condos and townhouses marked by original slate roofs, wooden porches, grand staircases, and fireplaces. The former Quartermaster's storehouse is now a high-end restaurant, the wagon shed is an art gallery, and the PX houses are a restored duckpin bowling alley, exercise room, and gymnasium.

Greater Portland Landmarks gave me the opportunity to visit the island on a daylong home and garden tour, where I could see firsthand the tasteful revival of this private community. The island is just as serene as I remembered, but any scariness I once felt as has been replaced by another feeling: envy.

James Schwartz, Editor-in-Chief, Preservation

We were visiting friends in New Hampshire earlier this year, and drove a few miles north of Concord to see Canterbury Shaker Village -- a remarkable historic site that can turn anyone into an instant admirer of Shaker architecture. Hundreds of Shakers (members of the religious group formally known as the United Society of Believers) lived here in the 19th century, and the buildings and gardens they left behind exemplify elegance and simplicity.

Walking around the 1792 meeting house, with its gambrel roof and 12-over-12 windows, reminded me that beautiful architecture has the capacity to inspire—even centuries after it was conceived. Next on my list? Two other U.S. Shaker villages:  Sabbathday Lake in Maine and Pleasant Hill in Kentucky.  I can’t wait.

Sarah Heffern, Content Manager

Having blown through a large portion of my travel budget for 2010 before the end of January, the theme of my summer was staycation. I vowed to myself that I’d find a way to be touristy even if I wasn’t traveling, and as part of that goal I decided to finally visit Mount Vernon.

Yes… I’m a life-long history geek who has lived in Washington, D.C. a dozen years and worked at the National Trust for more than a decade, but I had never gotten around to visiting the George Washington’s home, which is also mothership of the American historic preservation movement. It was a gaping – and embarrassing – hole in my preservationist street cred.

Ann Pamela Cunningham exhibit at Mt. Vernon

This Mt. Vernon exhibit features Ann Pamela Cunningham, the mother of the preservation movement in the U.S.

Though I don’t what on earth took me so long, I have to say that visiting toward the end of August turned out to be a great choice, as it wasn’t crowded and I could wander around at a leisurely pace taking pictures without being in anyone’s way.

And though I know the site is the home of the father of our country, I kept my eyes peeled the whole time looking for signs of the mother of our movement, Ann Pamela Cunningham, who was responsible for saving the site more than a century ago.

At last I found her – and the preservation story of Mount Vernon – on the way out of the museum, just before I left. Had there been a statue of her, I would have posed with it.


If we've inspired you to travel over Labor Day for one last summer hurrah, check out Gozaic for last-minute ideas on Labor Day festivities and events:

Summer's Last Gasp: Labor Day Events at Gozaic (Part 1)

More Ideas for Labor Day Events and Activities! (Part 2)

Have stories from your own summer travels? Please share them with us!

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.

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi is the director of digital content at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and walks around looking up at buildings.