Author Archive

The National Main Streets Conference: An Introduction

Posted on: March 3rd, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Greater Chicago provides abundant examples of historic preservation’s important place in the revitalization of urban downtowns and neighborhood business districts. (Photo: Linda Glisson)

Greater Chicago provides abundant examples of historic preservation’s important place in the revitalization of urban downtowns and neighborhood business districts. (Photo: David Urschel)

The National Main Street Conference is here! Part tent revival, part family reunion, part summit, the annual conference—organized by the National Trust Main Street Center since 1986—brings together the best and brightest experts and practitioners of commercial district revitalization from across the land.

The largest conference of its kind in the country, the event showcases the best practices, tools and great ideas to create vibrant places to live, work, and play. The majority of the 1,600+ conference attendees either work for the 1,200 Main Street organizations that dot the U.S. or for the coordinating programs that support them. The conference gives these attendees a once-a-year opportunity to convene with their colleagues from states near and far to celebrate their revitalization successes, to reflect on their challenges and to brainstorm together how to do even better.

The 2009 conference is already underway in Chicago, Illinois. This year’s theme, Becoming Main Street 2.0, focuses the spotlight on how Main Street organizations can harness new technology to advance the evolution of their older and historic downtowns and business districts. From Facebook to MySpace to Google Adwords, the conference examines how Main Street businesses and organizations can use these tools to communicate, conduct business and promote themselves.

Other topics for discussion at the conference are “Dude, What’s Up Downtown,” which attempts to attract Generation X and Y to Main Street; “Successful Farmer’s Markets from the Ground Up,” a how-to for starting and operating a local farmers’ market; “Modernism and Main Street” which explains the key role that buildings from the more recent past play on Main Street; and “Hispanic Leadership and Main Street,” one of several sessions that explores the diverse contributions that Hispanics and other ethnic groups make to a successful Main Street community.

A very visible piece of Andersonville’s unique charm is in its celebration of its Swedish heritage. (Photo: Linda Glisson)

A very visible piece of Andersonville’s unique charm is in its celebration of its Swedish heritage. (Photo: Linda Glisson)

In addition to more than 60 educational sessions, the National Main Streets Conference also gives attendees opportunities to take to the street to witness first-hand area revitalization efforts. "Selling Preservation in Chicago’s Latino Pilsen Neighborhood" explores the successes and challenges of language and cultural barriers in this Main Street commercial district; "Urban Renewal 50 Years Later: From Urban Main Street to Suburban Thruway. Now What?" takes a walk down Hyde Park’s 55th Street, a thoroughfare that has long struggled to redefine itself after Urban Renewal demolished much of its historic character. And "Chicago’s Andersonville Neighborhood: Local Sustainable Community Development", examines its unique economic development strategy, focusing on promotion and retention of locally owned businesses, architectural preservation, celebration of its Swedish heritage and modern diversity.

So as you can see the scope is vast and the subject matter fascinating. Stay tuned for more information about Monday's opening plenary session which explored Main Street’s position in these turbulent economic time—and I'm happy to say that there is plenty of good news!

- 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.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Celebrating Our Great Downtowns: 2009 Great American Main Street Award Winners

Posted on: March 2nd, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Something

Green Bay’s Broadway District has gone from seedy to sublime.

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.

Rehoboth’s installation of 24 fiberglass dolphins in its downtown has helped draw thousands of visitors and raised $85,000 at auction for main street revitalization.

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.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

A Fractured Fairytale of Preservation Parables and Possibilities

Posted on: February 25th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Earlier this month, an email popped into the inbox of individuals subscribed onto Forum-L, the email list for members of National Trust Forum, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s professional membership program. It’s the kind of topic that may seem like a simple question on the surface, but eight days and 28 messages later it proved to be a hot button discussion.

The question: Does an old addition gain significance if it is poorly designed?

The situation: A conversation between a neighborhood association and a local preservation commission regarding an 1890s structure with an addition dating back to the 1920s.

Our email list members presented many a solution—asking about context, significance, and what the intentions were for the home if it was not restored or rehabilitated. Some inquired if the structure and the addition contributed to a historic district, or if it was listed the National Register. Most, if not all emphasized the need to document the addition regardless of the decision.

A few days later, in response to the variety of responses, Forum member Dan Becker presented all of us on the list with “A Fractured Fairytale of Preservation Parables and Possibilities” — his take on the spirited discussion. It had "blog post" written all over it, so here it is:

Once Upon A Time, there was the 100 block of North Bloodworth Street in Oakwood. Echoes of an 1880s neighborhood of commodious frame domiciles were pressed into post-WWII rooming houses, later beset with societal ills where you would not want to be caught dead stroller-rolling your precious patrimony of precociosity, because you might find yourself dead.

The late 1960s design answer to such vexing virulence was of course a bisecting four-lane submerged Boston-style expressway squeezed between the flanking feeder streets with access ramps zooming up and down, bringing the downtown-saving automobile quickly and efficiently into a cavalcade of car parks flanking what remained of downtown after you demolished one-third of it to build the decks, ensuring that there was no there there when you got there.

... Read More →

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.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Help Give Away ONE MILLION Dollars!

Posted on: February 25th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

Vote for your favorite historic sites in Boston from April 14 - May 17, 2009.

The Boston skyline.

The Boston skyline.

American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation have just announced that Greater Boston has been selected as the next region for the community-based Partners in Preservation program. With your input, the program will give away $1 million in preservation grants in Greater Boston.

American Express, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and our Northeast Office have identified 25 historic places throughout Greater Boston that reflect the region’s rich and diverse cultural heritage. Those sites will be revealed on April 14 at www.PartnersinPreservation.com.

From April 14 - May 17, you  -- and everyone you know -- can cast votes at www.PartnersinPreservation.com for the places you would like to see receive preservation funding, and share your personal stories and photos of the 25 sites. Each person can vote once daily for any of the 25 historic places. The winner of the public vote is guaranteed to receive a grant, so your votes really do count!

The Greater Boston area is the fourth region to receive funding from American Express under the initiative. American Express has already given away $2.5 million in preservation grants to sites in the San Francisco Bay Area, Chicagoland and New Orleans.

-- Caroline Barker

Caroline Barker is a communications coordinator at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Wilderness Wal-Mart Update: “Battlefields can’t be moved. Big boxes can.”

Posted on: February 24th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 2 Comments

 

What’s at Risk?

Wilderness Battlefield is one of the nation’s most important Civil War battlefields. It is designated as a Priority 1, Class A battlefield by Congress’ blue-ribbon Civil War Sites Advisory Commission.

However, construction of Wal-Mart’s massive Superstore would irrevocably harm the battlefield and degrade the visitor’s experience of the National Park. It also would open the flood gates for large-scale commercial development of this highly significant historic landscape. And yet, Wal-Mart decision makers stubbornly refuse to acknowledge that Wilderness Battlefield matters to the American people.

To raise the alarm, the Vermont Legislature recently passed a joint resolution asking property owners and elected officials in Orange County, Virginia, to protect the historic battlefield. On February 19th, the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star published an editorial in response to the Vermont Legislature’s resolution which concludes:

“No one dismisses Orange County’s need for revenue or Wal-Mart’s right to grow. But must the store occupy historic ground? As the Vermont resolution says, ‘The story of the Battle of the Wilderness is one of valor for both armies that fought there.’ Now, will commerce recognize that and take a second seat? Battlefields can’t be moved. Big boxes can.”

Here is an update on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s advocacy to save Wilderness Battlefield:

  • The National Trust is communicating directly with Wal-Mart corporate executives to ask Wal-Mart to relocate its planned Superstore. The National Trust and the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition also are talking to adjacent landowners who are preparing to intensively develop their property.
  • The Wilderness Battlefield Coalition and National Trust have offered to pay for a land-use planning study that would balance preservation of this irreplaceable historic site with sustainable economic development. We hope that the Orange County Board of Supervisors will accept our offer of technical assistance.
  • The National Trust and the Coalition are mobilizing concerned Americans to help preserve Wilderness Battlefield, including 800 members of the National Trust who live in Orange County, Virginia.
    But Time is Running Out.

The Orange County Planning Board is likely to hold a public hearing in March or April, 2009 to evaluate Wal-Mart’s project. Then, the Orange County Board of Supervisors may vote on the Superstore in May or June, 2009.

More than 5,000 members and friends of the National Trust for Historic Preservation have taken action to save the historic Civil War battlefield.

Please sign the National Trust’s petition to protect historic Wilderness Battlefield.

– Robert Nieweg

Robert Nieweg is the Director of the Southern Field Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.