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.
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.
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