Celebrating 40 Years of Main Street America Successes

When Main Street America was established by the National Trust in 1980, it was intended to be a program that could help solve the common problems shared by older and historic downtowns scattered across the country. Forty years later, Main Street America has proven to be nothing less than a resounding success. More than 1,600 organizations and individuals, based in rural and urban areas alike, now form the Main Street America network. Combined, they have created more than 600,000 new jobs and helped rehabilitate nearly 300,000 historic buildings.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought on unparalleled new challenges to every local community in the United States. But even in times of hardship, Main Street America and the National Trust remain committed to the mission that prompted the program’s creation, and confident that it will endure moving forward. To commemorate 40 years of tireless work, here are five success stories that demonstrate the change-making power of Main Streets.

  1. Photo By: Hammond Downtown Development District

    Hammond, Louisiana

    Launched in 1984 and taking up 74 square blocks, Hammond Downtown Development District is the longest-running Main Street America program. Over its 35-year history, Hammond Downtown Development District has spurred tremendous economic growth downtown and reduced its vacancy rate by over 87 percent. Located only 45 miles from Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Hammond, Louisiana, has become a food and entertainment hub that rivals its neighbors.

  2. Photo By: Kendall Whittier Main Street

    Tulsa, Oklahoma

    In just eight years, Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Kendall Whittier District has transformed from an area of decades-long blight into a thriving urban neighborhood. What was once home to the city’s first suburban shopping center is now teeming with distinctive, locally owned businesses, ranging from breweries and coffee shops, to art galleries and food trucks.

  3. Photo By: Ben Muldrow

    Wheeling, West Virginia

    Located along the Ohio River, Wheeling, West Virginia, experienced significant disinvestment in the 1980s and '90s as retailers went to suburban shopping malls resulting in losses to major local industries. When Wheeling’s Main Street program launched in 2015, their downtown’s vacancy rate stood at 32 percent. Now, after generating nearly $50 million in total investment downtown, the vacancy rate has decreased to 15 percent, and 124 buildings have seen improvements.

  4. Photo By: Naim Hasan Photography

    Portland, Oregon

    Known as a vibrant working-class and commercial district in the 1950s, Alberta Main Street in Portland, Oregon, suffered from decades of disinvestment and exclusionary lending practices. Community development efforts began in the 1990s, and Alberta Main Street formed in 2010 to continue the momentum while working to preserve the diverse and creative culture of the community. Forty-four new businesses have started since 2010 and job opportunities have nearly doubled—from 696 in 2010 to 1,375 in 2018.

  5. Photo By: Boyne City Main Street

    Boyne City, Michigan

    Boyne City, Michigan, has harnessed the Main Street Approach to bring renewed vitality downtown. By activating its waterfront and boosting recreation opportunities, Boyne City has become a tourist destination. But it hasn’t forgotten about its residents. Several workforce housing initiatives are underway, and a newly constructed pavilion in the core of downtown hosts year-round community events and a farmers market. Since the Main Street program began in 2003, they’ve built up a strong volunteer base, logging more than 54,150 volunteer hours in a town of just 3,750.

Note: As part of their own commemoration of their 40th anniversary, Main Street America is launching Main Street Forward. Building on Main Street’s history of cultivating a strategic and comprehensive approach to problem solving through innovative and entrepreneurial thinking, Main Street Forward features a wide range of free resources for Main Street leaders.

With the support of people like you, we’re showing that preservation and progress aren’t just compatible, but integral to building stronger communities.

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