March 30, 2015

Introducing the 2015 Great American Main Street Awards Winners

  • By: Jamesha Gibson

Downtown Cape Girardeau served as a finish line for part of the 2013 Great Race. The town’s welcome party for the racers earned it the Great Race's Hospitality award for 2013.

Today, the National Main Street Center is excited to announce the 2015 Great American Main Street Awards®(GAMSA) winners. The GAMSA is the nation’s premier accolade for downtown revitalization achievement, where recipients are recognized for their achievement in utilizing the National Main Street Center’s Four-Point Approach and collaborating with the public and private sector to make their Main Streets an exciting place to live, work and play. The GAMSA winners were announced today at the 2015 National Main Streets Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.

And now, without further ado, the winners are:

Cape Girardeau, Missouri

If you cruise down the street in downtown Cape Girardeau, you may get a sense of déjà vu. That’s because it was the setting for the town of “North Carthage” in the psychological thriller “Gone Girl.” But the town is recognized for more than its cinematic presence. Thanks to Old Town Cape, Inc., the nonprofit organization that works to revitalize downtown Cape Girardeau, and community members, the town has flourished economically and culturally.

Old Town Cape, Inc. has collaborated with government, university, and business partners to establish a creative corridor downtown. This corridor supports creative and entrepreneurial activity by establishing a Community Improvement District, hosting quarterly meetings for business and property owners -- which include networking, training, and information gathering -- and hosting Commercial Open houses.

The corridor initiative has resulted in 27 new businesses and 58 new jobs between July 2013 and June 2014. It has also initiated historic rehabilitation projects that have created housing, co-working, and performance arts space in downtown Cape Girardeau.

Montclair, New Jersey

Downtown Montclair, New Jersey, also known as Montclair Center, is the place “Where the Suburb Meets the City.” This is where classy and edgy, industrial and elegant, business and pleasure meet. The fusions are the result of a transformation initiated in 2002. That year, the Montclair Business Improvement District (BID) was established by merchants and property owners. Since then, the BID has worked to make Montclair Center a vibrant and thriving business and residential district.

Despite competition from New York City and over 70 municipalities within 10 miles of the district, Montclair Center was named “A Great Downtown” and “New Jersey’s Favorite Downtown Arts District” in 2013. The BID has been instrumental in Montclair Center’s revitalization and achievements. Since its founding, building vacancies in Montclair have gone down from 50% to 12% with 96 retail shops, 82 restaurants, 149 service business, and 118 offices settled in the former vacancies.

The BID was able to effectively attract and retain creative businesses without any incentive programs or tax dollars. Today, Montclair Center has become a walkable, close-knit community that offers several housing options which attracts both Millennials and retirees.

Rawlins, Wyoming

Rawlins is no longer a sleepy little town. Today, its local businesses, entertainment, and Western heritage appeals to tourists and residents alike. In 1991, the Rawlins Downtown Development Authority (DDA) was established, with a mission to improve the quality of life for the Rawlins community by promoting a sustainable and vibrant historic downtown.

Using the National Trust Main Street program’s methodology, the DDA has brought vacancies down from 45% to fewer than 10%. The DDA has also established the Rainbow Te-ton Entrepreneur Center (RTEC), which helps to found and expand businesses in the community.

Though the DDA is a leading force in the revitalization of downtown Rawlins, the most powerful is the community support. The town has a volunteer base of over 110 people who dedicated over 7,000 hours in 2013, and one downtown store in particular -- The Merc -- is owned by the community.

Jamesha Gibson is an Editorial Intern at the National Trust. She is passionate about using historic preservation as an avenue for underrepresented communities to share their unique stories. Jamesha also enjoys learning about other cultures through reading, art, language, dancing, and especially cuisine.

From coast to coast, fascinating historic places are waiting for you to visit and explore.

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