Chapter 2: How Main Street Gets Results


Main Street Four-Point Approach®

  1. Organization builds consensus between the many vested stakeholders throughout a Main Street District and town to ensure everyone is mobilized and working toward a shared vision for the future of the district. Program structure can take many forms depending on community capacity.
    • A governing board, volunteers, and specific project committees for a 
    • volunteer-driven program.
    • A  Main Street Manager supports and coordinates volunteers, dividing the workload and delineating responsibilities, which builds consensus and cooperation among stakeholders.
    • A declared vision and mission guides regular strategic plans and annual work plans.
  2. Promotion sells a positive image of the commercial district and encourages consumers and investors to live, work, shop, play, and invest in the Main Street district. 
    • Market unique characteristics (through advertising, media relations, retail promotional activity, special events and marketing campaigns) with an effective promotional strategy forges a positive image. 
    • Improve consumer confidence and encourage commercial activity and investment by identifying and appealing to market niches. 
  3. Design puts Main Street into top physical shape. 
    • Capitalize on assets — such as historic buildings and pedestrian-oriented streets. 
    • Create an inviting atmosphere (attractive window displays, well-managed parking areas, wayfinding signage, building improvements, street furniture, signs, sidewalks, lights and landscaping).
    • Instill good maintenance practices. 
    • Enhance the physical appearance by rehabilitating historic buildings, encouraging appropriate new construction, developing sensible design management systems, and long-term planning.
  4. Economic Vitality strengthens a community’s existing economic assets while expanding and diversifying its economic base to create jobs and to respond to today’s consumers’ needs, and to boost the profitability and sales tax revenue of the district. Economic vitality focuses on current market data, trends, and economic forecasts. 
    • Sharpen competitiveness of existing business owners. 
    • Foster entrepreneurial start-ups and expansions.
    • Recruit compatible new businesses and new economic uses. 
    • Convert unused or underused commercial space into economically productive property.

Main Street Community Transformation Strategies  

Each local Main Street program, in close partnership with community organizations and municipalities, will help develop a set of Community Transformation Strategies connected to long-term change based on the community vision and an understanding of the market, and should lead to outcomes both quantitative and qualitative.  

These strategies unite the Four Points of Organization, Design, Promotion, and Economic Vitality. With transformational strategies in place, the Main Street organization can assess what activities, resources, and people-power will be necessary to bring them to life with the Four Points. Progress will be measured by economic metrics and quality outcomes, which will allow more flexibility in the organizational model of the local Main Street program and the efforts of community revitalization. 

For example, a community may decide that it wants to capitalize on its agricultural heritage. As a transformational strategy, that Main Street may work with local restaurants to develop farm-to-table concepts (Organization), create events such as an antique tractor show and sugar beet bowling (Promotion), and build a community garden in downtown (Design).

Community Visioning

Visioning should be a community driven process that brings stakeholders from all sectors together, inviting them to be proactive participants in the revitalization process. This can provide a foundation for outlining the community’s own identity, expectations, and ideals while identifying perceptions, needs and opportunities.

Community Transformation Strategy

Typically, communities will find two or three Community Transformation Strategies are needed to help reach a community vision. Some Strategies may be more easily achievable in the short-term, while others are more aspirational and will require long-term, dedicated effort. The work within any strategy would integrate the Four Points (Organization, Economic Vitality, Promotion, Design).

Implementation and Measure

To succeed, a Main Street program must show visible results that can only come from completing projects. Short- and long- term activities should add up to meaningful change. A Main Street program should be able to demonstrate wise use of resources, which translate to real change on the ground. New jobs added, new businesses opened, and buildings being rehabilitated are examples of metrics of success. Any strategy should be thought of as a way to support the community’s vision with meaningful, measurable outcomes (not outputs).

Benefits of the Main Street Approach

  • Local Jobs. Frequently, downtown as a whole is the second or third largest employment center in the community.
  • Protection of Natural Resources and Energy Conservation. New construction requires many resources, and 30 percent of solid waste in landfills is from demolition of old buildings. It is often said that the greenest building is the one that does not have to be built. Rehabilitating and reusing old buildings is an environmentally sound strategy. Additionally, more resources are required to develop in greenfield sites on the edge of town than to develop in infill spaces, where existing utilities may be used.
  • Efficient Use of Public Infrastructure. Large investments have been made over time in downtown infrastructure, so it is often more efficient to keep downtown vibrant than extend infrastructure to new development. Local government can support strategic development and capitalize on the value and potential investment that commercial districts can attract.
  • Property and Sales Taxes. The healthier the downtown businesses are, the higher the rents building owners can collect, resulting in higher property values and a higher tax base for the community. Because of its compact nature, a healthy downtown generally pays more in property taxes per acre than anywhere else in your jurisdiction (Joe Minicozzi, Urban3 LLC, for the Sonoran Institute). A vibrant downtown attracts not just locals, but regional shoppers and tourists – and sales tax revenue – to your jurisdiction.
  • Public Safety. A vacant and deteriorated downtown breeds crime. Keeping your downtown and commercial districts active and alive helps citizens to feel safe and want to take part in the community. 
  • Strategic Decision-Making. Decisions on zoning, land use, and commercial sprawl impacts the health of downtown. Local government is the keeper of public lands, buildings, streetscape, and infrastructure, so community consensus is important. 
  • Downtown Development & Industrial Development. Industrial development prospects expect to tour downtown and assess for themselves your community’s values with respect to maintaining and supporting a healthy central business district. If downtown is vacant and deteriorated, potential industry tenants may question the community’s respect for the industrial park in a few years.
  • Quality of Life. Downtown was historically the cultural, educational, commercial, recreational, and governmental center of your community. Residents expect these amenities to exist in your community to enhance their quality of life. Downtown will continue to be this quality of life center if given the opportunity.
  • Pride in a Healthy & Vibrant Community. All towns started around a commercial district or downtown. It is the heart and soul of your community and should reflect the pride of local leadership and residents. It is the face you project to visitors, investors, and yourselves. The reputation of your community is based on the condition of your downtown.


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