Chapter 3: Colorado Main Street Communities


The Colorado Main Street Program has three tiers (Achieving, Excelling, and Exceptional) for official Colorado Main Street communities to help build capacity as they work toward downtown revitalization. Each local program sets a vision for its community and consistently works toward achieving that vision. Colorado Main Street staff provides technical assistance, training, and small financial grants to help communities work toward these prerequisites and requirements. It can typically take up to a year to become an official Main Street Community. 

The program also offers an Aspiring option open to all Colorado cities and towns, that requires only a simple online application and a letter of interest from the municipality. An Aspiring community may be on its way toward becoming an Achieving Main Street community, or simply want to connect to the Main Street network. A community may remain an Aspiring community as long as it desires, but is not considered an official Main Street community. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, and the only requirements are points of contact and a letter of interest from the municipality. Colorado Main Street provides regular communications on opportunities for downtowns to Aspiring communities. 

Becoming an Official Colorado Main Street

  • First - Ask! Contact Main Street staff to see if your community would be a good fit.
    • Colorado Main Street will provide an overview of Main Street to the local champions making the inquiry.
  • Next - Ask around. Talk with municipal officials and community leaders to gauge interest in the program. 
    • Colorado Main Street staff is always available for presentations.
  • Become an Aspiring Community. Apply online and send a letter of support from a municipal elected or appointed official. 
    • Note: This holds no obligation to the community, and 68 cities and towns are already aspiring - Check to see if you are one of them!
  • Build Momentum. Garner support with stakeholders - Who are natural partners in your community for Main Street? Involve the Chamber, Economic Development Council, Business Association, etc. 
    • Colorado Main Street staff is always available for presentations.
  • Find a Home. Determine where the local program will reside; develop a steering committee or board of directors; identify a champion/point of contact; review program manual and sample memorandum of understanding.
    • Contact Colorado Main Street staff for the manual and sample MOU, as well as with any questions.
  • Host an Open House. Establish broad community support for the work you have done and want to do. 
    • Schedule with Colorado Main Street for staff to be a part of this engagement and to visit your downtown. 
  • Make a Plan. Immerse your board in the Main Street Approach and develop a strategic plan, including a map with Main Street boundaries.
    • Colorado Main Street consulting services may be available free of charge; contact staff.
  • On Your Mark … (Prepare your Achieving Application.)
    • Schedule a time to review and receive a copy of the application and sample resolution from Colorado Main Street.
  • Get Set … (Use the feedback from that meeting to draft your application, including at least three letters of support and a proposed budget.) 
    • Send to Colorado Main Street for review; staff will set a meeting with you to help strengthen a final draft.
  • … Get Ready … (Submit the final draft, including a resolution of support from your town board or city council at least one month prior to the scheduled Advisory Board meetings.) 
    • The Colorado Main Street Advisory Board meets in February, April, and September to review applications; it can then take up to four weeks for the Department of Local Affairs to approve any recommended communities. 
  • Go! Embrace the Main Street Approach!
    • Whether accepted or not, Colorado Main Street staff is here to help! 
      • If accepted, staff will prepare a memorandum of understanding to be signed by your municipality and Department of Local Affairs Leadership, provide training for the Main Street Manager and Board and execute your mini-grant and scholarship agreements; then, the ongoing technical assistance and education begins.
      • Not all first applications are approved. Cities and towns that have embraced the approach and moved forward with a work plan have made great changes in their communities - and have come back with a successful application. Continue to work with Colorado Main Street staff!

Prerequisites to Achieve and Maintain Official Main Street Status

The following outlines both a checklist of expectations for each level of the Colorado Main Street program as well as a summary of what can be expected in the application for tier advancement. 

Achieving Prerequisites

Achieving prerequisites focus on structure to establish a lasting local program:

  • Have a dedicated champion and point of contact for communications.
  • Active steering committee or board of directors.
  • Volunteers and staff attend trainings, read information, and view introductory webinars on the Colorado Main Street website.
  • Main Street district boundary and map (historic, commercial, walkable downtown). The boundary map is determined by the local program. 
  • Mission and vision statements.
  • Multi-year strategic plan that addresses the community’s vision and incorporates the Four Points. Plan must not be more than five years old, and could be a community assessment, downtown plan, or similar as approved by staff.
  • Community awareness of the Main Street program. (Ideas to promote community awareness: partnerships, public meetings, brochure or handout, newsletter or website, and social media.)
  • Support from the public and private sectors, including a local government resolution and three letters of support from community organizations.

Excelling Prerequisites

Excelling prerequisites indicate a solid foundation to run a Main Street Program:

  • Maintain all of the prerequisites of the Achieving level.
  • Meet Main Street America’s National Standards of Performance. (Note: This does not include baseline budget; national membership is not required.)
  • Track record of providing quarterly reports accurately and on time.
  • Bylaws, articles of incorporation, internal procedures, board position descriptions, and other applicable governing documents for your organization.
  • Paid professional manager dedicated to the local Main Street program (can be part-time), and formal system for annual evaluation.
  • Funding plan and adequate operating budget.
  • Program of ongoing training for staff and volunteers.
  • Volunteer base and begin to develop a system for managing, recruiting, retaining, and thanking.
  • Website for program.
  • Attend/host a Certified Local Government training to learn about the program and how it may help your community.
  • Historic building inventory and identify historic assets.
  • Basic business inventory of Main Street district (business types, contact information, number of employees, etc.).
  • Basic building/property inventory of Main Street district (ownership patterns, building conditions, vacancies, building square footage, use, average rents, and more).

Exceptional Prerequisites

Exceptional prerequisites demonstrate that the program serves as an excellent example of Main Street Approach implementation to others:

  • Maintain all of the prerequisites of the Excelling level.
  • Meet Main Street America’s National Standards of Performance. (Note: This does not include baseline budget; national membership is not required.)
  • Program guided or completed two downtown design projects (preservation or public spaces).
  • Documented mentorship to other Main Streets, whether one on one, presentation at a webinar or conference, or article in a newsletter.

Requirements of All Official Main Street Communities

  • Maintain the prerequisites of their level
  • Establish support and participation of the local government
  • Present a State of Main annually to the local elected body
  • Identify transformation strategies and submit an annual work plan that is coordinated with your municipality
  • Attend at least four Colorado Main Street webinars or Community Conversations each year, as well as provide local representation at the annual Main Street Managers Summit and annual National Main Street Conference 
  • Board and/or staff attend at two additional trainings each year that are not provided by Colorado Main Street for continuing professional development. 
  • Host a site visit each year
  • Host an annual visit to review adherence to the Main Street Approach (see Appendix A)
  • Sign and maintain compliance with a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with DOLA
  • Demonstrate a strong historic preservation ethic (see Appendix A)
  • Submit quarterly reports and reinvestment statistics
  • Host an annual board retreat, potentially for strategic planning


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