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Main Street's Four Point, Eight-Principle Approach

The Main Street methodology addresses the following four areas of concern and combines activities in these areas to develop a community's individual strategy for redeveloping downtown. They are organization, promotion, design, and economic restructuring.


The Main Street approach to downtown revitalization requires the effort of the entire community. The merchants, property owners, local government officials, and civic leaders must agree to support common goals for revitalization and join together in a partnership. The downtown development organization and the local Main Street program manager are key players. A local program manager is necessary to act as an advocate for the downtown and to coordinate the various efforts of individuals and groups to ensure that all are working together to develop the downtown.


The promotion of the downtown as a single, unified commercial area – in the same way that a major shopping mall is promoted – will help attract customers and strengthen Main Street's role as a viable business center. The downtown organization can coordinate an aggressive promotion and marketing campaign that includes a program of special events and business promotions. If it is to thrive, the downtown must improve both its self-image and the image it projects to potential customers and investors.


Good design is essential to all aspects of downtown revitalization. The Main Street design philosophy is not a "purist" preservation approach, but one that seeks to utilize and enhance those elements of quality design that remain in each building. Good design must be extended to include promotional literature, store window and merchandise displays, public building improvements, and street amenities.

Economic Restructuring

Economic restructuring seeks to change the ways in which downtown "works" by restoring many of the elements that Main Street has lost over the past few decades. While many small downtowns may not regain their dominance as primary retail centers, careful economic and market analysis usually confirms that they can maintain economic strength by diversifying the present mix of retail uses and by attracting new retail and non-retail functions, including office, recreation services, and residential uses. Retail and business retention and recruitment, development of effective merchandising techniques, encouraging entrepreneurial reuse of upper stories for downtown housing and office space, and better utilization of existing and potential recreational assets are all aspects of economic restructuring.

Successful Main Street programs are usually structured as a non-profit corporation guided by an active working board. Four standing committees that correspond to the four points develop projects and work plans for implementation. Local programs hire a paid director to help coordinate the efforts of volunteers and implement the program.

Eight Principles

Countless experiences in helping communities bring renewed life to downtowns have shown time and again that Main Street Four-Point Approach succeeds only when combined with the following eight foundation principles:


A single project cannot revitalize a downtown or commercial neighborhood. An ongoing series of initiatives of the four points is vital to build community support and create lasting progress.


Small projects make a big difference. They demonstrate that "things are happening" on Main Street and hone the skills and confidence the program will need to tackle more complex problems. Over time, small changes make a dramatic difference in the commercial district.


The New Hampshire Main Street Center can provide valuable direction and hands-on technical assistance, but only local leadership will bring long-term success by fostering and demonstrating grassroots community involvement and building local capacity entrepreneurism and commitment to the revitalization effort.

Public/Private Partnership

Every local Main Street program needs the support and expertise of both the public and private sectors. Both local government and the private sector bear responsibility for funding the local Main Street program.

Identifying and Capitalizing on Existing Assets

To avoid mistakes or creating false expectations, one of the New Hampshire Main Street Center's key goals is to empower communities to recognize and make the best use of their unique offerings. Local assets provide the solid foundation of a successful Main Street initiative.


From storefront design to promotional campaigns to graphics to special events, quality must be the goal. The local Main Street program and the commercial district must be synonymous with quality.


Changing community attitudes and habits is essential to bring about a commercial district renaissance. A carefully planned Main Street program will help create paradigm shifts that change public perceptions and practices to support and sustain the revitalization process.

Action Oriented

Frequent, visible changes in the look and activities of the commercial district will reinforce the perception of positive change. Small, but dramatic improvements early in the process will remind merchants and the community that the revitalization effort is under way. This requires the hands-on involvement of program leaders, staff, and volunteers.


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