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 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.
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
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
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.
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.