Sidebar by Marcia Darnell
Main Street – January 2007 – Colorado Central Magazine
It’s been around since the 1970’s, but it’s still somewhat obscure. The National Trust Main Street Center is a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The program aims to revitalize commercial downtown areas in cities and towns where malls, big box stores and economic hardship have left the main drag looking like a ghost town.
The program doesn’t fix the problem, but it provides a map to a better downtown. Consulting services, guidelines, and examples of what works are provided, but communities have to do the work themselves.
Each program is initiated, directed, and funded locally. After an application procedure, Main Street recommends focusing on four areas — design, economic restructuring, promotion, and organization. The organization takes a long-term view of revitalization, recognizing it takes years to turn around a depressed area.
Teamwork is required. The business, political, and community components have to stop feuding and work together on the program. Main Street’s Pam Briggs, assistant to the director, calls this a “sustainable approach.”
Main Street has what it calls eight guiding principles in its process: Comprehensive, incremental, self-help, partnerships, identifying and capitalizing on existing assets, quality, change, and implementation.
The state division, Colorado Community Revitalization Association, is run by Vince Martinez. “We offer primarily technical assistance and annual training,” he says. “We work with the board to develop work plans.”
He’s optimistic about Monte Vista’s potential. “Monte Vista is in really good shape, I think,” he says. “They’ve done some work on their main streets already. We just need to concentrate on programs that will bring new businesses into the area.
“We’ll be going down this winter with a resource team — a team of three to five experts in marketing, economic development, downtown development, and historic preservation — to give them a road map for direction for the first one to three years. We’ll recommend items to have significant impact in those critical first years.
“There’s no quick fix,” Martinez warns. “Patience is a virtue in this program. Sometimes downtown has gone into neglect over decades.”
Main Street currently has over 1,200 active programs nationwide. Learn more at www.mainstreet.org or check out www.ccraonline.org.