N.C. Main Street
The N.C. Main Street Center works to stimulate economic development within the context of historic preservation, using a comprehensive approach to downtown revitalization developed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and utilized by the National Trust Main Street Center to assist communities across the country.
In 1980, the National Trust created the National Trust Main Street Center to share lessons learned in a pilot program based on their downtown revitalization process: the Main Street Four Point Approach. For the next three years, the National Trust Main Street Center conducted a national demonstration in six states, including North Carolina, encouraging the creative use of business and government resources to support local revitalization initiatives.
Since completing the demonstration, the National Trust Main Street Center has seen the Main Street network grow to include 46 states and more than 1,400 active communities nationally. Having “graduated” from the demonstration program, North Carolina has continued to offer the Main Street program to cities and towns throughout the state and now provides direct assistance to 61 Main Street communities and indirect assistance to countless others.
To expand services to more North Carolina towns, a Small Town Main Street program was initiated in 2003. This program targets towns with populations of less than 7,500, which are unlikely to pursue North Carolina Main Street designation.
Main Street Four-Point Approach
The Main Street Four-Point Approach is a comprehensive revitalization process designed to improve all aspects of a downtown, producing both intangible and tangible benefits.
Four elements are combined to create a well-balanced program:
- Organization: Building partnerships to create a consistent revitalization program and develop effective management and leadership downtown. Diverse groups - merchants, bankers, public officials, the chamber of commerce and civic groups - must work together to improve downtown.
- Promotion: Reestablishing downtown as a compelling place for shoppers, investors and visitors. This means not only improving sales but also rekindling community excitement and involvement. Promotion ranges from street festivals to retail merchandising, from community education to marketing and public relations.
- Design: Enhancing the visual quality of the downtown. Attention is given to the downtown environment elements - not just buildings and storefronts but also public improvements, rear entries, signs, landscaping, window displays and graphic materials.
- Economic Restructuring: Strengthening the existing economic assets of the business district while diversifying its economic base. Activities include conducting market analysis to understand the changing market place, adapting vacant buildings that have outlived their original purposes for use as entertainment or cultural facilities and sharpening the competitiveness of Main Street's traditional merchants.
Photo Credit: New Bern (above) by Garry Hodges of Sunset Studios.