Tennessee Main Street
The Main Street movement has been transforming the way communities think about the revitalization and management of their downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts for decades. Specifically, Main Street is three things: a proven strategy for revitalization, a powerful network of linked communities, and a national support program that leads the field. The National Main Street Center is a subsidiary or the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The Main Street Four-Point Approach is a unique multi-faceted economic development tool that enables communities to revitalize their downtowns by leveraging local assets - from historic, cultural, and architectural resources to local enterprises and community pride. It is a comprehensive strategy that addresses the variety of issues and problems that challenge traditional commercial districts by focusing on the following areas:
- Design - getting downtown into top physical shape and creating a safe, inviting environment through appropriate building renovations, streetscape and public space improvements, good signage, attractive window displays, and overall aesthetic qualities;
- Economic Restructuring - strengthening the community's existing economic assets while diversifying its economic base through identification of current and potential market opportunities, business retention and recruitment, working with small business owners and entrepreneurs and development of financial assistance and training tools;
- Promotion - creating a positive image to rekindle community pride and improve consumer and investor confidence in the commercial district through special events, marketing and branding; and
- Organization - building partnerships among the various groups that have a stake in the downtown and creating a well-run, financially sustainable non-profit organization that operates the Main Street program locally.
To implement a local Main Street program, communities typically create a new non-profit organization specifically for this purpose. While this method is often the best option, effective revitalization programs are also housed within city government or in existing nonprofits, such as a business association or economic development corporation. It is important to remember that the organization must involve both the public and private sectors, including downtown interests and stakeholders as well as representatives from throughout the community. Local government must support district revitalization and the Main Street Four-Point Approach philosophically and financially. The private sector must embrace the Main Street Approach and provide ideas, time, expertise and resources to make the local revitalization program successful.
A local non-profit Main Street organization is governed by a Board of Directors, supported by paid, professional staff, and engages a variety of volunteers who implement projects and activities that correspond to each of the “four points”. The National Main Street Center oversees coordinating programs, such as the Tennessee Main Street program, and provides a variety of resources to support downtown revitalization and “placemaking” in the United States. More information about the Main Street Four-Point Approach and the National Main Street Center is available online at www.MainStreet.org.
The Tennessee Main Street Program
The Tennessee Main Street (TMS) Program serves as a statewide resource for communities seeking to revitalize and manage their traditional downtowns. In 2003, the Tennessee legislature approved a resolution to re-establish the Tennessee Main Street Program in order to assist these communities with their economic revitalization and development efforts. Although TMS serves as a general information source in this capacity, hands-on technical services (including training and research) are typically delivered to local programs that have achieved designation through a structured application process and maintain designation annually by meeting program requirements and submitting an annual report. TMS designated communities have developed an organization specifically focused on downtown revitalization and are effectively applying the National Main Street Center’s comprehensive Four-Point Approach.
TMS is administered by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development’s Community and Rural Development Division. It follows the proven downtown revitalization model developed by the National Main Street Center, a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Local organizations meeting the Tennessee Main Street program requirements are awarded designation at the state level. There is also an opportunity to receive accreditation from the National Main Street Center based upon their Standards of Performance for Recognition. All Tennessee Main Street designated programs are expected to meet these standards annually. However, designation by the Tennessee Main Street Program does not guarantee accreditation by the National Main Street Center. If TMS determines that the standards have been met, it will make a recommendation to the national program. If for any reason they cannot be met, TMS will continue to work with the local program to achieve this goal for a specified period of time. Meeting the standards demonstrates the following:
- Broad-based community support for the revitalization effort, including a strong commitment from the municipal government and various private sector organizations
- Effective mission and vision statements
- A comprehensive annual work plan grounded in the Four-Point Approach®
- A preservation ethic as it relates to downtown revitalization
- An active board of directors and committees
- Sufficient and sustainable finances (operating budget)
- A paid, professional manager/director
- Participation in on-going training and education
- Accurate reporting of annual reinvestment statistics (new jobs, new businesses, etc.)
- Current membership with the National Main Street Center
- Provide evidence of financial commitments to fund the local program for at least three years.
- Illustrate the existence of a private independent nonprofit organization that is locally designated as the governing body and policy board for the local Main Street® program..
- Illustrate community familiarity with the concepts and principles of the National Main Street Four Point Approach®.
- Have a critical mass of architecturally or historically significant buildings within a definable and walkable traditional commercial district.
- Possess a thorough understanding of the current downtown marketplace such as basic demographics, business mix, housing units, total jobs and market position.
Accredited Tennessee Main Street Communities
To be eligible for Tennessee Main Street designation, a community must be prepared to illustrate the following:
- A strong commitment from the municipal government and various private sector organizations to support a local Main StreetTM program.
- An adequate local budget and evidence of funding commitments to fund the local program.
- A commitment by the community to hire a paid Executive Director.
- The existence of, or willingness to establish, a private independent nonprofit organization that is locally designated as the governing body and policy board for the local Main StreetTM program.
- Past examples of community and economic development efforts (which may include commercial district revitalization, public spaces, building preservation, etc.).
- Community familiarity with the concepts and principles of the National Main Street Four Point ApproachTM.
- Architecturally or historically significant buildings within a definable traditional commercial district, which may include buildings or districts on the state or National Register of Historic Places.
- An understanding of the current downtown marketplace such as basic demographics, business mix, housing units, total jobs, and market position.
Step 1: Learn as much as possible about the Main Street Approach and how it can be implemented in your community. This may involve participating in a program such as Tennessee Downtowns, specifically designed to introduce communities to Main Street principals. It is important at this stage to determine the level of community support for establishing a local Main Street program, not just philosophical support but also financial support from both the public and private sectors. Visit www.MainStreet.org to learn more about new program development.
Step 2: Meet with the Director of the Tennessee Main Street Program to discuss the activities occurring in your community, the level of support and the expectations associated with becoming a designated Tennessee Main Street community. This process will help determine if the community is prepared to begin the application process.
Step 3: Submit a non-binding “Letter of Intent to Apply” to the Tennessee Main Street Program. This letter informs TMS that an application is in development, ensures community awareness that the process has begun and assists with establishing a timeframe for review.
Step 4: Complete this application and submit it to the Tennessee Main Street Program for review. Provide one printed copy in a three-ring binder (be sure to keep a local copy). Applications may be submitted at any time, however review times may vary. It is important to answer all questions and provide all attachments requested. Be sure to include the “Certification of Co-Applicants” at the end of the application. Keep in mind that this application is designed to help you thoroughly understand the proposed Main Street district, the Four-Point philosophy, TMS expectations and to assist with future local program planning. The completed application will be a valuable reference tool as your community moves forward with revitalization.
Step 5: The Tennessee Main Street Program staff will review the application. Typically this will occur within 60 days of receiving the application, but review times may vary depending on staff commitments. The program Director may request additional information or schedule a meeting to discuss the application. A community assessment visit may also be scheduled.
Step 6: Once approved by the Program Director, a recommendation will be made to the Governor of the State of Tennessee and the Commissioner of Economic and Community Development.
Step 7: Receive notification of acceptance into the program. The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development will work with the local program on an official press release. Executive director basic training and board basic training will be scheduled.