A community’s downtown is the face it presents to the world. Its condition speaks volumes about the health of the local economy, whether or not local residents and property owners reinvest in themselves, and even the history of the community’s development. A vibrant downtown—or the lack of one—affects the community’s ability to attract and retain the residents, businesses and institutions, jobs, and investment that enable a place to thrive.
Starting in the 1950s, drastic changes in the way Americans live, work, shop and play have led to the decline of many of our country’s traditional downtowns and Main Streets. However, at the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota, we believe that with hard work and the right approach, we can reestablish Main Street as the heart of the community. By stimulating local business development, reinvesting in historic buildings, embracing our unique assets, and finding creative new ways to reconnect with the greater community, our traditional commercial districts are reemerging as centers of local pride. Sign up to receive regular updates.
In 1977, the National Trust for Historic Preservation launched the Main Street Program as a three-year pilot aimed at preserving deteriorating downtown buildings in three Midwestern communities. The success of the initial pilot led to the formation of the National Trust Main Street Center (NTMSC) in 1980. Four points make up the core of this comprehensive approach to historic commercial district revitalization:
Design: preserving local heritage and improving the physical environment of the Main Street district
Economic Restructuring: creating a healthy environment for business and developing long-term economic solutions for the Main Street district
Promotion: raising community awareness and creating excitement in the Main Street district
Organization: building a strong local Main Street network to pool resources and expertise towards maintaining long-term revitalization efforts
Since its founding, the National Main Street Center, Inc. has developed a national network covering more than 2,200 communities in 45 states. To date, the Main Street movement has led to nearly $50 billion of investment in historic downtowns and commercial districts and helped generate more than 415,000 jobs and 94,000 new businesses nationwide.
The new Minnesota Main Street is a program of the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota (PAM), and is recognized by the National Trust Main Street Center® as the official statewide coordinating program in Minnesota. The Minnesota Main Street Program has been financed in part with funds provided by the State of Minnesota from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society.
Communities interested in becoming Designated Main Street Programs should review our application materials and learn more about this downtown revitalization method. We accept applications on a rolling basis, however only a limited number of programs are accepted each year.
The first Minnesota Main Street program was founded in 1981, and remained active for over a decade. Although the state program was eventually defunded, many local Main Street programs had already been established and demand for Main Street services remained. A small nonprofit called Hometown Minnesota, though not affiliated with NTMSC, continued to promote the Main Street Approach and provided limited training and technical support to communities across the state. In 2007, several Minnesota communities rallied to once again form an official Main Street program and in 2010, the new statewide coordinating program, Minnesota Main Street was born.
Minnesota’s Main Street Districts’ Reinvestment Statistics
Since 2010, Minnesota’s Designated Main Street districts netted 63 new businesses and 210 additional full-time jobs. In these communities (average population 15,500), 155 building rehab projects were completed.
- Net of all gains and losses in full-time jobs: +210
- Net of all gains and losses in part-time jobs: +31
- Net of all gains and losses in new businesses: +63
- Number of business expansions within the district: 15
- Number of building rehabilitation projects: 155
- Number of public improvement projects: 12
- Value of all private investment spent in the above projects: $6,951,488
- Value of all public investment spent in the above projects: $5,580,356
- Number of volunteer hours contributed: 23,277
- Number of event attendees: 91,257
- Number of programs included in these statistics: 6
This information is collected annually by Main Street programs across the country before being submitted to the National Trust Main Street Center. National reinvestment statistics are available at the National Main Street website.
In 2013, for every $1 spent on running a local Main Street Program in Minnesota, $6.09 are reinvested in their district.