Think about the heart of your community, the traditional business district where it all got started many years ago. The street running through the center may
actually be named “Main Street” or it may be named something else entirely. Regardless of the name it is easy to recognize that this place is special
and unique. The buildings, the stories, the people ... all of these elements combine to form a unique place rich with character. We often refer to this place as
“main street” or “downtown”. It is the representative physical heart of your community.
But the phrase “main street” has also been used to describe everything from our national nostalgic past to trending economic issues. When the Tennessee
Main Street® Program talks about “main street”, we are referring to Main Street® (notice the trademark), the nationally recognized downtown revitalization
movement started several decades ago by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and now administered by the
National Main Street Center. This movement is comprised of communities and neighborhoods
across America working to revitalize their local traditional business districts by leveraging assets they often already have - 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.
We invite you to learn more about the Main Street Approach®, the Tennessee Main Street® Program and its affiliated Tennessee Downtowns program, and the many
wonderful places across our state working to keep the heart of their communities vibrant and fun places to live, work and play. Welcome to Main Street® - great
places at the heart!
The Tennessee Main Street® (TMS) Program serves as a statewide resource for communities seeking to revitalize and manage their traditional downtowns. It was established by legislature to assist these communities with their economic development and revitalization 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 a non-profit organization specifically focused on downtown revitalization and are effectively applying the National Main Street Center’s comprehensive Four-Point Approach®.
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, Chamber of Commerce 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
New programs seeking designation for the first time must:
- 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.
There are many benefits to establishing a designated Main Street® program in your community. They start at the national level through affiliation with the National Main Street Center. This respected, proven nationwide program provides resources, training and technical assistance through coordinating statewide programs (such as TMS). The National Main Street Conference is an annual event that offers additional educational and networking opportunities focusing on downtown development. Designated Tennessee Main Street programs receive on-site technical assistance, participate in quarterly training meetings and have access to online training, grant opportunities and special programs such as the Great American Main Street Awards. Communities benefit from a structured approach with professional management and annual reporting, so progress can be monitored, communicated and celebrated.
Tennessee Downtowns is an affiliated program of Tennessee Main Street and was designed to help communities fully understand what it takes to embark on a comprehensive revitalization effort for their downtown. Using the proven National Main Street Center’s Four-Point Approach® to downtown revitalization, this 24-month program coaches selected downtowns and their steering committees through the steps of launching an effective revitalization effort. Space in this program is limited and highly competitive. Program activities include training, site visits, regional workshops, webinars, technical assistance and an innovation project grant.
To participate in Tennessee Downtowns, communities must:
- Define a project area concentrating efforts on a traditional commercial district that is typically at least 50 years old.
- Have a designated five-member volunteer steering committee dedicated to going through the training and program process.
- Have a designated non-profit 501(c)(3) organization or city municipality that will host the steering committee for the program and associated grant project.
- Illustrate interest on the behalf of the citizens for the revitalization of downtown.
- Illustrate how the city and county government recognizes the importance of downtown as an asset to the community.
- Adopt a resolution by the city government to participate in the program.
- Clearly demonstrate economic need for a downtown revitalization effort through economic factors such as high vacancy rates in downtown, lack of businesses downtown, disinvestment in the area (either public or private), dilapidated buildings or aging infrastructure.
- Submit a complete application to participate in an upcoming “round” (please contact us for the timeline).
- Join the National Main Street Center as a “Standard member”.
Community Development Program Director
Tennessee Main Street® | Tennessee Downtowns
Telephone:615-806-3185 | Email:Nancy.Williams@tn.gov
Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development
312 Rosa L. Parks Avenue, 26th Floor
Nashville, Tennessee 37243
This first big step for any community seeking to start a local Main Street® program or considering application to Tennessee Downtowns is to begin building support for a commercial district revitalization program:
- Form a working group: Ask colleagues in your community about starting a revitalization initiative. Canvass all 'stakeholders' who have an interest in the future of your downtown or commercial district, including merchants, business owners, property owners, and residents. Contact the mayor and other local government officials, the city planning department, city economic development officials, and other organizations such as the chamber of commerce or merchants association. Form a working group or task force of interested individuals and community leaders to explore launching an initiative. The wider the group of people you gather, the easier it is to build support and spread the word. All of these entities will benefit from a revitalized district and should support your effort, both programmatically and financially, so you need to bring them to the table now.
- Take a good look at your district: Look at your downtown or commercial district as if you are a first-time visitor. What are its strengths? What needs improvement? Take photos and make notes.
- Generate broad-based local interest and support: Hold a community meeting to discuss the idea. Call the Tennessee Main Street® Program for advice and possible attendance at the meeting. Also use photographs to illustrate what needs to be done. Ask for feedback from participants and invite them to join the effort. Take their contact information and follow up later.
- Network with successful programs: Invite an executive director or board president from another Main Street® community to talk with your working group or community about their accomplishments and answer questions about how the program works. Their enthusiasm, stories, and pictures will make a strong argument for a preservation-based revitalization program. Facilitate discussions among your stakeholders and those already involved with other Main Street programs. This type of dialog is invaluable, especially for members of the working group. Get mayors, business owners, and economic development staff talking.
There are many other steps you can take as well and more are outlined on www.MainStreet.org. Of course the really big step is to apply to participate in one of our programs. Request an application packet for either the Tennessee Main Street® Program or Tennessee Downtowns. Both applications are quite extensive, but it is a valuable exercise in learning about your community, what needs to be done first, and how to plan for future program development.