It is a curiosity how some small towns have survived the test of time and are interesting wonderful places to meet people and enjoy life. One concept that has helped this image to succeed is the Main Street Program sponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. As detailed by National Trust for Historic Preservation, "The force behind the Main Street Program is that Main Streets tell us who we are and who we were, and how the past has shaped us. We do not go to bland suburbs or enclosed shopping malls to learn about our past, explore our culture, or discover our identity. Our Main Streets are the places of shared memory where people still come together to live, work, and play."
If one visits the National Trust for Historic Preservation website dedicated to Main Street, one sees the question: So what is Main Street? The answer is simply put: "Main Street is everything from our nostalgic past to our current economic woes, but when we talk about Main Street, we are thinking of real places doing real work to revitalize their economies and preserve their character. 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."
Currently, the Main Street Program works with more than 2,000 towns and cities across the country and its success is attributed to using a four point approach that includes design, organization, economic restructuring, and promotions. Design means getting Main Street in top physical shape to create an inviting environment for people to live and work. This includes both public and private buildings, storefronts, signs, public spaces, parking areas, and more. Design activities include instilling good maintenance practices in the commercial district and enhancing the district's physical appearance through the rehabilitation of historic buildings, encouraging appropriate new construction and by educating business and property owners about design quality and long-term planning.
Organization establishes consensus and cooperation by building partnerships among the various groups that have a stake in the town. Everyone works toward a common goal to manage and advocate for a better downtown district. A governing board along with standing committees make up the organizational structure of the volunteer-driven program. This divides the workload, defines responsibilities and builds consensus among stakeholders. Economic restructuring strengthens the community's existing economic assets while diversifying its economic base. Restructuring works to retain and expand successful businesses and to provide a balanced commercial mix. It also works to convert unused or underused commercial space into economically productive property to boost the profitability of the district. Promotions takes many forms, but the goal is to create a positive image that will renew community pride and improve consumer and investor confidence. Moreover, promotions communicate the unique characteristics, business establishments, and activities to shoppers, investors, potential business and property owners, and visitors.
On March 28, at 6 p.m., in the Entler Hotel, Randy Lewis, the executive director for the Main Street Martinsburg program, will be speaking about the Main Street program and discuss how it has benefited the historic district in downtown Martinsburg. Lewis will discuss the greater Main Street concepts as well as discussing points specific to downtowns such as Martinsburg.
Currently, there are 12 Main Street towns and cities in West Virginia along with 18 communities in the Main Street precursor On Trac program. Lewis has been serving as the executive director of Main Street Martinsburg since 2006. Prior to this time, he owned and operated R. Lewis Clothier men's store in downtown Martinsburg for 14 years. He is a member and Past President of the Sunrise Rotary and a Paul Harris Fellow with Rotary. He is serving or has served on numerous boards in the community including Martinsburg-Berkeley County Berkeley County Chamber of Commerce, the Mountain State Apple Harvest Festival, Sunrise Rotary Club and The Art Centre. Randy and his wife Kay reside in Martinsburg with their 4 children.
All interested persons are cordially invited to attend. Light refreshments will be provided. The meeting is expected to conclude by 7:30 p.m.
For more information, please visit: www.preservationnation.org/main-street/