History of Coordinating Programs

Statewide Coordinating Programs

When the National Trust Main Street Center (NTMSC) was established in 1980, its staff began a three-year demonstration project that resulted in the structuring of statewide Main Street coordinating programs. The concept was that these statewide coordinating programs would, in turn, select Main Street communities in their states and deliver technical assistance and training services based on the Main Street Four-Point Approach® to those designated local programs. The NTMSC wanted to create a statewide model that would utilize the Main Street approach, thereby helping to shape state and federal public policy for downtown redevelopment and creating a national preservation-based economic development movement for downtown commercial districts.

Six states were selected to participate in a three-year demonstration project: Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Texas. The National Trust Main Street Center helped these coordinating programs develop structures for their organizations and trained coordinating program staff in the four areas of the Main Street approach. Each of the initial six statewide coordinating programs selected five communities with populations between 5,000 and 50,000 to serve as the first local Main Street programs. The NTMSC developed a menu of technical assistance and training services that would be delivered to the local Main Street organizations by NTMSC and statewide coordinating program staff.

As the three-year project wound down, word was spreading across the country about the effectiveness of the Main Street Four-Point Approach® and the difference it was making in the economic and social life of the participating communities in the six demonstration states. Other states were soon lining up to contract with the National Trust Main Street Center for help in establishing coordinating programs, training staff, and providing technical assistance services to selected local communities.

In the 30 years since the development of the coordinating program model, 45 states have launched statewide Main Street coordinating programs. To this date, only five states have never established Main Street coordinating programs. Those states are: Alaska, Idaho, Nevada, North Dakota, and New York.

Citywide Coordinating Programs

Citywide Main Street coordinating programs help neighborhood-based organizations revitalize traditional neighborhood business districts. In many cases, citywide Main Street programs are created because the city recognizes the advantages of utilizing the Main Street Four-Point Approach® to bring life and business back to its traditional neighborhood business districts. Citywide programs may develop because a statewide coordinating program does not exist or because the statewide coordinating program does not have the resources to meet the needs of the city's neighborhood business districts.

From 1985-1988, the National Main Street Center embarked on a three-year Urban Demonstration Program to determine if the same Main Street methodology being used by hundreds of communities to revitalize traditional downtown districts could be used in urban communities – in larger downtown districts and neighborhood commercial districts. This urban demonstration program planted the seeds for the development of citywide Main Street coordinating programs – the first of which was established in 1995 to deliver services to neighborhood business districts in the City of Boston. The success of Boston Main Streets spawned a number of other citywide coordinating programs across the nation. As of summer 2010, the following seven citywide Main Street coordinating programs remain active, serving nearly 40 neighborhood Main Street programs:

  • Baltimore, Maryland (Baltimore Development Corporation)
  • Boston, Massachusetts (Office of Business Development)
  • Detroit, Michigan (Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Commercial Revitalization)
  • Washington, D.C. (Office of Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development)
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Department of City Development)
  • Orlando, Florida (City of Orlando Business Development Division)
  • Portland, Oregon (City of Portland Development Commission)

Regional Coordinating Programs

Regional Main Street coordinating programs are established to help cities, towns, and villages in a specific geographical or political region revitalize their downtown and neighborhood business district. These programs function like a traditional statewide Main Street program, but serve a smaller number of communities in a smaller geographical or politically created area. In many cases, regional Main Street coordinating programs are created in the absence of a statewide coordinating program or to provide more assistance than the statewide program may be able to offer that area. Regional coordinating Main Street programs can be established within existing public agencies or private economic or community development organizations.

The first regional Main Street coordinating program, the Illinois and Michigan Canal Corridor Program, established in 1991, is no longer in existence.

In 2000, Oakland County, Michigan, partnered with the National Trust Main Street Center to create an countywide coordinating program, Main Street Oakland County (MSOC), which is housed in the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. To date, the program provides services to 11 Main Street communities in the county. During its first 10 years, MSOC has seen $540 million of reinvestment, more than 4,000 jobs created, more than 407 new businesses, more than $6 million in cash sponsorships for events and programs, and nearly 130,000 volunteer hours invested in local projects.

In 2007, the Western Erie Canal Alliance, a non-profit organization that serves the community and economic development needs of five counties along the Western Erie Canal corridor in New York State, contracted with the NTMSC to help the organization structure a regional Western Erie Canal Main Street coordinating program and to assist the newly established coordinating program in the delivery of technical assistance to its first three Main Street communities.