Arkansas | 2004 Main Street Award® Winner | Posted: 5/10/2004
Main Street Rogers (MSR) worked hard to promote economic growth since its inception in 1984 as a pilot community of Main Street Arkansas (MSA). Today there have been 95 rehabilitated facades, almost $12 million in downtown investment and reinvestment, and rental rates have jumped from 40 cents per square foot to $8-$12 per square foot. The Downtown Recruitment Program has brought 40 new businesses to the commercial corridor in 2002-2003 and currently 98 percent of the retail space is occupied, additionally, office space is 95 percent occupied. Building owners have renovated upper floors into upscale residential housing for their owners.
The City of Rogers was formed in 1881. It basked in the glory of the Frisco Railroad but when the railway-based economy declined the town was left with decaying turn-of-the-century Italianate buildings and a failing economy. Thanks to MSR and its partners, the town has held onto its roots by renovating many of its buildings and recalling the railroad, with the antique Frisco Caboose that sits in the heart of the Walnut Street Historic District, which is home to 23 buildings listed in the National Register of Historic Places. A recent addition to the National Register is the 1927 Victory Theater, a movie theater. By 1977, the theater served as an indoor flea market. The community theater group approached Main Street Rogers in 1994 to find space downtown; the Victory Theater was the perfect choice. After a sum of $2 million, including a $30,560 Model Business Grant from MSA, and 10,000 volunteer hours, the curtains went up in 2000.
Business development is a pillar of Main Street Rogers. Its Preferred Loan Program offers a total of $4.5 million in loans from nine participating banks and the Mini-grant Program distributed $13,000 last year. MSR also helped secure five Main Street Arkansas Model Business Grants for large projects and developed a debit/gift card program for downtown stores in 2003. Main Street also sponsors a variety of small business seminars to complement its business consulting services. The revitalization effort has also had a positive impact on job recruitment.
Main Street Rogers works in all areas of revitalization, including image building, business assistance programs, design guidelines, and heritage tourism. MSR has found a strong ally in the city government, which annually offers contributions, in-kind office space, and utility donations. The city involves MSR when projects are being considered in the downtown. Departments such as the Planning Department and Parks and Recreation provide technical assistance, manpower, and equipment that are critical for the success. MSR and the Parks and Recreation Department successfully applied for an ISTEA grant for the Frisco Park and Trail redevelopment including a bike and pedestrian trail. The park pavilion is a community destination on summer nights for concerts and a farmers’ market.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation awarded Rogers a 2004 Great American Main Street Award and announced the award on May 10, 2004, at its annual National Main Streets Conference held in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Other 2004 Great American Main Street Award winners are: Burlington, Iowa; Encinitas, California; Paso Robles, California; and Westfield, New Jersey.