2014 National Main Streets Conference: Familiar Faces and New Features

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Each spring, nearly 1,800 Main Street and downtown development professionals gather in a chosen city for the National Main Streets Conference. It’s that one opportunity a year to soak up valuable information, network with like-minded professionals, and celebrate each other’s successes. For some, it’s a special time to reconnect with Main Street colleagues from across the country. For others that are newer to Main Street, it’s a great way to learn the ropes and meet new faces. Whether you’re new to Main Street or a seasoned veteran, the 2014 National Main Streets Conference in Detroit, Michigan has something for you.

This year, conference planners have done their research. They’ve listened to conference attendee feedback, and in turn have added new features, brought back aspects that were missed, and made sure to continue conference favorites. Here are some features of the 2014 conference you are sure to enjoy.

The First Ever Welcoming Reception

Arriving on Saturday? Head to Downtown Ferndale, a GAMSA winning community just north of downtown Detroit! Downtown Ferndale will be hosting the first-ever Welcoming Reception on Saturday, May 17 to "Get You in Gear" for the conference.

Arrive any time after 4 p.m. and pick up your "Get in Gear" access pass. Then, take advantage of many self-guided tours of art and history, shop in the eclectic mix of independent businesses offering specials and discounts, or take a load off at one of the 30+ diverse restaurants, pubs, breweries and distilleries.

Later, meet up with old friends and make new ones from 6-9 p.m. at the Rust Belt Market, an indie artisan market and host site of the reception party. Experience the local flavor, savor Michigan and Ferndale-based brews and cocktails, and take in the sounds of local musicians. The party doesn't stop here – Downtown Ferndale is a late-night town and welcomes you to take part in the after-party. Shuttles will run all night long.

There’s an App for That

Be sure to bring along your smart phones, iPads, and tablets because this year the conference has an app! The official app of the 2014 National Main Street Conference is in the final stages of development and will be available to download for both Apple and Android devices. For your convenience, the app will feature session details and locations, photos, tour maps and schedules, social media (including Twitter and Instagram), and entertainment options in downtown Detroit and surrounding areas. Check the National Main Streets Conference website closer to May to download the app.

In addition, a blog has also been created for the 2014 conference. Visit the conference blog to hear what others are saying about Michigan, Detroit and the conference in general. A Main Street-related guest blogger will be featured every other week!

Dubious Achievement Awards

If you’ve been in the Main Street world for a few years, you’ll remember the infamous “Dubious Achievement Awards” that took place at the Main Street Big Bash. They’re back!

Now with updated categories like “Auto-Correct Fail” and “Social Media Bloopers,” and a few old standbys like “Ugliest Building” and “Public Improvement Gone Wrong,” the awards will be sure to give anyone in the Main Street movement a chuckle. The awards will once again be part of the Main Street Big Bash at Detroit Eastern Market and kick off an evening of food truck fare   and entertainment.

So pull out the old photos and dust off the embarrassing stories. A call for entries will be emailed to the Main Street listserv very soon.

International Mobile Workshops

One unique aspect of the National Main Streets Conference programming are the several mobile workshops offered each year. Attendees are encouraged to register for mobile workshops that show off thriving neighborhoods, creative projects and successful and interesting places. The mobile workshops give attendees a taste of the personality of the hosting city.

This year, the opportunities are international! A mobile workshop to Windsor, Canada is available. Participants will see how Windsor - a city dependent upon the U.S. economy - has faced challenges in its downtown. Once known as the Canadian city hit hardest by the economic downturn, Windsor's stakeholders and community leaders have banded together to breathe new life into the city, and in particular into the downtown. Utilize the Detroit Windsor Tunnel to Canada and experience what our neighbors to the North have to say about downtown development and revitalization.

Professional Development Track

The role of a Main Street manager or program director is truly unique. Unfortunately, you can’t go to college to learn how to be a Main Street manager. It’s really a learned profession. The position relies heavily on personality and the ability to roll with the punches. This year, the conference has created a special “Professional Development Track” with recommended sessions and educational opportunities for managers or program directors specifically. Managers are encouraged to take advantage of these recommended sessions to discuss challenges, learn about unique solutions, and share bizarre experiences. These tracks are a great way to meet other program directors from Main Street communities across the country.

Free Main Street 101 Sessions

In an effort to keep the National Main Streets Conference accessible to all and continue to grow the understanding of preservation-based downtown development, the National Main Street Center will continue to offer Free 101 Sessions on Sunday, May 18th. 

The Main Street 101 Sessions cover each of the four areas of the Main Street Four Point Approach® in a 90-minute session, providing new or seasoned Main Street staff and volunteers an opportunity to get back to basics.