Letter from the President: Summer 2014 Update

Main Banner _ Presidents Note July

Dear Members of the Main Street Network,

I hope this note finds you well – and that your summer is off to a great start!  This week, I wanted to provide you with a brief update on activities at the Center. July 1st marked our first anniversary as an independent non-profit subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and we have many accomplishments to celebrate. We developed a new strategic plan, moved our headquarters to more centrally located Chicago and reconfigured and made additions to our absolutely terrific staff, including Main Street veterans and those who are brand new to Main Street. I am also pleased to announce that the National Main Streets Conference in Detroit was the most highly attended conference in five years. From the opening plenary to the closing Big Bash, the conference was high energy with wonderful buzz and enthusiasm. One of my favorite moments had to be the announcement of this year’s terrific GAMSA winners - if you haven’t seen the videos yet, I encourage you to check them out.

Looking ahead to the coming year, we’ll be sharing more information on a new grant program from the Center and new webinars from our Main Street Innovation Lab. As we announced at the conference in Detroit, work is also underway to re-launch Certification Institute in the fall of 2015 and we look forward to sharing the dates later this summer. We are also bringing a renewed focus to fundraising for the Center with ambitious targets to increase support of the National Main Street Network. These efforts will help us to keep your membership rates low and allow us to continue to deliver a higher caliber of services, including more education and training, and new resources and tools for 21st Century downtowns. 

At the conference in Detroit I also mentioned the launch of one of the most important projects at the Center – a Refresh of the Main Street Four-Point Approach®. The Four-Point Approach has served the network extraordinarily well during the last nearly 35 years. We only need to look at the amazing reinvestment statistics to understand the power of this organizational framework: close to $60 billion has been invested on our Main Streets, creating 502,728 jobs and resulting in the rehabilitation of 246,158 buildings.

Why is the approach so successful? I think Donovan Rypkema explained it best in his conference keynote speech when he outlined how the Four Points Forces closely align with the four Forces of Value in real estate economics - Social, Economic, Political/Civic and Physical. Promotion utilizes the Social Force of value by changing perceptions about a district and bringing the community together; Economic Restructuring exercises the Economic Force of value by providing support for the business community; Organization develops the Political/Civic Force of value by helping to organize a group of people together around a common goal, and Design realizes the Physical Force of value by actively managing the fabric and appearance of downtown. In fact, as Rypkema noted, it is not a stretch to say that the Four Points of Main Street are the Forces of Value, used comprehensively to act as a change agent in our downtowns. If you haven’t already, please take the time to read his complete keynote address here or read a recap here.

FourPointsFinalAs we approach our 35th anniversary in 2015, it is crucial to check in with our members to better understand your experience with National Main Street Center’s signature product – and understand how, and if, we can refine the approach to improve your experience and create greater impact in every Main Street across the country. We will also carefully examine whether the Four-Point Approach as it stands will enable us to continue to attract new communities while also retaining more mature and advanced Main Street programs. 

For example, I’ve heard many comments during my time with the Center that the term “Economic Restructuring” is confusing – and that perhaps different language might be needed. Further, we now understand that downtown housing development is absolutely crucial to effective economic development work downtown. The Four Point Refresh process will help all of us understand how important new elements of downtown revitalization – like downtown housing – are clearly embraced into the Economic Restructuring work. To take another example, the nature of Main Street’s Design work has evolved significantly in the last three decades. While in the 1980s and 90s we may have focused more on historic buildings, we now understand that Design encompasses not just our historic structures, but streetscapes and transportation issues. Our language must recognize and clearly support work on a truly comprehensive approach to community design and placemaking.

During the Center’s May 2014 Board meeting, NMSC Board Chair Barbara Sidway announced the formation of a task force to oversee the Four-Point Approach Refresh project. The task force is led by NMSC Board Member and Main Street veteran Mary Thompson – many of you may remember that Mary was the previous chair of the Next Main Street Task Force back in 2008. The Task Force will oversee the Four Point Refresh, which will include extensive engagement of our membership. To this end, we’ll be engaging in an extensive survey effort later this summer in which we’ll reach out to Main Street Directors, Coordinators, Allied Members, and others outside our network to ask about your experience with the Four-Point Approach. We’ll also be asking for your insights on Eight Principles and Ten Standards of Performance.

Look for more details on this survey from us soon – we encourage you to participate and make your views known.

Thanks again to all of you for helping make the last year such a success. We look forward to the year ahead as we continue to strive to provide you an even better member experience with more tools, resources and training opportunities to help you in the work you do every day.

Warm Regards,

Patrice Frey