Main Streets in 3D

Announcing Main Streets in 3D

Harness the power of 3D as a revitalization tool

MS-Google-3D-AnnouncementWe are pleased to announce Main Streets in 3D, an exciting collaboration with Google and Igloo Studios that is designed to empower Main Street programs to use 3D technology in their revitalization efforts.

Designated Main Street programs may apply for a year-long program that will provide free training* and support to help you create a 3D model of your district using Google SketchUp™ and Google Earth™.

The possibilities are endless! Provide building owners with façade improvement options and business owners with interior design or store layout scenarios. Create interactive travel itineraries to give tourism a boost. Incorporate virtual tours of your downtown into your business recruitment efforts. Make business and building inventories easier.

Up to five Main Street programs with the most innovative and creative ideas for using this technology will be selected to receive:


The Process and How-tos

To better understand the process behind modeling your downtown, read this case study about Main Street McMinnville, which explains each step that this small Tennessee town took to create a volunteer-driven effort to put its downtown in 3D. Special thanks goes to former McMinnville Main Street Main Street Manager Chris Wilson, who helped make Main Streets in 3D happen.

Chris will be joined by representatives from Google SketchUp and Igloo Studios during a workshop at the 2010 National Main Streets Conference – don't miss it!

For another primer on Google SketchUp and Google Earth and for suggestions on ways a 3D Main Street can be used in your community, read "Visualizing Your Community With Google Earth and Google SketchUp" in the January-February 2010 issue of Main Street Now

  • Free daylong, on-site community training sessions from Igloo Studios experts (a $4000 value)*;
  • Free modeling from Google SketchUp experts;
  • Free access to Igloo Studios online school:;
  • Free publicity from the National Trust for Historic Preservation through print and media channels, including Main Street Now and, as well as at the 2011 National Main Streets Conference Opening Plenary; and 
  • One free conference registration to the 2011 National Main Streets Conference.

Outcomes of this program will be used as models for the community development world to show how 3D technology can change how we approach revitalization and historic preservation.

Go to the online application. The deadline is March 31, 2010. Be prepared to:

  • Participate in the program for a year (attend the training, photograph buildings, model your community, and use the 3D rendering in your revitalization work, as well as report back on your progress and successes);
  • Describe your ideas for using this technology (be creative and try to include all four points!);
  • List your partners and describe how they will participate and how they envision using the 3D model;
  • Explain ways in which your program has shown innovation and used emerging technologies; and
  • Request that your coordinating program send a support letter on your behalf to the National Trust Main Street Center.

You can preview the application questions here.

*Participants must pay for trainers' travel expenses.


Where can I go to learn more about this technology and how our program can use it?

Watch these videos of "fly through" animations of McMinnville Main Street's downtown and Cortland, NY. (Click here if you'd like to see the collections of McMinnville's structures in the Google 3D Warehouse.)

Read these Main Street Now articles: "McMinnville, Tennessee: 3D Downtown" and "Community Visualization with Google Earth and Google SketchUp." Both articles offer examples of ways this technology can be used and have pictures of google SketchUp-created buildings.

Watch online tutorials:
Google's self-paced tutorials and video trainings

IglooLogo_WEBwithTypeIgloo Studios' SketchUpShow



Check out these historic districts that are modeling their downtowns:

Hattiesburg, Miss.
Chattanooga, Tenn.
Steamboat Springs, Colo.

How much will it cost to pay for Igloo Studio trainer's travel expenses?

This is hard to say because we don't know where the selected communities will be located and what the travel costs will be, but Igloo Studios intends to make every effort to contain costs, for example, by carefully booking flights and trying to avoid overnight stays when possible. If an overnight trip is necessary, ask your district lodging business partners to help provide discounted rooms.

What computers or technology is needed?

For the group training workshop with Igloo Studios, a meeting space or classroom with computers, Internet access, and an overhead projector would be the best environment. If your volunteers and partners prefer to use their laptops, a meeting space with an overhead projector should suffice.

Volunteers can work at their own pace, either individually or in teams, using their own equipment; or you can host group work days at the Main Street office or at a partner facility that has computers and Internet access that people can use. Volunteers will need digital cameras to photograph objects and buildings and download images that modelers can access. We suggest creating a free online photo gallery using Picasa or Flickr so that all project participants can access the images at any time.

Click here to view software and hardware requirements for Mac OS X, Windows XP, and Windows Vista and Windows 7. 

Google SketchUp and Google Earth are free programs you can download yourself. Because you will need to upload the structures into the Google 3D Warehouse, you will need to create an account, or you can use your Gmail account to login if you already have one.

When applying for this project, what if a partner drops out or we learn we can't use the 3D Main Street model for one of our intended purposes?

Don't worry... this project is explore the possibilities and range of uses for 3D models of communities. Since the 3D model of your downtown will be uploaded to Google Earth – anyone can see it and use it. We'd like to know how multiple groups in your community can put it to use. New partners may join the effort once they see the technology's potential while existing partners may not be able to fulfill their commitment to participate. We expect that this project will evolve and grow over the year as you find new uses and additional partners. But we also expect that you will have volunteer enthusiasm and commitment so that you can complete the 3D modeling of your district and that your organization and its partners have already discussed ways the final 3D model can and might be used. This will become another tool in your revitalization toolbox – it will serve you well to tie it to tasks in your work plans and offer it as a Main Street resource to community partners.

Why do we need to commit to a year?

You'll need to take several steps to complete the project and we want to emphasize quality. You'll need to identify where your training workshop will be, host the daylong training, assign volunteers tasks, and spend a few weeks photographing and modeling your downtown. Then the real fun starts as your committee volunteers begin using the 3D rendering. We hope that as the year goes on (and beyond), you'll find new uses for it – which you will share with us as you report back on your successes throughout the the year.

To whom do I send additional questions?

E-mail We'll post additional FAQs as we get them.