March 26, 2018 | National Main Street Center | Announcing the 2018 Great American Main Street Award Winners |
The National Main Street Center, Inc., announced Downtown Oregon City, Rock Springs Main Street/Urban Renewal Agency, and Howell Main Street as the 2018 Great American Main Street Award (GAMSA) winners during its annual conference in Kansas City, Missouri. The awards were made possible through support from U.S. Bank.
“This year’s winners are a testament to the power of Main Street revitalization,” said Patrice Frey, president and CEO of the National Main Street Center. “Thanks to dedicated leadership, broad community support, and commitment to a comprehensive and incremental approach, these three Main Street programs have brought renewed vibrancy to their downtowns. It’s truly inspiring.”
Oregon City, known as the first incorporated city in the American West and the official end of the Oregon Trail, sits along the mighty Willamette River and Falls. This scenic town has undergone an inspiring revival. The town’s evolution – from a pioneer’s oasis in the 19th century, to industrial center in the 20th century, to the dynamic cultural destination residents and visitors enjoy today – is a testament to a deeply-rooted local entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to continuous growth.
The transformation has occurred in the face of hardships that are an all too familiar story in once-thriving industrial towns, including the closing of one of the town’s major employers, a disruptive streetscape project, and the departure of county administrative offices. Over the last decade, under the auspices of Downtown Oregon City Association, the city has seen nearly $42 million invested in the downtown district’s buildings, streetscapes, and infrastructure, in addition to over two-dozen new business openings and hundreds of new jobs.
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Founded in 1888 by a diverse group of immigrant coal miners, the town of Rock Springs has experienced booms and busts since its early coal mining days through the present-day with the advent of the oil and gas economy. This up and down cycle negatively impacted the downtown district and it became a place most people avoided. In 2006, the Rock Springs Main Street/Urban Renewal Agency was founded to address the tarnished reputation and bring about renewed vibrancy.
Due to the efforts of the Main Street organization and the can-do attitude of the community, today downtown Rock Springs has a vibrant local economy and cultural scene. The Freight Station, a signature structure in the downtown district that had been abandoned for more than 30 years, is now a vibrant community center that bustles with weekly events. It also houses the Visitors Center where travelers can get recommendations and learn about the rich history of downtown. Entertainment is also easy for visitors to find thanks to the newly refurbished 370-seat Broadway Theater and the Community Fine Arts Center.
“It is a great honor for the entire community for Downtown Rock Springs to be selected as the 2018 Great American Main Street Award winner,” says Rock Springs Mayor Carl Demshar. “The award is a result of the hard work we’ve done to revitalize downtown, but the economic benefits ripple throughout the entire community.”
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This transformation is spearheaded by Howell Main Street Inc. in conjunction with the Downtown Development Authority. Despite a challenging regional economic environment, downtown Howell now has a vacancy rate of just 1.2 percent and is home to a diverse mix of businesses that foster a strong sense of place to attract and keep people downtown.
In years past, downtown Howell was home to mostly professional services that filled a need, but failed to bring the kind of energy and enthusiasm needed to make downtown a place that drew people in and gave them a reason to stay. Through extensive engagement with local partners and the City, and strategic business recruitment, downtown now boasts a diverse mix of businesses featuring unique retail, dining establishments, and service industries. Anchored by entertaining destinations like the new local brewery Aberrant Ales, entrepreneurial attractions like the Frontal Lobe co-working space, and cultural institutions like the Howell Opera House and Howell Movie Theatre, downtown is once again a destination.
“Howell is a prime example of a small rural community that is doing big things. They have all the charm you’d expect in a historic Main Street community, but they don’t stop there,” said Patrice Frey, President and CEO of the National Main Street Center. “Downtown Howell is setting itself apart as a supportive place for entrepreneurs and business owners and that’s how we’re seeing small communities stay competitive in today’s economy.”
When it comes to the hearts and souls of communities across America, Main Streets serve as a vital center of connection and revitalization. Together, this year’s winners represent the resilient spirit and bright future of Main Streets across the country.
Learn more about each 2018 GAMSA winner here:
Oregon City, Oregon
Rock Springs, Wyoming
To watch the Opening Plenary Livestream
, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aAq6O6mzzqk