2018 Community Transformation Workshop Recap

October 25, 2018 | 2018 Community Transformation Workshop Recap | 

4.jpgDuring the Day 2 District Investigation, participants interview a local business owner in MainStreet Cleveland, Tenn.

Last week, over 40 Main Street professionals attended the 2018 Community Transformation Workshop in Chattanooga, Tennessee. An essential component of the Main Street America Institute, the three-day in-person workshop gives participants hands-on tools to enact revitalization projects in their communities, from making the case for the reuse of a single building to developing Transformation Strategies through the Main Street Approach. As with any gathering of Main Streeters, the opportunity to explore districts, ask questions, and learn in the company of colleagues elevates the experience from classroom lessons to applied knowledge. Read on for a recap and thoughts from our participants.

Matt Wagner, Vice President of Revitalization Programs at The National Main Street Center, kicked off the program with an overview of current trends impacting Main Street programs, specifically highlighting how entrepreneurship, housing, and population create market shifts effecting the viability of downtowns. With these changing dynamics in mind, Donovan Rypkema, preservation expert and Principal of PlaceEconomics, walked participants through some key measurements of understanding the economic impacts of real estate development in Main Street communities, specifically the cost of a building that sits vacant, the impact of a unit of upper floor housing, and how to utilize Consumer Expenditure Survey data to determine feasible uses of a vacant space. In the afternoon, the group traveled to Chattanooga’s Glass House Collective and applied the morning’s lessons, producing concepts and plans for six vacant or underutilized buildings. The team at the Glass House Collective in Chattanooga plans to utilize these findings to help support potential redevelopment projects.

In the afternoon of Day 1, Donovan Rypkema points out a building currently for sale on Glass Street in Chattanooga, Tenn. With a little knowledge of market rents and vacancies combined with data and spreadsheets, participants were able to draw conclusions about district potential.

On Day 2, workshop participants traveled to Cleveland, Tenn., a Main Street community, to learn about district Transformation Strategies through the lens of the Main Street Approach. Kathy La Plante, NMSC's Senior Program Officer, led the group through exercises to assess the district’s market position via ESRI data and surveys of district stakeholders to determine viable strategies and tactics. In the afternoon, participants conducted a district investigation by interviewing business owners and residents about their experiences. Pulling their observations, conversations, and understanding of the district dynamics together, groups of participants suggested potential Transformation Strategies for the district to adopt. Participants also had the opportunity to meet with the MainStreet Cleveland board and other Cleveland stakeholders in a reception at the end of the day.3.jpg
Participants pouring over ESRI data during Day 2 of the workshop.

The workshop concluded on Day 3 with implementation steps for the Transformation Strategies conceived in Day 2. Working under the Four Points, participants conceived of implementable actions based on the strategy and considered further the ways to coalesce foundational work with strategy driven projects. Closing out the three-day program, participants discussed how elements of this new knowledge would impact their work moving forward and how they can be more effective leaders of their districts.

Here are some of their thoughts:

  • “What I liked was that there was a lot of relevant information provided in a condensed time-frame with instant opportunities to apply what we learned to help make the information sink in.  It was also great to meet so many people from across the USA and to gain their perspective about the Main Street program and how it is working in their communities.” – Barry Hicks, Executive Director, Ferndale DDA, Michigan (Oakland County)

  • “Learning how to determine the cost of a vacant building in downtown and how much to spend on a building renovation based on the projected revenue it will generate is game-changing for a downtown manager.” – Catherine Edgemeon, Main Street Coordinator, Perry, Georgia

  • “I must say out this course was useful and inspiring. It was great getting out into two communities for some real-world practice. I learned so much despite the fact that I’ve gone through the Refresh process in my community. The group work was fun as I met so many amazing Main Streeters. To top it off, the Chattanooga Choo Choo was a charming location to stay and explore.” – Lindsey Dotson, Main Street DDA Director, City of Charlevoix, Michigan

The opportunity to gather and bring knowledge together to the Main Street network is a goal of the Main Street America Institute, but it does not happen without amazing instructors and support. We thank the Michigan Economic Development Corporation for their ongoing support and our instructors: Matt Wagner, Donovan Rypkema, Kathy La Plante and Norma Miess (in absentia). A special thanks to the many folks in Tennessee who helped make the workshop possible, including Nancy Williams, Teal Thibaud, Tara Poole, Nicole Lewis, Sharon Marr, Jan Neyman, and the board of MainStreet Cleveland.

Interested in joining a Main Street America Institute (MSAI) learning opportunity?

The 2019 MSAI course schedule launches in early November. Stay tuned for updates on online courses and in-person workshops throughout the year.

Save the Date! The 2019 Leadership Development Workshop occurs immediately before the 2019 Main Street Now Conference in Seattle, Wash., March 25-27.