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2019 Great American Main Street Semi-Finalist Spotlight: Evanston, Wyoming

March 20, 2019 | 2019 Great American Main Street Semi-Finalist Spotlight: Evanston, Wyoming 

In a few days, we’ll announce the three winners of the 2019 Great American Main Street Award (GAMSA) at the Main Street Now Conference in Seattle, Washington. In anticipation of the GAMSA reveal, we’re highlighting each of the 10 GAMSA semi-finalists on our blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram every day until the #NOW19 conference.

Semi-finalists are selected by a national jury of community development professionals and leaders in the fields of economic development and historic preservation. These communities exemplify the power of the Main Street Approach® to transform traditional downtowns and neighborhood business districts.

Evanston Urban Renewal Agency • Evanston, Wyoming

Year Founded: 2008 | Population: 14,558 | Square Blocks in Commercial District: 18P15-EvanstonRL.jpgAn aerial view of historic downtown Evanston. Photo credit: Rick Lunsford

“I am so proud of Evanston being named as a Top Ten Semifinalist for a 2019 GAMSA! This is such an honor for our community and for all those that have volunteered, supported, and worked hard for the past 30+ years on preserving our past and ensuring the heart of our community remains strong, is inviting, and a place you want to be.”
- Jane Law, Main Street Manager, Evanston Urban Renewal Agency

Located along the historic Lincoln Highway, Evanston Urban Renewal Agency (URA) has transformed their downtown since a natural gas boom drew activity away from their district in the 1970s. Evanston URA has rehabbed 31 buildings since 2008 and turned many of them into unique public spaces for the community to enjoy.

Evanston URA has funded their preservation projects through generating nearly $3.8 million in public/private investment and through their annual fundraiser, the Renewal Ball. Now in its 26th year, the ball sells out every year and has raised over $1.6 million. The URA also offer incentives for small business owners to do their own preservation work, including offering a revolving loan fund for rehab efforts and an Architectural Assistance Fund.

The URA’s commitment to historic preservation is clear in their work with the Strand Theater. After a tragic fire in 2007, it was donated to Evanston URA, which turned it into a cultural center that hosts concerts, dance recitals, plays, and weddings. Build in 1912, the Strand Theater sits in the historic Train Depot and Depot Square, which have been transformed into community spaces after the Union Pacific Railroad discontinued service there. These venues host a variety of events throughout the year that celebrate the culture of Evanston’s community members, including Chinese New Year parades, Cinco de Mayo celebrations, and Celtic Festivals.

Fun fact: One of the many buildings Evanston URA has rehabbed is the Historic Roundhouse and Railyards, a 27-acre Union Pacific Railyard that includes several major buildings: a Machine Shop, Roundhouse, Oil Storage (now a visitor center), and a working turntable. To date, the Machine Shop and Section One of the Roundhouse have been completed and are used as community spaces for events, including conferences, weddings, jousting, a Celtic Festival, and high school proms.

Follow Evanston Urban Renewal Agency on social media:

Facebook: @EvanstonUrbanRenewalAgency