The 2020 Great American Main Street Award Semifinalists

February 4, 2020 | The 2020 Great American Main Street Award Semifinalists 

Congratulations to the 2020 Great American Main Street Award (GAMSA) Semifinalists!

Boyne City Main Street (Boyne City, Michigan)
Main Street Denison (Denison, Texas)
Evanston URA/Main Street (Evanston, Wyoming)
Greater Ashmont Main Street (Boston, Massachusetts)

“The Great American Main Street Award is a top honor within the commercial district revitalization field,” said Patrice Frey, President and CEO of the National Main Street Center. “These eight outstanding semifinalists have demonstrated the impressive economic and community growth that is possible when commercial districts harness the power of the Main Street Approach. They’re a model for Main Street programs across the country working to achieve comprehensive, preservation-based revitalization.”

The reinvestment statistics from this year’s batch of semifinalists show the true impact of their hard work. Together, these eight semifinalists have brought in over 1 billion dollars in public investment and half a billion dollars in private investment, generated 9,498 jobs, opened 459 new businesses, rehabbed 734 buildings, and logged 192,371 volunteer hours since their programs’ inceptions.

GAMSA semifinalists were selected from a nationwide pool of accredited Main Street America applicants based on their successful and innovative uses of the Main Street Approach™. Criteria includes: volunteer, partner, and community engagement; community transformation; commitment to historic preservation; impactful public/private partnerships, entrepreneurship development; people-centered design; and the community’s approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion. 100 communities have been recognized as winners since the award’s inception in 1995.

We look forward to announcing the GAMSA winners on May 18 at the Main Street Now Conference in Dallas. Read on to learn more about each of the semifinalists.

Boyne City Main Street | Boyne City, Michigan

Boyne_Pic.jpgMusicians play at Boyne City Main Street's Stroll the Streets event, a night of outdoor entertainment every Friday in the summer. Credit: Michigan Barefoot Memories Photography

Located along Lake Charlevoix in Northern Michigan, Boyne City has harnessed the Main Street Approach to bring renewed vitality downtown. By activating its waterfront and boosting recreation opportunities, Boyne City has become a tourist destination. But it hasn’t forgotten about its residents. Several workforce housing initiatives are underway, and a newly constructed pavilion in the core of downtown hosts year-round community events and a farmers market. Since the Main Street program began in 2003, they’ve built up a strong volunteer base, logging 54,150 volunteer hours in a town of just 3,740!

Destination Congress Heights | Washington, DC

art_all_night_2.pngCongress Heights' Art All Night is a yearly festival that brings the community together for live music, interactive art installations, food, and other dynamic performances. Credit: Dionne Baux

Through inclusive economic development, community engagement, mixed-use development projects, and placemaking, Destination Congress Heights (DCH) has changed the narrative around their corridor in just three years. The proof is in their reinvestment statistics: since 2016, the district’s vacancy rate has shrunk from 29 percent to 13 percent, and they’ve created 7,291 new jobs. Boasting an eclectic mix of shops that are nearly 85 percent owned by African Americans, DCH has trained small business owners through an array of entrepreneurship programs. DCH rebranded Congress Heights as the “Soul of the City,” and that tagline certainly rings true today.

Main Street Denison | Denison, Texas

Denison_Pic.jpgMain Street Denison's Fall Festival brings in so many attendees that the community more than doubles in size on this special day each year. The festival stretches all the way down Main Street, with a car show on one end, children’s activities on the other, and hundreds of vendors in between! Photo credit: Mel Climer

The longest Main Street in Texas, Denison has gone from a sleepy railroad town to a thriving hub for music, arts, and entertainment. Denison has made community engagement a part of everything they do–from engaging middle schoolers through an event volunteering program to initiating “Mayor on Main,” an effort where the Mayor and Main Street Director personally visit every business on Main Street. With 424 buildings rehabbed since 1989 and a large, multi-stakeholder streetscape redesign initiative in the works, Denison is preserving its past while building a brighter future.

Evanston URA/ Main Street | Evanston, Wyoming

Evanston_Pic.jpgEvanston residents grab coffee at a local eatery on Main Street. Credit Andy Greenman. 

A natural gas boom drew activity away from Evanston’s downtown in the 1970s, but significant preservation and design projects have transformed Evanston’s Main Street into a lively place to live, work, and play. A town along the historic Lincoln Highway, Evanston has reshaped downtown by rehabbing 35 buildings, including a fire-ravaged theater, abandoned hotel, and a vacant train depot. Evanston encourages small business owners to take part in their preservation ethic by offering a revolving loan fund. With a Chinese New Year parade, Cinco de Mayo celebration, and Celtic Festival, the URA/Main Street program offers events that celebrate the diversity of their community.

Greater Ashmont Main Street | Boston, Massachusetts

GAMS_pic.jpgGreater Ashmont Main Street worked to improve walkability by recruiting artists to paint murals throughout the district. Credit: Greater Ashmont Main Street

Greater Ashmont Main Street has become an active, walkable district with inviting public spaces and vibrant shops and restaurants that embrace the area’s diversity. Anchored by a large transit hub, Greater Ashmont Main Street has implemented a range of people-centered placemaking projects to connect this formerly bifurcated district and bring more foot traffic downtown. After extensive community feedback, Greater Ashmont Main Street created a public plaza for community gathering in historic Peabody Square and brought in four mixed-income residential projects. With a linear park aimed at creating even more continuity and walkability in the district on the way, Greater Ashmont Main Street has spurred an impressive transformation.

Jefferson Matters: Main Street | Jefferson, Iowa

Jefferson_Pic.jpgJefferson's unique rooftop art can only be seen from the top of the Mahanay Bell Tower's observation deck, which provides a 360 degree view of the downtown and rural landscape. A 47 bell carillon plays digitally each hour. Credit: Jamie Daubendiek

When Jefferson Matters: Main Street got its start in 2012, many of the district’s storefronts were vacant and historic buildings had fallen into disrepair. But in only eight years, Jefferson Matters has sparked an inspiring transformation through innovative placemaking projects and building restorations. Jefferson Main Street convinced property owners to sell them their vacant buildings, renovated the storefronts themselves, and hosted events to encourage property owners and entrepreneurs to locate downtown. The Main Street program worked with community partners to bring the software development company Pillar Technology to their town of 4,300, which will bring in thirty new jobs and has sparked new housing developments.

Kendall Whittier Main Street | Tulsa, Oklahoma

KW_Pic.jpgKendall Whittier Mercado is a multi-cultural artisan market on the first and third Saturday of the month, May through October. Shoppers can find unique handmade jewelry, clothing, shoes, blankets, baskets, original art & crafts, and much more. Credit Kendall Whittier Main Street

With lively restaurants, breweries, art galleries, and retail lining the streets of Kendall Whittier, it’s hard to believe this district had a 65 percent vacancy rate just seven years ago. After an eight-lane highway bisected Kendall Whitter in the 1960s, this once-thriving shopping district hit hard times. But since 2013, 36 new businesses have opened, and 292 jobs have been created. With people-centered transportation projects, affordable housing initiatives, and events that reflect the diversity of the community, Kendall Whittier has seen progress without marginalization. Their revitalization has made a it a model for other Tulsa neighborhoods and sparked a citywide Main Street program.

Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association | Tupelo, Mississippi

Tupelo_Pic.jpgWine Downtown attendees in Tupelo enjoy one of the Main Street's many retail-focused events throughout the year. Photo Credit: Ben McAlilly, Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association

Downtown Tupelo has built on its legacy as the home of Elvis Presley and transformed its Main Street from a buttoned-up corridor that that shut down after 5pm to a bustling district with live music, art galleries, and farm-to-table restaurants. Thanks in part to a $14 million streetscape project that changed the face of Main Street and a new development that doubled the footprint of their downtown, Tupelo is now thriving, with 83 businesses opening in the last five years, which has generated over 1,300 jobs. A three-time GAMSA semifinalist, Tupelo Main Street embraces the “Tupelo Spirit” with a range of inclusive community events and festivals.