October 23, 2020 | 2020 Great American Main Street Award Semifinalist Spotlight: Evanston URA/ Main Street |
An aerial view of downtown Evanston. Credit: Andy Greenman
On Oct. 30, we’ll announce the three winners of the 2020 Great American Main Street Award (GAMSA). In anticipation of the big reveal, we’re highlighting one GAMSA semifinalist per day on our blog, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter from Oct. 20 -29. We’ll not only spotlight their impressive efforts from previous years, but we’ve also checked in with each community to hear about how their downtowns have been impacted by the pandemic, how their programs have responded, and advice they’d give to other Main Street communities.
Evanston URA/ Main Street • Evanston, WY
Year Founded: 2008 | Population: 11,700 | Square Blocks in Commercial District: 18
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 Main Street has reshaped downtown through their commitment to historic preservation and dedication to creating vibrant public spaces for their community to enjoy. They have rehabbed 35 buildings, including a fire-ravaged theater, abandoned hotel, and a vacant train depot.
Evanston Main Street encourages small business owners to take part in their preservation ethic by offering a revolving loan fund. Their annual Renewal Ball also fuels their revitalization efforts. The Ball has become the longest running fundraiser in the State of Wyoming and has raised over $1.6M for the URA’s initiatives. With a Chinese New Year parade, Cinco de Mayo celebration, and Celtic Festival, the URA/Main Street program also offers events that celebrate the diversity of their community.
Keep reading to hear from Evanston URA/ Main Street’s Executive Director, Jane Law, about how the Main Street program has pivoted since the pandemic.
How has COVID-19 affected your community?
Like everywhere, our world was turned upside down and people had to be creative and come up with new ways of doing business and staying open. And that they did! Even the jewelry store offered curbside service. We were fortunate to not lose any businesses; none closed other than salons, a barber shop, and one service business. Two closed and did cleaning, remodeling, etc. We did have one new business open, one did a major façade improvement project, and a historic building was purchased.
Describe one of the ways your program has responded to those effects.
Early on, it seems like I spent six hours a day reposting Facebook posts from not only our downtown businesses, but others in the community, to encourage community members to support our local small businesses, which they did and continue to do. I also shared almost daily information, resources, and funding available for small businesses. Between some personal visits, I sent many personal texts to encourage people to apply for CARES funding and any other funding available, as well as other resources. I care deeply for these businesses that I have worked with for so many years.
What is one piece of advice you would give to Main Streets struggling to pivot in the time of COVID-19?
Continue to work together, cross-promote, and support one another.
Follow Evanston URA/ Main Street on social media to keep up with their efforts:
Join us as we announce the GAMSA winners on Oct. 30 at 12pm EST during a special Main Street plenary at PastForward, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s digital conference. The plenary is free to attend but registration is required! Tune in to the awards ceremony by registering for the session via Zoom or the PastForward site. We will also be streaming the ceremony via Facebook Live.