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Community Spotlight: Main Street Programs Receive AARP Community Challenge Grants

July 21, 2022 | Community Spotlight: Main Street Programs Receive AARP Community Challenge Grants | By: Marta Olmos, Communications Coordinator for Main Street America |
Rendering of corner at New Street and Center Street in downtown Metuchen. Photo courtesy of Downtown Metuchen Alliance.

The AARP Community Challenge program gives out quick-action grants to activate public spaces and build momentum for local change. This program is a great opportunity for many Main Streets, and this year, eight Main Street programs were awarded grants. Here are some of their projects.

Downtown Boise Association (Idaho)

DTPlays is an electric cargo bike that will carry a variety of outdoor games, chairs, shade tent, water station and more to Cherie Buckner-Webb Park in Downtown Boise. ““We’re so very excited to bring a new activation to our downtown that invites everyone to PLAY,” said Jenn Hensley, Executive Director at Downtown Boise Association. Throughout the summer, community members of all ages will be able to meet, socialize, and engage in fun activities together in a beautiful park setting in the heart of the city using the supplies transported with the bike. “These free pop-ups are our answer to responses received from Treasure Valley residents through a 2021 survey asking for more family-friendly, free fun during daytime hours,” said Hensley. “What’s more fun than hula hoops, bubbles, yard games, and hands-on activities in the park?!” This environmentally friendly micro-mobility solution will engage the community while promoting sustainability.

Metuchen Downtown Alliance (New Jersey)

Metuchen will transform two parking spots in their downtown center into a parklet with planters, benches, and a beautiful mosaic table. “AARP was the earliest and most constant supporters of downtown revitalization in Metuchen,” said Eric Berger, Metuchen Downtown Alliance Chairman. “Even more important than the money is association with AARP and their important work to make places livable for people of all ages.”

Silver City MainStreet (New Mexico)

Silver City will use their AARP Funds to install interpretive panels along the sidewalks on Yankie Street. Summer “monsoon” rains often transform the street into “Yankie Creek,” and these historic rains also created Big Ditch Park. As a result of these frequent floods, the sidewalks are elevated to keep them above water. New residents and tourists often ask, “Why are the sidewalks so high?” This interpretive project will answer that question and provide activities that encourage use and exploration into the Big Ditch Park. The installation will also include locally popular games to engage all generations in social activity and access to the Big Ditch Park. “We are thrilled to receive this funding that will create a fun, engaging public space for residents and visitors of all ages,” said Charmeine Wait, Executive Director at Silver City MainStreet.

Carlsbad MainStreet (New Mexico)

Carlsbad MainStreet will upgrade their downtown pedestrian crossings. The crossing lines will be refreshed and repainted. Many events are held in the downtown district and this will enhance the streets and improve accessibility. “Thank you to AARP for your support of our community, this allows new opportunities for economic vitality and growth,” said Eyenid Manzo, Carlsbad MainStreet Assistant Director.

Opelika Main Street (Alabama)

Opelika Main Street is utilizing the AARP Community Challenge grant funds to install a new outdoor game station. A placemaking project, this game station will help bring life to an underutilized public space within our downtown while also providing a space for families to enjoy. "We truly appreciate AARP's continued support of Opelika Main Street," said Opelika Main Street Executive Director Ken Ward. "Downtowns are the heart of the community and the AARP Community Challenge grant funds will help us provide a fun game station that all families in our community can enjoy!"

Heart of Lebanon (Indiana)

The Heart of Lebanon’s project will assist seniors with attending downtown events by providing items including folding chairs, umbrellas, and canes. With these items provided at the event, seniors will not need to carry them from their vehicle or return to their vehicle to retrieve the item if they need it. These items will be centrally located within the event space on a cart called The Helping Hub Station. “Our goal was to make our downtown more inclusive and meet the needs of older, mobility-challenged residents,” said Missy Krulik, Executive Director at Heart of Lebanon. “We hope that this project demonstrates to our seniors that they are valued members of our community and Main Street.”

Congratulations to Monroeville Main Street and Main Street Blytheville who were also awarded AARP Community Challenge Grants!