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Announcing the 2024 Great American Main Street Award Semifinalists


September 26, 2023 | Announcing the 2024 Great American Main Street Award Semifinalists! |   

Meet the 2024 Great American Main Street Award Semifinalists! Images clockwise from top left: Camas, Washington; Denison, Texas; Lansing, Michigan; Macon, Georgia; Mount Vernon-Lisbon, Iowa; New Bern, North Carolina; Monroeville, Alabama; and Madison, Indiana.


Join us in offering congratulations to eight Main Street America communities that are in the running for being recognized with the 2024 Great American Main Street Award!  

A national jury of industry professionals and local leaders in the fields of economic development and historic preservation evaluated 17 applications from Main Street programs working across the country in communities of all sizes. After thoughtful consideration and deliberation, these eight organizations are being recognized as semifinalist for the prestigious Great American Main Street Award (GAMSA) for excellence in fostering preservation-based revitalization efforts in their historic downtowns and commercial corridor districts through the Main Street Approach™.

“The Great American Main Street Award is the highest honor that we grant to organizations within our network,” said Matt Wagner, Chief Program Officer at Main Street America. “We are elated to recognize these eight Main Street organizations as 2024 GAMSA Semifinalists for their incredible accomplishments in transforming their downtowns through innovative programs strategically designed to preserve their unique heritage, foster economic vitality, and create a welcoming atmosphere.”  

From neighborhood commercial corridors within larger cities to small towns with traditional downtowns, the 2024 GAMSA Semifinalists represent the diversity of the Main Street America network and the power of the Main Street Approach™. Semifinalists have generated over $1.48 billion in local reinvestment, helped open 881 net new businesses, facilitated the creation of 3,827 net new jobs, catalyzed the rehabilitation of 2,164 historic buildings, and leveraged 306,986 volunteer hours.

Keep reading to learn more about each community and stay tuned to our social channels for daily semifinalist spotlights. And make sure to save the date for the award ceremony on May 6 during the opening plenary of the 2024 Main Street Now Conference in Birmingham, Alabama. 

Downtown Camas Association - Camas, Washington

Left: Camas Love mural painted by a local resident. Right: On the corner of 4th and Dallas, diners enjoy outdoor seating under the shade of trees and meals from Natalia’s Café, located in a historic building. Photos by Downtown Camas Association. 

 Founded in 2009, Downtown Camas Association has led their community through a “Mill Town Renaissance.” An operational 1883 paper mill sits at the heart of their downtown, surrounded by green streets, vibrant small businesses, and beautiful architecture. Downtown Camas Association’s economic vitality efforts have reduced their vacancy rate from 60 percent in 2009 to less than 1 percent today, fostering an environment of fun that never fails to bring families and young people downtown to explore local businesses and enjoy exciting events.

In 2020, Downtown Camas Association mobilized to save the iconic roofline lighting covering 21 buildings in the downtown district. By consulting with local experts and securing funding, they made critical updates to ensure code compliance while also extending the lights across five more buildings and increasing energy efficiency. The organization is deeply committed to the unique historic and aesthetic characteristics that make their community special, and they showcase that pride with walking tours, trivia activities, public art projects, interpretive panels, and more. 


Denison Main Street - Denison, Texas

Left: Downtown revitalization professions admire Downtown Denison’s historic buildings during the Texas Main Street Annual training. Photo by Mel Climer – Climer Design. Right: Families enjoy the Doc Holliday Saints and Sinner Festival showcasing Denison’s Old West history and heritage. Photo by HbT Photography.  

As the longest Main Street district in Texas, this powerhouse community has something for everyone. Denison’s walkable downtown offers public art, grand multi-story buildings, and attractions dedicated to the city’s rich heritage. Starting in 2011, Denison Main Street implemented the Operation Increase Occupancy program to fill their downtown vacancies. This initiative included a program to support destination businessesincluding $100,000 of incentives for new wineries, breweries, distilleries, and restaurants. As a result, the downtown area is well known for its vibrant restaurant and local retail scene.

In 2020, the community was at risk of losing a unique historical asset when the Red River Railroad Museum announced their imminent closure. Denison Main Street sprang into action and supported the museum in raising awareness about their needs and hosting a community meeting. Within six months, the museum was able to re-open in a new Main Street location, and it has since seen record-high visitation, helping preserve Denison’s unique railroad history.


Downtown Lansing Inc. - Lansing, Michigan

Left: A micro-beach, lighting, and outdoor seating create an inviting space at the restored Rotary Park. Right: Families enjoy the Kringle Holiday Market. Photo by Downtown Lansing Inc. 

In the heart of Michigan’s capital city, Downtown Lansing Inc., has used walkability, sustainability, and accessibility to create a Main Street that welcomes everyone. This program has a long list of successes including streetscape improvements, public art installations, state-wide business recruitment, and DEIA planning.  

Before COVID, the downtown area was primarily known as a space for office workers and lunchtime eateries. The pandemic radically altered the business landscape and forced Downtown Lansing Inc., to re-evaluate their revitalization strategy and the district’s identity. They worked with businesses to expand weeknight and weekend hours, developers to bring more than 900 new housing units to the district, and new partners to expand the area’s arts and cultural offerings. These changes have ushered in a new era for downtown Lansing as a vibrant destination with a real sense of place. 


NewTown Macon - Macon, Georgia

Left: The historic Capricorn Studios building, saved from demolition by NewTown Macon and rehabilitated by Mercer University in 2019. Photo by NewTown Macon. Right: Live music can be found every night of the week in downtown Macon, including on sidewalk patios and cafes. Photo by Jessica Whitley Photography. 

This Georgia Peach packs a real punch! Since 1996, NewTown Macon has completely transformed this southern city’s historic Main Street district. Their achievements include creating a riverfront trail, expanding downtown housing, advocating for minority business owners, and organizing a robust schedule of exciting programming. This impact is celebrated by the Downtown Hype Team, a group of volunteer ambassadors who use social media to share their love for #downtownmacon—efforts that are building hometown pride and encouraging tourism.  

One of their most impactful programs is their Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), which offers loans, entrepreneurial training, and real estate coaching. This program has had a huge impact in decreasing the racial wealth gap by supporting historically underserved entrepreneurs and creating opportunities for wealth-building. Since beginning the CDFI program, NewTown Macon has distributed $598,000 in loans to Black entrepreneurs and supported $2,185,000 in investment by developers of color. 


Madison Main Street Program - Madison, Indiana 

Left: Local artists and photographers like Brenda contribute to the vibrancy of Madison’s creative scene. Photo by Austin Sims. Right: Shoppers stroll through the Madison Farmers Market. Photo by Bill Jones with Wonderland Studios. 

Established in 1979 as one of the original three pilot Main Street programs in the country, Madison Main Street Program has played a crucial role in helping to preserve the town’s architectural and entrepreneurial heritage while continually reimagining spaces, places, and activities to meet the needs of the community. Notable preservation efforts include championing large-scale rehabilitation efforts of historic buildings, safeguarding the year-round Madison Farmers Market, and nurturing residents’ knowledge, skills, and confidence in preservation efforts through hands-on workshops.  

The organization's commitment to collaboration and partnership is visible in many ways, including the Business Resiliency Fund which provided 50 businesses with rent/mortgage assistance during the pandemic and their support of the Rainbow River Club, a monthly social gathering for LGBTQ+ residents that has increased the town’s reputation as a welcoming community and directly resulted in the creation of eight new LGBTQ-owned businesses. 


Monroeville Main Street - Monroeville, Alabama

Left: Members of the Montevallo Main Street program pose in front of the Sweet Home mural, painted by Melissa Wasden. Right: Literary Giants mural by Johnna Bush of Grove Hill, Ala., pay tribute to writers from the area. Photos by Monroeville Main Street. 

In a small town in rural southwest Alabama, Monroeville Main Street is championing efforts that knit together the arts, preservation through adaptive reuse, and youth entrepreneurism to develop pride of place. Since its founding in 2014, the program has partnered with artists, local organizations, and the University of Alabama to install over 50 pieces of public art, including 14 small bronze sculptures that honor the 10 writers credited with Monroeville being named Alabama's Literary Capital. Additionally, the organization supports annual activities that keep the community’s creative heritage alive, such as their Paint the Town Paint Out plein air painting event, which is hosted in conjunction with the Monroe County Museum's Monroeville Literary Festival.

Monroeville Main Street has also led efforts to significantly decrease the district’s vacancy rate by championing adaptive reuse projects, such as sub-dividing the lower floors of large buildings into smaller, more affordable spaces and adding upper story residences, thereby breathing new life to historic buildings and creating opportunities for residential and commercial growth. Through their B.O.U.Y. program, the organization seeks to recruit downtown business from within the town’s youth and young adults by providing free business courses, one-on-one support, and seed funding. 


Mount Vernon-Lisbon Community Development Group - Mount Vernon, Iowa

Left: A rainbow arches across Mount Vernon’s Main Street and street pole banners celebrate the community’s designation as one of “America’s Coolest Small Towns” by Budget Travel. Photo by Meghan Tamanishi. Right: Visitors stroll downtown during Magical Night, one of the 14 annual events that drive community pride and commerce. Photo by Mount Vernon Main Street.   

In Mount Vernon's historic 12-block downtown district, the words “All are Welcome Here” grace the entrance to the newly built Hilltop Pocket Park and serve as a commitment to residents, visitors, and businesses. Founded in 2008, the Mount Vernon Main Street program has led efforts to rebuild historic structures damaged by tragic events and implemented creative approaches to economic development, such as converting a former middle school into a business incubator and hosting a business plan contest whose grand prize consists of one year's free rent and utilities. To date, the organization’s economic vitality initiatives have resulted in 61 net new businesses and 71 net new jobs.

Mount Vernon Main Street’s signature outside the box ethos can be found in their robust volunteer program, which welcomes involvement from community members of all ages and backgrounds through joyful service. Committee chairs and sub-committee leaders tap into their networks to recruit volunteers with diverse passions—from culinary traditions and historic preservation to preparing mailers and organizing unique events. To date, Mount Vernon Main Street’s 520 volunteers have logged 68,210 volunteer hours. 


Swiss Bear, Inc. - New Bern, North Carolina 

Left: Edwin Rueda, co-owner and chef of Mayte’s Sweets Patisserie and Café, renovated an empty storefront to bring a European-style coffee shop experience to New Bern. Right: Unity Sculpture by Craven Arts Council. Photos by Swiss Bear, Inc.  

Settled by Swiss immigrants in the 18th century, New Bern is rich with historical, cultural and natural resource legacies. As one of the original 30 Main Street communities, Swiss Bear, Inc., has led revitalizing efforts in their downtown since 1980. In 2010, they embarked on a community-driven process to add the historically underserved African American commercial area of Five Points to their district and revitalization efforts. This expansion has resulted in 11 building rehabilitations, 13 new businesses, a vocational-technical facility, and new housing, as well as plans for continued shared prosperity. 

Much of the Main Street is located within a National Register of Historic Places district, and Swiss Bear, Inc., has shown a significant commitment to preserving this unique heritage. In 2021, they facilitated the purchase of the Elks Building, a five-story space originally constructed in 1908 that had been vacant since the 1990s. The organization also offers façade improvement services and offers a property improvement grant to guarantee the future of their historic assets. To date, their historic preservation efforts have led to the rehabilitation of over 250 structures, including the creation of upper floor housing units, office/gallery spaces, and theatres. 


Tune in to the Main Street America social media channels for daily spotlights of each semifinalist, September 27 – October 6, 2023. Save the date for the award ceremony on May 6 during the opening plenary of the 2024 Main Street Now Conference in Birmingham, Alabama.