The economic decline witnessed by many of Kentucky’s central business districts over the past thirty years, threatened the many architecturally and historically significant buildings in these downtowns. Based on the need to preserve not only the buildings, but also the economic vitality of a communities’s downtown, the Kentucky Heritage Council developed the Kentucky Main Street Program to assist communities with revitalization efforts.
The Kentucky Main Street Program is based on a four-point approach developed by the National Main Street Center , a division of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The four components of the program are: Organization, Promotion, Design and Economic Restructuring. The goal of this program is to encourage downtown revitalization and economic development within the context of historic preservation.
Since 1979, this program has been a successful addition toward reversing the economic decline in Kentucky’s downtowns, both small and large. Participation in this program requires local commitment and financial support. A Main Street Manager administers the program locally through a volunteer board. The Heritage Council provides technical and design assistance, on-site visits, a resource center, national consultants and grant funding. While many cities have seen immediate improvements, the program establishes an effective organization that will continue to monitor and guide revitalization efforts. It is primarily a self-help program, locally administered and funded, with technical assistance and guidance provided by the Heritage Council. The efforts center on certain aspects of downtown revitalization. A public – private partnership is developed which uses a comprehensive approach, relies on quality, involves changing attitudes, focuses on existing assets, and is both incremental in nature while being implementation oriented.
There are many reasons for revitalizing a downtown, but once the process has begun communities note positive changes such as:
Renewed confidence in the downtown through an improved image.
New job opportunities through the attraction of new buisnesses and strenghthened service/retail markets.
Savings in tax dollars. Revitalization stabilizes and improves the area’s tax base, while protecting the investments already made in the downtown.
A process that enables property owners to maintain historic commercial buildings and preserve an important part of a community’s unique heritage.
Thresholds needed to be met for Developing a Successful Program:
When a broad consensus has been reached in the community as to the importance and value of a viable downtown.
When community leaders understand and appreciate the importance of economic development, not only in an industrial park, but also in the downtown.
When community leaders understand Main Street’s four-point approach to downtown revitalization.
When the municipal government is committed to the project, both with financial and human resources.
When the local chamber of commerce is supportive of the effort.
When there is a community-wide commitment to preserving local historic resources.
When there is a balance of need and potential in the downtown area.
When projections indicate that the community will experience continued growth.
If you are intersted in learning more about how the Kentucky Main Street program might benefit your community contact Roger Stapleton, State Coordinator, Karen Keown, Main Street/Renaissance Kentucky Coordinator, or Mark Dennen, Main Street Staff Architect. You are also welcome to visit one of the Main Street communities listed below. Over thirty managers have undertaken training to become a “Certified Kentucky Main Street Manager” – 19 graduated as Kentucky’s first KCMM (Kentucky Certified MainStreet Manager) class in November 2001 and another 20 graduated in November 2004 – contact our office for more information on the certification process and testing dates. The Kentucky Main Street Program is a program of the Kentucky Heritage Council, an alliance member of the Renaissance Kentucky initative which is working to bring as many resources as possible to address downtown issues. Kentucky is also proud to be the only state with 46 multiple listings in the Preserve America initative coordinated by the White House to promote historic preservation in communities across the United States.