Three Main Street America Staff members standing in front of a mural in Marion, Iowa.

Marion, Iowa © Tasha Sams

About

We work in collaboration with thousands of local partners and grassroots leaders across the nation who share our commitment to advancing shared prosperity, creating resilient economies, and improving quality of life.

Overview Who We Are How We Work Partner Collaborations Our Supporters Our Team Job Opportunities Contact Us
Two community members in Emporia Kansas pose with a sign saying "I'm a Main Streeter"

Emporia, Kansas © Emporia Main Street

Our Network

Made up of small towns, mid-sized communities, and urban commercial districts, the thousands of organizations, individuals, volunteers, and local leaders that make up Main Street America™ represent the broad diversity that makes this country so unique.

Overview Coordinating Programs Main Street Communities Collective Impact Awards & Recognition Community Evaluation Framework Join the Movement
Dionne Baux and MSA partner working in Bronzeville, Chicago.

Chicago, Illinois © Main Street America

Resources

Looking for strategies and tools to support you in your work? Delve into the Main Street Resource Center and explore a wide range of resources including our extensive Knowledge Hub, professional development opportunities, field service offerings, advocacy support, and more!

Overview Knowledge Hub Field Services Government Relations Main Street Now Conference Main Street America Institute Small Business Support Allied Member Services The Point Members Area
People riding e-scooters in Waterloo, Iowa

Waterloo, Iowa © Main Street Waterloo

The Latest

Your one-stop-shop for all the latest stories, news, events, and opportunities – including grants and funding programs – across Main Street.

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Woman and girl at a festival booth in Kendall Whittier, Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Kendall Whittier — Tulsa, Oklahoma © Kendall Whittier Main Street

Get Involved

Join us in our work to advance shared prosperity, create strong economies, and improve quality of life in downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts.

Overview Join Us Renew Your Membership Donate Partner With Us Job Opportunities
Three Main Street America Staff members standing in front of a mural in Marion, Iowa.

Marion, Iowa © Tasha Sams

About

We work in collaboration with thousands of local partners and grassroots leaders across the nation who share our commitment to advancing shared prosperity, creating resilient economies, and improving quality of life.

Overview Who We Are How We Work Partner Collaborations Our Supporters Our Team Job Opportunities Contact Us
Two community members in Emporia Kansas pose with a sign saying "I'm a Main Streeter"

Emporia, Kansas © Emporia Main Street

Our Network

Made up of small towns, mid-sized communities, and urban commercial districts, the thousands of organizations, individuals, volunteers, and local leaders that make up Main Street America™ represent the broad diversity that makes this country so unique.

Overview Coordinating Programs Main Street Communities Collective Impact Awards & Recognition Community Evaluation Framework Join the Movement
Dionne Baux and MSA partner working in Bronzeville, Chicago.

Chicago, Illinois © Main Street America

Resources

Looking for strategies and tools to support you in your work? Delve into the Main Street Resource Center and explore a wide range of resources including our extensive Knowledge Hub, professional development opportunities, field service offerings, advocacy support, and more!

Overview Knowledge Hub Field Services Government Relations Main Street Now Conference Main Street America Institute Small Business Support Allied Member Services The Point Members Area
People riding e-scooters in Waterloo, Iowa

Waterloo, Iowa © Main Street Waterloo

The Latest

Your one-stop-shop for all the latest stories, news, events, and opportunities – including grants and funding programs – across Main Street.

Overview News & Stories Events & Opportunities Subscribe
Woman and girl at a festival booth in Kendall Whittier, Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Kendall Whittier — Tulsa, Oklahoma © Kendall Whittier Main Street

Get Involved

Join us in our work to advance shared prosperity, create strong economies, and improve quality of life in downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts.

Overview Join Us Renew Your Membership Donate Partner With Us Job Opportunities

Leading a Movement of Changemakers Since 1977

Working with a nationwide network of Coordinating Programs and local leaders, Main Street America has helped over 2,000 communities across the country bring economic vitality back downtown, while celebrating their historic character, and bringing communities together.

Mary Means, the "Mother of Main Street" with colleagues standing around a table mapping out a plan.

Mary Means, the founder of Main Street (left) © The National Trust for Historic Preservation

The Beginning

The advent of the mall in the 1950s and the introduction of big box stores in the 1960s had a profound and devasting effect on America’s downtowns in the years that followed. By the mid-1970s, out-of-control commercial development on the edges of city centers left many Main Streets with high vacancy rates, crumbling infrastructure, and little to no economic base.

In an effort to stem this decay, the National Trust for Historic Preservation launched a demonstration project in 1977 to test out new strategies to preserve the heritage of Main Streets across the country and revive local economies. The Trust selected three Midwestern communities for the Main Street Project” including Galesburg, Ill. (pop. 38,000); Hot Springs, S.D. (pop. 5,000); and Madison, Ind. (pop. 13,000).

After three years of trial-and-error tactics implemented by local managers, each downtown showed unprecedented turnarounds. Working in partnership with each community, NTHP codified what they had learned into replicable strategies that other downtowns could use to revitalize their commercial districts. This was the start of what we now recognize as the Main Street Four Point” Approach.™

Due to the success of the pilot program, the Trust founded the National Main Street Center in 1980 to expand and deliver the Main Street Approach on a national level. Knowing they could not do this work on their own, they tested a state partner model in Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Texas, in which state intermediary coordinators tailored the Approach to individual community circumstances and provided ongoing direction to local programs. This framework proved so successful that the Trust quickly brought this new revitalization model to scale in communities across the country.

A New Chapter

After thriving for over three decades at the Trust, an exciting new chapter for the organization began on July 1, 2013, when the Main Street program launched as an independent subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. This transition enabled Main Street to build on its proven track record, with new leadership and resources that help communities respond to evolving needs and opportunities in the commercial district revitalization field.

Since becoming a subsidiary, the organization has grown substantially and evolved in exciting new ways. This includes undertaking a refresh” of the Main Street Approach to ensure its continued success in the 21st century, changing our name from the National Main Street Center to Main Street America to reinvigorate our brand, developing and releasing a bold new strategic plan, and launching several new programs and initiatives to expand our reach, increase our impact, and position Main Street as a leading voice of place-based economic development and community preservation.

Today

What started as a noble experiment in the late 1970s has turned into a powerful movement. Today, Main Street America has a network of Coordinating programs that includes 41 state programs, 4 citywide neighborhood commercial district programs, 1 countywide program, and many other regional partnerships. Working together, we have helped over 2,000 communities implement the Main Street framework leading to over $100 billion in local reinvestment, 325,000 building rehabilitations, the creation of 700,000 new jobs, and the launch of 160,000 new businesses.

Two women smile for the camera holding flowers in downtown Lansing, Michigan.

Lansing, Michigan © Downtown Lansing, Inc.