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.

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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.

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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.

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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
People install stakes topped with colorful toppers in a rock-filled portion of a sidewalk.

Kendall Whittier — Tulsa, Oklahoma © Kendall Whittier Main Street

Kendall Whittier Main Street (KWMS) in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was one of three winners of the 2020 Great American Main Street Award (GAMSA), which recognizes communities for their excellence in comprehensive preservation-based commercial district revitalization. Selected by a national jury of community development professionals and leaders in the fields of economic development and historic preservation, Kendall Whittier Main Street (KWMS) was recognized for turning an area of decades-long blight into a lively hub for arts and culture.


Main Street America Program: Kendall Whittier Main Street
Coordinating Program: Oklahoma Main Street
Year Organization Founded: 2010
Population:
15,462
Public and Private Reinvestment: $158 million
Net New Businesses: 49
Buildings/​Structures Rehabilitated:
87

Visit Kendall Whittier Main Street
Ballet folklorico dancer swirls the skirt of her bright pink dress.

Ballet folklórico dancer performs at the annual Mexican Independence Day event. © Kendall Whittier Main Street

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Kendall Whittier exemplifies the power of the Main Street Approach to truly transform a district,” said Main Street America President and CEO Patrice Frey. In just 10 years, Kendall Whittier Main Street has radically changed the perception of their neighborhood and become the center of community life for its residents.”

Kendall Whittier was a bustling shopping district from the late 1920s through the 1950s, but when a highway bisected the neighborhood in 1967, the area struggled to recover. By the early 2000s, the neighborhood was known as Tulsa’s red-light district– home to vacant storefronts and adult-oriented businesses. When KWMS got its start in 2010, the district had a 35 percent occupancy rate. Thanks to community-led business recruitment and retention efforts, occupancy has grown to 100 percent today. Kendall Whittier is now home to a mix of galleries, breweries, restaurants, and non-mainstream retail. With 40 new businesses opening since 2013, occupancy in Kendall Whittier has grown to 100 percent today. In all, KWMS has seen a total of 350 jobs created and $158 million private dollars reinvested.

  • Shoppers browse vendor stalls at an outdoor marketplace.

    Kendall Whittier Mercado, a seasonal multi-cultural artisan market. © Kendall Whittier Main Street

  • A young boy plays the public piano.

    A young boy plays a public piano under the Whittier Square Clock Tower. © Kendall Whittier Main Street

To overcome its perception as an unsafe area, KWMS developed a façade grant program to both beautify the neighborhood and reward private investment. They also grew an events calendar from one public event in 2013 to more than 20 events annually. From art walks and outdoor concerts to yoga and food truck festivals, KWMS aims to offer free or low-cost programming that appeals to everyone in the community. Kendall Whittier is among the most diverse neighborhoods in Tulsa, and a multicultural artisan market provides authentic outreach to the neighborhood’s large Hispanic population.

KWMS’s robust partnerships have also been key to developing the area, including a public art project that saw five new murals created to add to the vibrancy in Kendall Whittier. Local foundations have added to the district’s success by launching a new food hall, entrepreneurship hub, and affordable housing.

People gather inside the tap room of a brewery.

Participants gather in Heirloom Rustic Ales during the inaugural Ale Trail event. © Kendall Whittier Main Street

For the last decade, Kendall Whittier Main Street has been working hard to transform a historic neighborhood back to its early days as Tulsa’s first suburban shopping district,” said Jessica Jackson Seay, Executive Director of Kendall Whittier Main Street. Through listening to residents, thousands of volunteer hours and quite a bit of elbow grease — and, of course, the proven Main Street Approach — Kendall Whittier is now a funky little place for Tulsans to gather with other creatives and to feel a sense of community and support locally-owned businesses.”

  • People visit a retail store.

    Monthly Art Walk in Whittier Square. © Kendall Whittier Main Street

  • People practice yoga outdoors on a grassy lawn.

    Free yoga class in the park. © Kendall Whittier Main Street

Even after COVID-19 forced many businesses to temporarily shut their doors, no businesses in the district have permanently shuttered due to the pandemic. KWMS credits a Rent Relief Program with making all the difference. Funded by the National Main Street Center’s Grills Fund for Main Street Revitalization, local foundations, and private donations, KWMS gave out $36,200 in rent relief from May to July.

KWMS has been so successful that it inspired a citywide Main Street program modeled after their approach. In January 2019, the City of Tulsa launched a Destination Districts” program in partnership with the Oklahoma Main Street Center to revitalize commercial districts throughout the city. The program focuses on powering the economy and creating new opportunities for Tulsans, with a focus on expanding equity across the city.

  • Two people look at a mural featuring flowers and a pair of hands whose palms are pressed together.

    Participants of the Mural Mini Tour appreciate the Buena Onda (Good Vibes)” mural. © Kristi Eaton

  • Mexican restaurant sporting a bright yellow facade.

    Calaveras Mexican Grill is a downtown dining destination. © Kendall Whittier Main Street

We are very proud of Kendall Whittier Main Street for receiving the 2020 GAMSA,” said Buffy Hughes, Director of the Oklahoma Main Street Center. The turnaround of this district has been miraculous but not without concerted, concentrated effort by the program’s board of directors, volunteers, residents. and Tulsa city leaders. We look forward to continued progress within Kendall Whittier.”