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!

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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
A group of people look at buildings.

Denison, Texas © Mel Climer – Climer Design

How many housing units, businesses, and civic spaces currently exist in Main Street districts? How many more could be added to vacant buildings, lots, and upper floors? The ability to answer the second question is key to unlocking the potential of our built environment. And, until now, we haven’t had the tools to easily gather this information. 

Today, we are excited to launch the Building Opportunities on Main Street (BOOMS) Tracker, a new tool that can help us better understand these opportunities and create a path for vibrant developments on Main Streets. 

The BOOMS Tracker is a property inventory tool designed for local Main Street leaders. Accessible via a smartphone or other connected device, local leaders can easily gather, store, and showcase information about buildings and lots in their districts. It is also a map-centric, national platform for identifying vacant spaces that could serve as opportunities for activation and development. Today, it is available to all designated Main Street districts in our network. 

How the BOOMS Tracker Works

The BOOMS Tracker is built around two major components — an interface where users can enter and update individual property data, and an overview page where users can view the data they’ve entered. Both components are designed to be mobile and desktop friendly. Leaders of designated Main Street programs can request login credentials to access these password-protected components for their own district. 

When logged in, local Main Street leaders can easily enter information about buildings and lots in their district by using the Inventory Tab. Here, users can click or tap on parcels to see what information has been gathered and organized so far and add or update the data via a quick series of questions. We took care to write the inventory questions in a way that would keep the process efficient, helping Main Street leaders inventory their entire districts painlessly. 

Example of district boundaries and parcel in the BOOMS Tracker.

Example of district boundaries and parcel in the BOOMS Tracker. © Main Street America

Once data has been entered, the Dashboard View provides an interactive summary of the data, showcasing statistics about the number of properties that have been inventoried so far, the number of vacant properties, the identified uses of buildings and parcels in the district, the number of buildings that have historic or cultural significance, an estimated number of housing units that could be accommodated in the district’s vacant spaces, and more. We expect local Main Street leaders may want to show their dashboards to city officials, their program’s board of directors, local entrepreneurs interested in opening a business, or developers looking to make improvements to properties. 

BOOMS Tracker dashboard featuring Main Street Fort Pierce.

BOOMS Tracker dashboard featuring Main Street Fort Pierce. © Main Street America

Building the BOOMS Tracker 

The BOOMS Tracker is a component of Main Street America’s At Home on Main Street” housing research project, which is generously supported by the 1772 Foundation, and focuses on providing resources to promote housing development in downtowns and commercial corridors. Over the course of the project, we have produced two research reports: an analysis of the state of housing in Main Street districts across the country and a guidebook for local leaders who are new to the topic of housing. 

As we researched this topic and spoke with local Main Street leaders, we came to appreciate the need for a tool that Main Street programs could use to gather, store, and showcase local property data. Even some of the most seasoned local leaders did not have a reliable system for tracking vacancies and other property-related data, such as building ownership, in their districts.

We began testing out the idea of a network-wide inventory tool last summer with a pilot program that included eight local Main Street programs: 

Over a one-month period, local directors and volunteers inventoried nearly 800 parcels, with many people working for only a few days on documenting properties in their districts. We were thrilled to have such widespread interest in a digital inventory tool, and we felt even more excited about the tool’s potential. Over the following months, we’ve worked to refine the tool and prepare it for distribution to the entire Main Street network.

New downtown housing construction in Historic Valley Junction.

New downtown housing construction in historic Valley Junction, Des Moines, Iowa. © Historic Valley Junction Foundation

Six Big Potential Impacts of the BOOMS Tracker

We see six different ways that this tool — and the data you gather — may impact, expand, and strengthen your work. These impacts range from immediate into the long-term.

  1. Local Main Street programs can quickly gather, store, and showcase information about properties in their districts.This is the core function of the BOOMS Tracker, and we are excited for local leaders to start trying it out. 
  2. Main Street can play a bigger part in responding to the housing crisis. Based on our background research, survey data, and information gathered during the pilot program last summer, we believe there is potential for tens of thousands of housing units in currently vacant spaces in Main Street districts. The data collected and presented by this tool can strengthen advocacy efforts and persuade local leaders to act on housing.
  3. Local districts can more readily move from vacancy to economic vitality via newly activated spaces. A complete inventory of properties in a local district is a critical first step toward bettering the built environment and boosting social and economic vitality. This tool will help Main Streets understand the opportunities in their districts necessary to the development of long-term plans.
  4. More spaces in older and historic buildings can be actively used. Understanding the landscape of historic building use and historic building vacancy will help Main Street leaders create plans to protect and activate these important assets. Down the line, revenues generated from newly activated spaces can contribute to keeping buildings well maintained, aesthetically appealing, and energy efficient.
  5. Local Main Street leaders can act as an authority on housing and land use in their downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts. We currently do not have data on the physical and vacancy conditions of Main Street buildings at a large scale. Using the BOOMS Tracker, leaders of local programs can become the source of valuable insights on buildings and lots in their districts, putting them in a position to influence important local and regional development conversations.
  6. The Main Street Network can push for policy change related to housing and the built environment. As data is entered locally, Coordinating Programs and Main Street America will see aggregated data across larger geographies. We believe this information will be incredibly valuable as we make a case for regulations that make building reuse easier and more likely, and as we push for thoughtful investment in existing buildings.

What Comes Next

We hope you will visit the BOOMS Tracker online and request login credentials for your local program. Learn more about login credentials and the platform’s roster of programs here. If you have feedback or ideas about how to improve the BOOMS Tracker, please share them in our BOOMS Tracker discussion thread on The Point. Your feedback will help us prioritize future improvements to the functionality and accessibility of this new, first-of-its-kind tool.

The BOOMS Tracker is a first step towards activating vacant and idle spaces in Main Street districts. The Main Street America Research team will continue to provide resources on best practices and innovative strategies for addressing absentee, speculative, or neglectful property owners, building codes, and other challenges. We will also continue to share guidance on small-scale development, strategies for funding affordable, accessible housing, and building wealth at the local level. 

We are excited to share the incredible potential we see in the BOOMS Tracker, and we hope you will join us in using the tool and beginning to realize its potential together.