No community stays the same forever. Despite the sense of familiarity individuals may feel when visiting their hometown, those communities have undoubtedly undergone significant changes over the years.
Over the first two decades of the 21st century, small towns have been forced to confront an assortment of changes and challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic. Main Street is what makes most towns unique, and many communities recognize how vital a thriving local business scene is to the survival of their towns and cities.
Homestead Main Street, since its inception following Hurricane Andrew, has been focused on the economic revitalization and historic preservation of the downtown district. Within the past years the city’s investment in Downtown Homestead has reinforced how important it is to have an urban core in a community and the importance of economic investment. The government center, the new theatre, a soon to open transportation hub, as well as engaging community events have all benefited Downtown Homestead.
The Main Street program has been an enthusiastic partner in promoting these major changes as we have seen crowds flock to the Seminole Theatre, our police force finally located in a new state of the art command center, a gleaming new City Hall, a thriving Movie theater and needed parking garage, as well as the unique and much appreciated Cybrarium, and finally a gorgeous new public park that will be the crowning jewel of our downtown.
All of these improvements, along with family-owned restaurants and unique new shops opening in the district makes Downtown Homestead the energized center of this growing community, says Yvonne Knowles, Executive Director of Homestead Main Street.
As public health advocates and politicians increasingly declare that the pandemic is nearing its end, communities can work together and take these steps to revitalize Main Street.
• Recognize there’s no magic formula. When attempting to revitalize a community business district, it’s important that elected officials, business owners and residents recognize that what worked for one town or city will not necessarily work for their town. This is an important recognition, as it underscores the benefits of listening to everyone’s ideas and considering new approaches, even if they don’t have a proven track record.
• Identify what makes your community unique. Each community has its own unique assets, and case studies conducted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have found that identifying these assets offer the best opportunities for growth. For example, a community with a rich history can make that history a focal point of their revitalization efforts. If a community is located on a lake or another body of water, revitalization efforts can be focused on capitalizing on the allure of waterfront dining and entertainment.
• Make it easy for investors. Revitalization efforts require investment. Towns and cities that have seen better days may not generate the level of tax revenue necessary to finance revitalization efforts, necessitating outside investment. It may require walking a tightrope, but local officials can explain strategies to encourage outside investors to residents and current business owners in their communities. These strategies may involve offering new incentives to investors, but residents and business owners may be more likely to support such measures if they’re kept informed as those strategies are developed and implemented.
• Emphasize the need for cooperation. The EPA case studies found that cooperation within the community enabled towns and cities that successfully revitalized to leverage the assets that each party brought to the table and make the most of local resources. By emphasizing the many benefits of a collective effort, local officials can reassure residents and business owners that they aren’t just paying lip service but putting a community’s willingness to work together to use in service of everyone.
Successful efforts to revitalize Main Street have often been found in communities that have worked together to identify their assets and sought input from residents, business owners and even outside investors. For more information visit homesteadmainstreet.net
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