Downtown revitalization remains a hot button issue in Charlotte and the momentum created from Economic Summits held in 2014 continues to move efforts forward. Community leaders looking to build from that momentum gathered Wednesday, Feb. 25 at the monthly Can Do! meeting to learn more about a partner that could help take revitalization from strategy to reality — the Michigan Main Street Program.
Emily Pantera, economic restructuring specialist with Michigan Main Street, discussed the benefits of becoming a Michigan Main Street community during a one-hour presentation.
“I counted over 27 different organizations represented here this morning, so you guys are well on your way to meeting some of our basic requirements,” Pantera said as she opened her presentation. “The biggest point is getting community buy-in and support.”
Pantera said the Michigan Main Street Center exists to help community develop main street districts that attract both residents and businesses, promote commercial investment and spur economic growth.
“What we do is placemaking,” Pantera said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re right out of college or ready for retirement, the downtowns are where people want to live. People are looking for the authentic experience.”
She said close to 2,000 communities across the country participate in the Main Street Program, including close to 50 in Michigan. The program creates a sense of place by utilizing eight principles in its approach — comprehensive, self-help, public/private partnership, capitalizing on existing assets, quality (over quantity), change and action oriented. These eight principles guide four committees that are established in all Main Street communities — design, economic restructuring, promotion and organization.
“Main Street is not about paying to get things done,” Pantera said, addressing the self-help principle. “Main Street is about people rolling up their sleeves and getting out there in large teams, because one, it’s a great photo op and shows people things are happening. People get excited when they see other people are doing things. The biggest impact you are going to make is a concentrated one.”
Between Can Do!, the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce and the City of Charlotte Downtown Development Authority, a Michigan Main Street task force has already been established. Its purpose in forming was to investigate the benefits of partnering with the Michigan Main Street program. Applications to join the program, however will not be accepted until November.
Yvonne Ridge, Charlotte City Council member and member of the Michigan Main Street task force, said she is excited at the possibilities Main Street brings.
“I believe it is vital to the success of Charlotte’s Revitalization plan,” Ridge said. “In the collaborative efforts of the Can Do! Board and the Chamber Board, Charlotte is already working on several projects to enhance our community. The Main Street project would add to these efforts.”
The first step of the partnership is at the Associate Level and involves a one-year commitment. This basic level provides training and insight as to how the program works, including examples of successful Main Street communities. The only commitment from a community is the development of the four committees and participation in most, if not all, of the Main Street training opportunities.
“The intent of the Associate Level is to let us teach you how to start building the financial support, the volunteer support, the partnerships, because once you get going, you need all of that in place,” Pantera said.
The first meeting of the Main Street Committee is Tuesday, March 3 at noon at Riedy’s.
“There is no cost for the Main Street project; however, the success of the project will be based on community support,” Ridge said. “I believe we have a community that will support this project to make it a success. The Main Street project will lead us toward the kind of Downtown Charlotte we want for the future.”