Why Main Streets Matter

Our Main Streets tell us who we are and who we were, and how the past has shaped us. We do not go to bland suburbs or enclosed shopping malls to learn about our past, explore our culture, or discover our identity. Out Main Streets are the places of shared memory where people still come together to live, work and play. – www.preservation.org

Can malls and discount centers take the place of traditional districts? The answer is a resounding ‘NO’. Here are some reasons why your Main Street is so important:

  • Commercial districts are prominent employment centers
  • The commercial district is a reflection of community image, pride, prosperity and level of investment
  • Main Street represents a significant portion of the Village’s tax base
  • Main Street is the historic core of the community
  • A healthy Main Street core protects property values in surrounding residential neighborhoods
  • The commercial district offers convenience to neighboring residents by providing easy access and reducing reliance on auto dependent shopping
  • The district is often a center for government offices as well as an important service center for attorneys, physicians, insurance and other services.
  • Main Street provides an important civic forum for members to congregate at parades, special events and other celebrations.
  • The commercial district represents a huge public and private investment. Imagine how much it would cost to re-create all of the buildings and infrastructure in your downtown.

These are just some of the reasons your Main Street is important and needs your support! Shop here, eat here, play here – get to know your local businesses and all they have to offer that is unique to Lake Orion. Check out www.downtownlakeorion.org for ways your voice can be heard in your community!   www.mainstreet.org

The MAIN STREET Approach

The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Street Approach is a community-driven, comprehensive methodology used to revitalize older, traditional business districts throughout the United States.  It is a common-sense way to address a variety of issues and problems that face traditional business districts.  The underlying premise of the Main Street approach is to encourage economic development within the context of historic preservation appropriate to today’s marketplace. The Main Street Approach advocates a return to community self-reliance, local empowerment, and the rebuilding of traditional commercial districts based on their unique assets: distinctive architecture, a pedestrian-friendly environment, personal service, local ownership, and a sense of community.

The Main Street Four-Point Approach is a comprehensive strategy that is tailored to meet local needs and opportunities. It encompasses work in four distinct areas — Design, Economic Restructuring, Promotion, and Organization — that are combined to address all of the commercial district’s needs.

The Main Street approach is incremental; it is not designed to produce immediate change. Because they often fail to address the underlying causes of commercial district decline, expensive improvements, such as pedestrian malls or sports arenas, do not always generate the desired economic results. In order to succeed, a long-term revitalization effort requires careful attention to every aspect of downtown — a process that takes time and requires leadership and local relationship building.

The Eight Guiding Principles are as follows:

Comprehensive: No single focus — lavish public improvements, name-brand business recruitment, or endless promotional events — can revitalize Main Street. For successful, sustainable, long-term revitalization, a comprehensive approach, including activity in each of Main Street’s Four Points, is essential.

Incremental: Baby steps come before walking. Successful revitalization programs begin with basic, simple activities that demonstrate that “new things are happening ” in the commercial district. As public confidence in the Main Street district grows and participants’ understanding of the revitalization process becomes more sophisticated, Main Street is able to tackle increasingly complex problems and more ambitious projects. This incremental change leads to much longer-lasting and dramatic positive change in the Main Street area.

Self-help: No one else will save your Main Street. Local leaders must have the will and desire to mobilize local resources and talent.  Main Street should be the heart of this community. Only we can produce long-term success by fostering and demonstrating our community involvement and commitment to this revitalization effort. 

Partnerships: Both our public and private sectors have a vital interest in this district and we must work together to achieve common goals of Main Street’s revitalization. Each sector has a role to play and each must understand the other’s strengths and limitations in order to forge an effective partnership.

Identifying and capitalizing on existing assets: Business districts must capitalize on the assets that make them unique. Every district has unique qualities like distinctive buildings and human scale that give people a sense of belonging. These local assets must serve as our foundation for all aspects of our revitalization program.

Quality: Emphasize quality in every aspect of our revitalization program. This applies to all elements of the process — from storefront designs to promotional campaigns to educational programs. Shoestring budgets and “cut and paste” efforts reinforce a negative image of the commercial district. Instead, we will concentrate on quality projects over quantity. 

Change: I know right now many don’t believe Main Street can really turn around. Changes in attitude and practice will be slow but definite — public support for change will build as the Main Street program grows and consistently meets its goals. Change also means engaging in better business practices, altering ways of thinking, and improving the physical appearance of the commercial district. I do believe that a carefully implemented Main Street program will help shift the public perceptions and practices to support and sustain the revitalization process. 

Implementation: To succeed, Main Street must show visible results that can only come from completing projects. Frequent, visible changes are a reminder that the revitalization effort is under way and succeeding. Small projects at the beginning pave the way for larger ones as the revitalization effort matures.  It is the constant revitalization activity that creates confidence in our Main Street program and ever-greater levels of participation.

The Lake Orion Main Street Program, the operating system of the Lake Orion Downtown Development Authority, is most enthusiastic about getting to know as many people in our community as possible. We would like to personally invite you to have a role in the design, promotion, development and organization of our community.  Each of the committees meets once a month in an advisory role to the Downtown Development Authority’s (DDA) Board of Directors.  This is your opportunity to have your voice be heard and to take an active role in the revitalization of this community! The Lake Orion Main Street program is nationally accredited and an active member of Main Street Oakland County, the nation’s first county- wide Main Street program.     Visit www.advantageoakland.com/CPHA/MSOC for additional resources.

Please contact us for more information on getting involved in your local Main Street program, or visit VOLUNTEER for additional information on our four committees.