West Virginia Department of Commerce Program Frequently Asked Questions

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Program Frequently Asked Questions

Why is downtown important?

A community’s central business district often accounts for as much as 30 percent of its jobs and 40 percent of its tax base. It is a community’s crossroad, a place in our hearts and minds that evokes strong emotions and helps define our identity.

What are the benefits to downtown revitalization?

• Revitalization protects the existing tax base.
Private investment in banks, businesses and commercial property and public investment in streets, sidewalks, water and sewer lines are protected and enhanced.

• Revitalization provides an incubator for new business.
A viable downtown offers opportunities and incentives for the new entrepreneur such as lower rent and technical assistance.

• Revitalization helps attract industrial development.
Downtown reflects the overall image a community projects to potential investors. An invigorated downtown makes a very positive statement about the whole community.

• Revitalization provides a point of focus and stability.
A vibrant downtown gives the whole community and region a sense of pride and positive self-image. It also serves as an anchor that holds the community together and provides the stability necessary for economic growth.

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What should my community do first?

If you are interested in additional information after reviewing this website, please call the Main Street West Virginia office to ask any additional questions. If you are interested in pursuing the designation, please consider the following options:

• Invite state staff or another Main Street local program manager to your community to provide a presentation on the program for your interested citizens.
• Attend Main Street training provided by the state or national Main Street programs.
• Visit another Main Street community for a tour and information.
• Ask to be placed on the notification list for new town application workshops.
• Organize local activities to focus on special events or preservation.
• Begin the process of gaining federal approval as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.
• Start working on projects in the four-point areas.

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Should we wait until we are designated to develop our organization or projects?

Any work within a community toward the development of a properly structured organization and/or project will enhance a community’s standing in the selection process.

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What is the National Main Street Center?

The National Main Street Center is a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Created by congressional charter in 1949, the trust is a leading advocate of preservation in the United States. The National Main Street Center was formed in 1980 to deal with small town revitalization. The program has now grown to include urban programs in such cities as Boston, Chicago, San Diego and others.

State programs contract with the National Main Street Center for services to local communities. The work provided by the center is on a fee for service basis, paid for by state programs.

National Main Street Center

1785 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20036
(202) 588-6219


NMSC Information Exchange
(202) 588-6041

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What do you mean by the four points?

In recent years, many approaches to downtown revitalization, from urban renewal to paint-up, fix-up projects, have failed because they focused on just one or two problems rather than dealing with the full spectrum of interrelated issues that affect traditional commercial districts. Main Street has been successful in 1,700 communities across the country because of its comprehensive nature.

• Organization means getting everyone working toward the same goal. The tough work of building consensus and cooperation among groups that have an important stake in the district can be eased by using the common-sense formula of a volunteer-driven program and an organizational structure of board and committees.
• Promotion means selling the image and promise of Main Street to all prospects. By marketing the district’s unique characteristics to shoppers, investors, new businesses and visitors, an effective promotional strategy forges a positive image through advertising, retail promotional activity, special events and marketing campaigns carried out by local volunteers.
• Design means getting Main Street into top physical shape. Capitalizing on its best assets – such as historic buildings and traditional downtown layout – is just part of the story. An inviting atmosphere created through window displays, parking areas, signs, sidewalks, street lights and landscaping conveys a visual message about what Main Street is and what it has to offer.
• Economic restructuring means finding a new purpose for Main Street’s enterprises. By helping existing businesses expand and recruiting new ones to respond to today’s market, Main Street programs help convert unused space into productive property and sharpen the competitiveness of business enterprises.

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What makes Main Street unique?

The Main Street approach has eight guiding principles that set it apart from other redevelopment strategies:

• Comprehensive. Downtown revitalization is a complex process and cannot be accomplished through a single project. For successful long-term revitalization, a comprehensive approach must be utilized.
• Incremental. Small projects and simple activities lead to a more sophisticated understanding of the revitalization process and help to develop skills so that more complex problems can be addressed and more ambitious projects can be undertaken.
• Self-help. Nobody else will save Main Street. Local leaders must have the desire and will to make the project successful. The National Main Street Center and Main Street West Virginia provide direction, ideas and training but continued and long-term success depends upon the involvement and commitment of the community.
• Public-private partnership. The public and private sectors have a vital interest in the economic health and physical viability of the downtown. Each sector has a role to play and each must understand the other’s strengths and limitations to forge an effective partnership.
• Identifying and capitalizing on existing assets. History is on our side. Business districts must capitalize on the assets that make them unique. Every district has unique qualities – such as the distinctive buildings and human scale that give people a sense of belonging. These local assets must serve as the foundation for all aspects of the revitalization program.
• Quality. Build to last. Quality must be emphasized in every aspect of the revitalization program. This applies equally to each element of the program, from storefront design to promotional campaigns to educational programs.
• Change. Skeptics turn into believers. Almost no one believes Main Street can really turn around, at first. Changes in attitude and practice are slow and definite but necessary to improve current economic conditions. Public support for change will build as the program grows.
• Implementation-oriented. Make a difference today. Activity creates confidence in the program and even greater levels of participation. Frequent, visible changes are a reminder that the revitalization effort is under way. Small projects at the beginning of the program pave the way for larger activities as the revitalization effort matures.

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What is the application process? Any community that intends to apply for designation must first attend an application workshop to view presentations on the Four Points and receive applications. The community submits a letter of intent. The application is due approximately two months after the workshop. Selection team members review applications and make arrangements to visit and tour communities for local presentations. Selections are then finalized.

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What does a community receive with designation?
• Needs assessments.
• Program manager and board member training.
• Design and operational plan recommendations.
• Professional design assistance.

Michael (Mike) Gioulis
Historic Preservation Consultant
612 Main St.
Sutton, WV 26601
(304) 765-5716 (304) 765-5464

• Training workshops.
• Progress meetings.
• On-site technical assistance.
• Resource library of information.
• Linkage to hundreds of other Main Street communities.
• State and national assistance support.

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What is required by the community for selection or continued designation?

The criteria for recognition as a National Main Street Community are:

• Broad-based community support for the commercial district revitalization process.
• Public-private sector involvement.
• Vision and mission statements relevant to community conditions and to the local Main Street program’s organizational stage.
• A comprehensive Main Street work plan.
• Historic preservation ethic.
• Active board of directors and committees.
• Adequate operating budget.
• A paid professional program manager.
• A program of ongoing training for staff and volunteers.
• Reporting key statistics to the state office.
• Current membership in the National Main Street network.
• Communities are evaluated annually to verify continued compliance with these criteria.

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