Main Street America and Louisiana Main Street America

Executive Summary

The Main Street America program offers financial and technical support to help revitalize older and historic downtowns and commercial districts in both rural and urban environments. Many states have Coordinating Programs to implement Main Street America across the country. Louisiana Main Street is Louisiana’s Coordinating Program and works with local governments in the state to preserve and maintain historic districts in Louisiana.

Local governments can look to Main Street America and state-specific programs to enhance local resilience in downtown and commercial districts by investing in municipalities and economies, including by restoring and preserving vacant lots and degraded buildings. Program grants and federal and state historic tax credits can also be used to supplement other types of funding to support overall community revitalization efforts.

 

Background

The Main Street America program offers financial and technical support to help revitalize older and historic downtowns and commercial districts in both rural and urban environments.1 The program utilizes a preservation-based economic development model for the communities.

Main Street America is the National Main Street Center’s program. The National Main Street Center is a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In 1980, the National Main Street Center was established to address the issues that older and historic downtowns were facing, such as lack of investment and degraded or not maintained structures.2 In 2015, the National Main Street Center created the official Main Street America program brand for its “network of Main Street programs.” Since its inception, the National Main Street Center has supported over 2,000 communities with revitalizing downtown economies and preserving historic character.

 

How to Become a Main Street America Program Participant

Main Street America combines local grassroots efforts with support from Coordinating Programs at a city, county, or state level, and overarching leadership from the National Main Street Center.3 

If a community, municipality, individual person, or nongovernmental organization is interested in revitalizing a commercial district with support from Main Street America, it can become a member of Main Street America by paying a required membership fee.4 As according to Main Street America’s website, members gets access to:

  • Discounts on conferences, workshops, and webinars;
  • Members-only printed and digital communications;
  • 1000s of industry-specific resources, publications, and templates;
  • Access to grants and special programs;
  • And so much more!

A general membership provides a community with access to tools that can help them revitalize their downtown areas.5 Consultants or companies that support downtown revitalization partners and projects can also join Main Street America through an allied membership.

Main Street America Coordinating Programs exist at the state, county, and city levels. Coordinating Programs work “with the National Main Street Center to provide support and training to Main Street America communities across the country.”6 Coordinating Programs designate local communities as an accredited or affiliate Main Street America Program. Accredited entities then join Main Street America as a Main Street America Designated Member.7 

The following section provides more detail about Louisiana’s Main Street America Coordinating Program as one example.

 

Louisiana Main Street America

Overview

Louisiana Main Street is a Main Street America Coordinating Program and part of a network of over 40 Coordinating Programs in the United States.8 Louisiana Main Street states that the primary role of its program is to:

  • “Translate” and tailor the Main Street approach according to the specific economic conditions and development tools and resources in Louisiana;
  • Competitively select local communities with traditional commercial districts for participation in the Main Street program;
  • Provide an appropriate scope of technical assistance and training for local Main Street organizations;
  • Provide networking, advocacy, and encouragement to participating local Main Street programs;
  • Serve as a liaison with the National Trust Main Street Center; and
  • Identify which local programs annually meet the standards of National Main Street Program Accreditation.9 

As a Coordinating Program, Louisiana Main Street approves and then provides Louisiana local accredited members “with the training, tools, information, and networking they need to be successful” for their revitalization projects.10 Louisiana Main Street analyzes what the local issues are and supports members with “on-site consulting and training services” that “help establish local programs strategies, plan revitalization, develop detailed implementation plans, and solve specific problems in a Main Street district.”11

As of 2021, there are over 20 Louisiana Main Street America nationally accredited members. The following are examples of accredited members in Region Seven of the Louisiana Watershed Initiative:

  • Denham Springs Main Street;
  • Donaldsonville Downtown Development District; and
  • Hammond Downtown Development District.12

In 2018, Louisiana Main Street found that since its creation in 1984, the following benefits have accrued in the state:

  • $931 million in Total Investment
  • $553 million in Private Investment
  • $460.5 million in New Construction and Rehabilitation
  • Over 9,000 Net New Jobs
  • Over 1,900 Net New Businesses
  • Over 150,000 Volunteers since 2004
  • Private sector investment has generated an average of 119 direct jobs and 98 indirect jobs each year for the last 30 years. These jobs have meant an average of $7 million in income from direct jobs and $2.4 million from indirect jobs each year.
  • Louisiana Main Street is cost effective economic development, costing $1,632 per net new job or $5,802 per net new business.
  • Since 1995, a typical Louisiana Main Street community saw the following each year:
    • 2.8 Net New Businesses
    • 11.8 Net New Jobs
    • $517,890 in Public Investment
    • $860,367 in Private Investment
    • 338 volunteers13 

Hammond Development District

In 1984, the City of Hammond founded the Hammond Downtown Development District. It is a local program accredited by Louisiana Main Street.14 In 1984, the Hammond Downtown Development District had an 80 percent vacancy rate.15 From then until 2019, the program reduced that vacancy rate by over 87 percent and has created “a nationwide standard for mixed-use buildings and boasts a diverse range of residential options.”16

In 2019, the Hammond Downtown Development District was nationally recognized by the National Main Street Center as an exceptional Main Street America program. Specifically, the Hammond Downtown Development District was a semifinalist in the National Main Street Center’s 2019 Great American Main Street Award, which awards programs “whose successes serve as a model for comprehensive, historic preservation-based commercial district revitalization.”17

 

Louisiana Main Street’s Resources

Louisiana Main Street’s website provides resources for the general public and its accredited local members, including governments and nonprofits, to support revitalization efforts.18 The remainder of this entry highlights a few of Louisiana Main Street’s many resources.

Historic Tax Credits

Some downtown revitalization projects may qualify for state and/or federal historic tax credits, which can help fund a project. Louisiana Main Street’s website houses a 2017 report on historic tax credits in Louisiana.19 The report is an analysis of Louisiana historic preservation projects from 2007–2016, all of which used historic tax credits.20 These projects can serve as examples to foster creating thinking at the local level for how governments and other organizations can apply tax credits to fund revitalization, restoration, and preservation projects. There is also a 2011 report on how Main Street developers can utilize historic tax credits for projects in small towns.21 

To help accredited members evaluate the potential for applying for tax credits, Louisiana’s Division of Historic Preservation in the Office of Cultural Development provides a publicly available Tax Incentives Map.22 The map identifies which buildings are in a National Register Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and/or are in a Cultural District. If a building is present in any of these locations, the building may qualify for historic rehabilitation tax incentives.

Design Guidelines and Vacant Properties

The website provides users with guidelines for how to design buildings in ways that preserve historic character as a part of revitalization efforts.23 

For districts with a lot of vacant, abandoned, or deteriorated properties, the Louisiana Main Street website contains multiple reports to guide municipalities through how to confront this challenge and make an economic case for revitalization, restoration, and preservation efforts by quantifying the true costs of vacant properties to communities.24 

Becoming a Main Street America Member

For those interested in becoming a Main Street America member, Louisiana Main Street’s website provides sample bylaws they can evaluate if they are interested in becoming a Main Street-accredited community.25 [/ref] There is also a guide for how to develop a Main Street project work plan.26 


For more information, including access to the resources discussed above and contact information, visit Louisiana Main Street’s website.

Publication Date: May 20, 2022

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