Invigorated by Works In Progress
National Main Street Conference, Detroit, MI – Works in Progress, May 18-20
As I boarded the plane for the National Main Street Conference in Detroit, many of my friends and family members chuckled when I told them where I was going, which was immediately followed with, “why?” Me, I was excited. Here is a city that is reinventing itself, incorporating the city’s past, present, and future, to create a place where people will want to live, work, and play. In a nutshell, it’s the Main Street Approach for downtown revitalization.
The theme for this year’s conference was “Works in Progress,” which was embodied by the Opening Plenary speaker, Don Rypkema, principal of PlaceEconomics, a Washington, D.C.-based real estate and economic development consulting firm. He emphasized that downtown revitalization is a constant work in progress, and that the success and sustainability of the Main Street Program is because of the foundation of principles that directly tie to a community to its social, economic, political, and physical force of value.
His presentation captured the inner-geek in me when he outlined the principles of New Urbanism (1993) and Smart Growth (1996): urban planning initiatives that are widely recognized, and ones that I studied in college. What I found truly spectacular, though, was the connection he made between these two planning initiatives and the Main Street Approach: they are identical, but the Main Street Approach was first implemented in 1977. What has made the Main Street Approach sustainable over the past three-plus decades is its emphasis on incremental change and ability to adapt and evolve with a community, creating a sense of ownership by the community and a multifunctional, public gathering space for the community.
The workshops I attended echoed the themes of resilience, community involvement, innovation and hard work.
Elizabeth Walton Potter Preservation Scholarship Recipient
Astoria Downtown Historic District Association