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Invigorated by Works In Progress

June 11, 2014
Alana in Detroit

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.

Main Street Conference program

Main Street Conference program


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.


Love from the topiary!

Love from the topiary!

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

Alana Garner

Executive Director

Astoria Downtown Historic District Association

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