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Maine Development Foundation

Getting Started

Main Street Maine

The following is a summary and guidelines for communities interested in learning more about the Main Street Four-Point Approach® and the Main Street Maine program and its benefits.

We are pleased that your community is interested in learning more about the Main Street Maine program and the Main Street Four-Point Approach® the Downtown Center employs to catalyze downtown revitalization in Maine communities. We suggest that as a first step you spend some time looking around our website and the website of the National Main Street Center® – http://www.preservationnation.org/main-street.

The Main Street Four-Point Approach® is an economic development program recognizing downtown as the heart and soul of the community. A healthy and viable downtown is crucial to the economic health and civic pride of an entire community. Through the Main Street Four-Point Approach® a public/private partnership is formed with the local government, downtown businesses and residents to promote downtown revitalization goals. For a successful program, all of these partners must contribute both financially and philosophically to support the Main Street effort.

The historic built environment in each town defines its true character. Main Street encourages finding new and different uses for existing buildings and encourages appropriate new development that will protect and enhance this environment. Some communities call it historic preservation; others simply refer to it as recycling buildings. The terminology is irrelevant; as it is the end result that is imperative to the well being of the entire community.

Main Street Maine communities are experiencing some exciting results downtown. However, results do not come easily. Each community has made a strong commitment to the process, both in the public and private sectors.

Communities utilizing the Main Street Four-Point Approach® enter into an annual agreement with the Maine Downtown Center. Each Main Street Maine program is required to maintain an office and paid staff. The Center recommends that Main Street Maine cities and towns between 5,000 and 50,000 have a minimum annual operating budget designated for the program of no less than $60,000. These towns are required to hire paid staff for a minimum of 40 hours per week. It is recommended that rural Main Street Maine towns under 5,000 in population have a minimum annual operating budget of $25,000; these towns are required to hire paid staff for a minimum of 25 hours per week. The Center strongly recommends that even smaller communities raise funds to hire full time staff as the work remains the same regardless of community size.

We recommend that communities interested in becoming a Main Street Maine community take between one and two years to learn about the program and its processes. This creates the understanding and foundation to commit to the necessary funding and volunteer activity.

In the first three years of a local Main Street Maine program, the Maine Downtown Center invests approximately $30,000 in on-site visits, training and technical assistance. Please note: these funds are not provided to Main Street Maine communities in the form of direct funds and assistance is employed at the discretion of the Maine Downtown Center Program Director, with guidance from the Main Street Maine communities.

Should a community decide to pursue the goal of becoming a Main Street Maine community, the following steps are offered as a guideline:

Initial inquiry

Request information about the Main Street Four-Point Approach® from the Maine Downtown Center. A formal letter that outlines the steps below and supporting materials will be sent to you.

Program investigation

  1. Call a town meeting to inform citizens about the program. Participants should include: downtown building and business owners, chamber, representatives from city and county government, historic society, betterment committees, CLG’s, economic development groups, bankers, hospital, schools, industry, media, seniors, youth, churches, residents, etc. Basically, the list should include all community players.
  2. Invite a representative from a Main Street community to speak at the meeting and inform the group about their local program. Good attendance would be considered to be between 50 and 100 people. This should help you reach consensus on whether or not to continue program investigation.
  3. Organize a core group who will commit to doing a thorough investigation of the program. Typically this group should visit at least one Main Street Maine town of similar size.
  4. Following the community visits, hold a second meeting inviting all who attended the first meeting, to hear the results of the group findings. Build consensus on whether or not to proceed to the application stage. The Program Director of the Maine Downtown Center should be invited to speak at this meeting. Attendance of 50 or more is expected.
  5. Begin a media campaign to inform the community about Main Street.

Commitment

Once consensus has been reached about using the Maine Street Four-Point Approach® in your community, you have a good foundation to move forward. The decision to proceed should be supported by your local government(s), development groups, downtown building and business owners, industry, service organizations, etc. They should realize that their support must be on both a financial and philosophical level. It must be understood that Main Street is not a quick fix but a long-term development program.

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