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Year in Review 2014: Southwestern Illinois

Columbia approved to join Illinois Main Street Program

    Historic Main Street Columbia will be joining Illinois’ successful Main Street program later this year, after its application was approved in December.
    Illinois Main Street is part of a successful national movement to revitalize America’s traditional downtowns, neighborhood business districts and urban corridors. It provides Illinois’ communities with technical and consultative assistance, training and resources to improve the economic, social, cultural and physical aspects of each commercial area. Illinois Main Street communities follow the registered Main Street Four Point Approach to revitalize their local business districts.
    Main Street was developed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1980. More than 1,700 communities in 46 states now participate in the program. The Main Street Four-Point Approach is aimed at developing strong, broadly-based local organizations that effectively and incrementally implement the revitalization process by building their local capacity to do their local Main Street work.
    Main Street encourages partnerships with local stakeholders to build the local community and foster economic development while maintaining the unique, historic character of each district. Most of all, Main Street offers a practical, comprehensive blueprint for commercial district revitalization and advocates local self-reliance.
    In Illinois, the Main Street program is administered by the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. The Southwest Regional Economic Development office of DCEO works with Main Street communities in eight local counties. DCEO staff provides organization, promotion, and economic restructuring services to the local Main Street programs, while the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency provides design training and support services.
    Columbia’s Main Street district will consist of an 11-block commercial area in the city’s core.  Of the Main Street Four Point Approach, the one that Columbia is already strong at is promotion, according to Paul Ellis, the city’s director of Community and Economic Development.  
    “The Main Street merchants have developed joint advertising, a colorful brochure and coordinated events,” Ellis said. “They have done a really good job on that.  I think the Main Street designation is partly in recognition of what they are already doing and partly a vehicle that will take them to the next stage.”
    Ellis said there would be a kick-off of the program in the spring.
    “Main Street is economic development through historic preservation,” Ellis said.“With the designation of the Kaskaskia-Cahokia Trail as a state scenic and historic route and the fact that we were honored this year by the Illinois Chapter of the American Planning Association with the “best practice” award for our new Community Preservation Plan, there are reasons to think that we’re really at the tipping point for success.”