In 1977, The National Main Street Program was formed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in order to address the decline of downtowns, and resulting loss of many historic commercial buildings, across the United States. This program was designed to encourage revitalization of communities with populations between 5,000 and 50,000.
In 1980, the state of Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA), Office of Downtown Development (ODD), became a pilot state coordinating program for Main Street implementation. Georgia Main Streets represent some of the strongest central business districts in the state and in the Southeast. Since it started, the designated community programs have been instrumental in leading the state in historic preservation, small business development, expansion of the state’s employment base, leveraging private investment, increasing tourism and providing a positive road map for public-private partnerships. Main Street is a signature program for community development and revitalization in Georgia’s historic downtowns.
Main Streets are the traditional center for social, cultural, and economic activity for their communities. They are the big stage, the core of the community. Our Main Streets tell us who we are and who we were, and how the past has shaped us. We do not go to bland suburbs or enclosed shopping malls to learn about our past, explore our culture, or discover our identity. Our Main Streets are the places of shared memory where the entire community still comes together to live, work, and play.
So what is Main Street? The phrase has been used to describe everything from our nostalgic past to our current economic woes, but when we talk about Main Street®, we are thinking of real places doing real work to revitalize their communities and preserve their character. Specifically, Main Street® is three things: a proven strategy for revitalization, a powerful network of linked communities, and a national support program that leads the field.
The cumulative success of the Main Street Approach® and Main Street programs on the local level has earned this revitalization strategy a reputation as one of the most powerful economic development tools in the nation. The National Trust Main Street Center annually collects statistical information on economic activity in local Main Street programs throughout the country. That information is updated here annually.
Eatonton joined the Main Street movement in 1999, beginning as a Better Hometown Community. In October 2010, the program’s manager became full-time staff and the organization was promoted to Main Street status. Initially, the organization received funding from both the City and County and the manager served as a City employee. In 2012, the organization became an independent nonprofit organization, receiving the bulk of it’s budget from City funds. Eatonton Main Street works with local officials, public and private sponsors, and volunteers to implement projects and programming that enhances Downtown Eatonton’s appeal as a destination and as a home.
Main Street implements a four point program approach which focuses on four key components: Organization, Economic Development, Promotions and Design. Eatonton Main Street is supported through sponsorship and volunteer hours of local business people and community residents.
You can find a list of other Georgia Main Street Programs here.