There needs to be a plan for the next generation. Without a plan, without change, this generation may be the town's last.
We can be that change.
Project: Main Street is an undertaking of the Prattsburgh Area Revitalization Corp (PARC). It's the PARC's first project, and it is also it's most important one. A flourishing Main Street is a key component of all small, rural towns that are thriving today. So how do we get there? PARC doesn't have all of the answers... yet, but we do know that we can not succeed without the enthusiastic participation of the community. There are however, three widely accepted tenets that are essential to the success of our revitalization efforts on Main Street. Those tenets are as follows:
- Identify the Community Vision for Success
- Create Main Street Transformation Strategies
- Impact and Measurement
Identifying the Community Vision for Success
Identifying the Community Vision for Success begins with creating a vision for success on our Main Street that is rooted in a solid understanding of the realities of our town, and is informed by broad community engagement. We need to promote a community-driven process that brings everyone to the table, inviting them to be proactive participants in the revitalization process. This essential step will provide a foundation for outlining our community's own identity, expectations, and ideals while confirming real and perceived perceptions, needs and opportunities. It also ensures that the vision is a true reflection of the values of people both young and old in our community.
Creating Main Street Transformation Strategies
Creating Main Street Transformation Strategies involves working together to provide a clear sense of priorities and direction for our revitalization efforts. We will need to identify two or three Main Street Transformation Strategies in order to reach our shared vision for Main Street. These strategies will focus on both long and short-term actions that will move us closer to achieving our goals.
Work on these strategies should align with four key areas: Economic Vitality, Promotion, Design and Organization.
This work is rooted in a commitment to making the most of our community's unique sense of place and existing historic assets, harnessing local economic opportunity and creating a supportive business environment for small business owners and the growing scores of entrepreneurs, innovators, and localists alike. Supporting downtown housing is also a key element of building Economic Vitality.
A focus on design will support our Main Street transformation by enhancing the physical elements of Main Street while capitalizing on the unique assets that make our Main Street special. Our town square park is definitely one of those assets! We can enhance our Main Street's appeal to residents and visitors alike with attention to public space through the creation of pedestrian friendly streets, inclusion of public art in unexpected areas, visual merchandising, adaptive reuse of older and historic buildings, more efficiently-designed buildings, relaxation and activity areas in our park, and much more.
Promoting Main Street takes many forms, but the ultimate goal is to position Main Street as the center of the community and the hub of economic activity, while creating a positive image that showcases our community's unique characteristics. This can be done through highlighting cultural traditions, celebrating and preserving important architecture and history, encouraging local businesses to market cooperatively, offering coordinated specials and sales, and hosting special events aimed at changing perceptions of the area and communicating to residents, investors, businesses, and property-owners that this place is special.
A strong organizational foundation is key for a sustainable Main Street revitalization effort. PARC is just ramping up it's operations. We are currently seeking board candidates, volunteers, writing our bylaws and completing the paperwork necessary to become a 501(c)(3). PARC's focus will be on ensuring that all organizational resources (partners, funding, volunteers, etc.) are mobilized to effectively implement the Main Street Transformative Strategies.
Impact and Measurement
To succeed, Main Street must show visible results that can only come from completing projects, both shorter and longer-term activities that add up to meaningful change. Activities aligned with shorter-term strategies focus on highly visible changes that are a reminder that the revitalization effort is under way and succeeding, helping to secure buy-in from community members and rallying volunteers. Placemaking strategies – those actions which focus on what can be achieved “lighter, quicker, and cheaper” are particularly effective and important in energizing the community and demonstrating short-term progress. While shorter-term, highly visible activities are critical to Main Street’s success, we must also sustain focus on implementation of longer-term projects and activities that are the building blocks for substantial change over time. Identifying milestones for these longer-term projects can be important in creating a sense of forward momentum and reinforcing to the community the need for sustained focus on revitalization efforts. Coinciding with implementation is an equally important focus on measuring progress and results. Healthy Main Streets are built on a commitment to measure outcomes. We live in a time where public resources are scarce, and competition for private resources is fierce. We must be able to demonstrate the wise use of resources, which translates to real change on the ground: new jobs added to Main Street, new businesses open, buildings redeveloped, new living spaces made available, and numerous other metrics of success.