In many of our small Texas cities, the downtowns are in a serious state of decline. The automobile, suburban housing, and the growth of local and regional shopping centers and malls have greatly reduced the traditional role of Main Street as the principal center of economic activity. Many government programs, such as urban renewal and various city beautification programs, have failed to halt the decline of Main Street.
In the late 1970s, a new philosophy for revitalizing central business districts evolved. The concept is simple: rehabilitation of existing structures capitalizing on the unique character of the buildings, coupled with development of progressive marketing and management techniques. Preservation and rehabilitation of historic commercial buildings provides the necessary image for the downtown area and serves as a unifying factor to encourage area merchants and building owners to reinvest in downtown. While this historic image can establish the tone for the revitalization effort, a commitment to a full-time program manager and utilization of progressive marketing and management techniques are critical elements in the Main Street concept.
The Texas Main Street Program of the Texas Historical Commission works to bring this proven approach to downtown revitalization to towns across the state. Training of the local program manager is provided, as well as professional assistance in design, restoration, marketing, economic development, board training, strategic planning and other areas where the community does not have local expertise.
The Texas Historical Commission also provides a similar program for historic commercial neighborhood areas and manageable downtowns of cities with a population over 50,000. The Texas Main Street Program works with these cities for a minimum of five years. The Texas Main Street Program also co-sponsors an annual conference with the Texas Downtown Association on downtown revitalization. Longview joined as the first Texas Urban Main Street city in 1986. In 1994, Longview stopped participating in the program. After a 14 year absence, Longview submitted application for re-certification and was accepted in October 2007.
Since the inception of the Texas Main Street Program in 1981, over $1.7 billion has been reinvested in the downtowns of the official and self-initiated cities (a previous designation no longer in existence). Additionally, almost 6,000 new businesses came to cities’ downtowns, and more than 23,000 new jobs were created. These figures indicate that the Main Street concept of economic development within the context of historic preservation works. It is the aim of the Texas Main Street to have many Texas towns follow the successful models in the Main Street network and take a renewed interest in the revitalization of their downtowns.
Source: Texas Main Street Resource Manual