If you haven’t read Patrice Frey’s letter (November 10) to the members of the Main Street America organization, I highly recommend that you take a few minutes to do so.* Her note is an inspirational reminder that as we approach the New Year and meet a new administration, it is the responsibility of our nation’s downtowns to provide opportunities for voice and participation for all its community members.
Let voice guide the vision and its plan
An important avenue for voice and participation is through the collection of community input. Community input can be used to plan a vision that leads to greater economic prosperity for downtown. As a matter-of-fact, the recently “refreshed” Main Street Approach model** identifies community input; as the driver for selecting those projects that will serve as the catalysts for downtown.
Start now to “listen”
With the newly “refreshed’ Main Street Approach, in 2018 all Main Street downtowns will be required to collect public input. Here are two steps you can take now to build your Main Street’s foundation, using the new Main Street Approach model.
Step 1. Conduct an internal environmental scan
Simply put, gather and analyze documents that may contain recent community input. Examples may include master plans, community research, and citizen comments found in minutes of the historic preservation commission, business association, city council, or county commission. Look for common themes or trends to guide your strategic planning. Although this approach is not the most ideal, it can provide you with input to guide your 2017 plan, while you seek assistance to forrmally collect public input for your 2018 plan.
Step 2. Begin the process for developing your 2018 plan
- Decide now when your 2018 downtown board planning retreat will take place.
- Select a downtown consultant to develop a public input collection instrument or contact your state or national Main Street program for assistance.
- Start the formal collection of community input—perhaps through public town hall meetings, focus groups, electronic surveys, or a mixture of methods—three months before the retreat.
- Engage a facilitator who is knowledgeable about the Main Street Approach to lead public town hall meetings and focus groups.
- Finally, decide how your office will use the data, once it has been collected and analyzed.
Returning to Frey’s letter, she says, “Main Street has always been a place for people of different backgrounds and political stripes to come together to work to make their communities thrive.” Through the use of community input, your Main Street is planning a vision for downtown that is inclusive of its stakeholders. The result will be a powerful plan for future that is based on current needs and wants of your community.
*Patrice Frey is the President and CEO of the National Main Street Center; her letter may be found here.
**Read the National Main Street Center’s announcement about the “refresh” here.