Fostering Downtown Revitalization in Virginia's Small Cities: Main Street Network Partnerships as Catalysts for Community Transformation

Calos, Ariana, Architectural History - School of Architecture, University of Virginia
Johnston, Andrew, AR-Architectural History AR-Architecture, University of Virginia
Keller, Genevieve, AR-Urban and Environmental Planning, University of Virginia
Accordino, John, Virginia Commonwealth University

Founded in 1980 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Main Street America™ is a four-plus-decade-long nonprofit program dedicated to revitalizing downtowns or “main streets” in smaller historic communities throughout the United States. In this thesis, I examine the program in the Virginia cities of Hopewell, Danville, and Staunton. And I explore the pivotal role of Main Street network partnerships in successful downtown revitalization efforts–including, specifically, the effective execution of historic rehabilitation projects–in these three communities. In doing so, I investigate one case study downtown revitalization project per city, in which the local Main Street coordinating program is or was involved.

To better understand the importance of partnerships to these projects and each community’s revitalization efforts more broadly, I interviewed at least one Main Street leader and one Main Street partner in Hopewell, Danville, and Staunton, each of whom were or are involved with the respective city’s case study project. These interviews resulted in significant and abundant findings, of which I present those most pertinent to the central themes of historic preservation and partnerships. While these interviews resulted in numerous city-specific findings pertaining to these central themes, they also resulted in key overarching findings.

Of these overarching findings relating to historic preservation, first, I found that smaller-scale preservation efforts are often just as important to downtown revitalization as larger ones. Second, I found that historic tax credits are foundational to the completion of historic preservation projects, not only in Main Street communities but in communities throughout the United States. Of these overarching findings relating to partnerships, first, I found that local Main Street coordinating programs require collaboration to operate and that these collaborations are often extensive and varied. Second, affirming the very premise of this thesis, I found that partnerships are required to complete historic rehabilitation projects. Lastly, I found that the success of collaborations–within and beyond historic preservation work–depends upon a group of partners’ commitment to working as a collective and embracing the accomplishment of a shared goal as a mutual, rather than individual, pursuit.

Ultimately, I argue that these findings speak to the pivotal role of partnerships in successful downtown revitalization efforts by supporting the notion that collaboration is fundamental to preservation work which, in turn, is fundamental to downtown revitalization.

MARH (Master of Architectural History)
Main Street America, National Main Street Center, Main Street Program, Downtown Revitalization, Historic Preservation, Collaboration, Partnerships, Virginia Cities, Small Communities, Community Development, Historic Rehabilitation, Hopewell, Danville, Staunton
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