As one of PA SHPO’s Community Preservation Coordinators, one of the more heartening things I’ve observed (and participated in) the past few weeks has been the response of many Main Street communities and their partners to the COVID 19 crisis.
National Main Street programs – and many other communities – and their partner organizations are fighting to help businesses in historic downtowns survive these challenging times, thereby helping ensure the preservation of both the businesses and the historic buildings they occupy.
The Main Street Program
While I’m talking about Main Streets with a capital “M” and “S”, I’ve seen lots of examples of communities not part of this accredited national program showing the same kind of love and support to their local businesses.
One of the four points of the Main Street program is Economic Vitality; the others are Design, Promotion, and Organization. You can see which one communities are struggling with during the current pandemic.
Different Main Street organizations have managed their Facebook pages, web sites and other social media platforms to get the word out to their communities about which businesses in their downtowns are allowed to remain open, what their hours are and how to contact them. They have also provided links to business assistance programs and resources.
In addition to official “Main Street” organizations, many communities have begun Facebook groups to support local businesses.
Check out these examples
Here are just a few examples of Main Street organizations & partners in my region that are providing COVID19 business-assistance information:
- Wilkinsburg (Allegheny County)
- Mt Lebanon and Pittsburgh (Allegheny County)
- Oil City (Venango County)
- Washington (Washington County)
- Bradford (McKean County).
Pennsylvania Downtown Center Resources
The Pennsylvania Downtown Center continues to be a resource for all Pennsylvania communities.
Some Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) are providing debt payment relief crowdfunding and other assistance, such as:
Nationally, Main Street America has developed information for a larger audience and the National Trust for Historic Preservation has a place to go for information about helping businesses in historic buildings and Main Street communities:
- Main Street America: How We Can Help
- National Trust for Historic Preservation: We Are In This Together
What does all this mean?
I think all of this tells us a couple of things.
First, that people are passionate about their local historic downtown business districts. They’ll go out of their way to help preserve them.
Second, I find these stories very heartening in a broader sense.
Main Street is as much about people as it is business and money and economic success. It’s about a sense of place and what people really value in their communities, and the current crisis shows very clearly people are willing to fight for their special places.