Pennsylvania Historic Preservation

Blog of the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office

This photograph shows two late 19th century buildings along a street in Bradford, PA.

Supporting Pennsylvania’s Main Streets

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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.

The Main Street four-point approach. Learn more at https://www.mainstreet.org/mainstreetamerica/theapproach

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.

Here is one example of how Main Streets in Western PA are helping to support local businesses.

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: 

The Old City Hall is one of the many architectural gems in the CLG community of Bradford, PA.

Pennsylvania Downtown Center Resources

The Pennsylvania Downtown Center continues to be a resource for all Pennsylvania communities. 

They are providing a platform for weekly conference calls for Main Street/Elm Street communities statewide and a series of webinars. They’ve also developed on-line resources: 

CDFIs

Some Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) are providing debt payment relief crowdfunding and other assistance, such as:

National Resources

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:

This website provides guidance for communities for federal guidelines and programs, Main Street program support, and small business resources.

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. 

Author: Bill Callahan

Bill Callahan is the western Pennsylvania Community Preservation Coordinator for the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office (PASHPO). The PASHPO is part of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and Bill is located at the Fort Pitt Museum in Pittsburgh. The PASHPO is responsible for implementing state and federal historic preservation programs throughout the Commonwealth. Bill has nearly 30 years’ experience working with federal, state and local historic preservation programs in Pennsylvania, Illinois and Nebraska and has also worked in the private sector, for several years managing two businesses in an historic downtown. Contact Bill at wcallahan@pa.gov and 412-565-3575, 601 Commonwealth Place, Point State Park, Building B, Pittsburgh PA 15222-1212.

One Comment

  1. It is wonderful to see communities come together in this time for need. It is important for us to remember to continue supporting our local buisnesses and historic sites. What ways do you think would be the most beneficial? Do you also think these practices would help even after we are able to return to a normal life?

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