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What's Up Magazine

Main Street Program to Re-Launch

Jun 09, 2011 07:23PM ● By Anonymous

Main Street. Every town has one. Sometimes the name is different   But whatever that center commercial street is called, it’s the heart of downtown.  In 2008 the City of Annapolis became a designated member of the Main Street program, and after getting off to an enthusiastic start interest lulled as the economy lagged. This morning, the program was officially re-launched at a meeting convened at the Rams Head in downtown Annapolis and sponsored by the Annapolis Economic Development Corporation.

The Main Street program begun by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in the late 1970’s took root in Maryland, particularly in the Chesapeake Bay region when  five new cities joined the 18 Maryland cities already in the program in 2008.  Annapolis, Berlin, Chestertown, Middletown, and Princess Anne were added to the list that also includes Easton, Denton, and Salisbury.

“Main Street really offers a soup-to-nuts program – from its branding to the leverage it offers towns and cities financially,” said Main Street Maryland Director Amy Seitz who was one of the speakers at the meeting along with Assistant State Coordinator Tim Murphy. Seitz administers the Main Street program through the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development. She explains the four main points of the Main Street program are:

Organization—getting community stakeholders working toward the same goal and creating resources to implement a Main Street revitalization program.

Promotion— put up for sale a positive image of the commercial district and encourages consumers and investors to live, work, shop, play and invest in the Main Street district.

Design— getting Main Street into top physical shape. Capitalizing on its best assets — such as historic buildings, pedestrian-oriented streets, and generally an inviting atmosphere.

Economic Restructuring— strengthen a community's existing economic assets while expanding and diversifying its economic base.

“Recently,” said Seitz. “A fifth program point has been added: Clean, Safe and Green, encouraging sustainability in our communities.”

Steve Samaras. President of the Downtown Annapolis Partnership, has agreed to step back in to his previous role that teams up business owners, residents, and community leaders to work together to develop strategies for stimulating smart growth and business in the designated Main Street District.

According to the National Main Street center statistics every $1 spent on a Main Street turns into $40 of private investment.

“It is the goal of the city,” explained Mayor Josh Cohen, “To expand the boundaries of the current Main Street District. We’d like to go to Inner West Street beyond West Gate Circle as well as over the bridge and into Eastport.”

Several of the morning’s speakers expressed concern the impact of Westfield Mall and the Annapolis Towne Centre at Parole was having on downtown businesses. “It’s a tough time for business,” said Cohen, “the City is coming to grips with the revenue streams that are not adequately covering the cost of doing business, so our first priority is to put the City on sound financial ground, thus the tax and fee increase, which is hard on residents and businesses. But we still need to build and grow.”

The city has committed $12,500 towards this effort as seed money for the re-launch, but more money will need to be raised to support the efforts of the five new committees, each with two assigned co-chairs that represent the five main components of the program listed by Seitz.

During the next two months presentations will be made to various stakeholders in the district to get them involved in the re-launch process explained Sharon Kennedy, who gave an overview of the organizational restructuring of the program. Along with  three separate business associations, Annapolis has an Arts and Entertainment District, and several neighborhood associations .

For more information about the planned work of the various committees and for contact information, visit the city website