Boston Main Streets
In 1995, Boston challenged the National Trust for Historic Preservation to expand its National Main Street model. The result was Boston Main Streets, the first urban, multi-district Main Street program in the United States. Boston Main Streets now brings the technical knowledge of business district revitalization to twenty Boston business districts, including six in Dorchester (Bowdoin Geneva, Fields Corner, Four Corners, Greater Ashmont, Grove Hall, and Uphams Corner).
Each district receives financial and technical assistance and intensive training in the Main Street approach from the City of Boston Main Streets office and the National Main Street Center. In turn, each Main Street organization hires a full time Executive Director, raises matching funds, and implements its programs according to an annual work plan.
Boston Main Streets districts follow a four-point comprehensive approach that creates and sustains the district’s image: 1) community organization, 2) promotion, 3) design and 4) economic vitality. Specific Main Street activities and operations include storefront improvement grants, public enhancements, local promotional and fund-raising events such as road races, parades, auctions, multi-cultural festivals, and holiday shopping events, all of which strategically aim to enhance the image of the business district and attract consumers. Using the Main Street four-point approach, district staff and volunteers draw upon the skills and experience of the local stakeholders to revitalize the district.
The City of Boston commits a significant portion of its federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to the Boston Main Streets program. In addition, the City of Boston commits full-time staff to assist the local districts in many aspects of their programs. Local districts also have access to city architects, design staff, transportation planners, and technical assistance specialists, and design assistance from local architecture firms in the form of Design Hours under a contract administered by the City. Boston Main Streets also provides workshops and trainings to Main Street staff and volunteers.
Qualitatively, the overall goal of the Boston Main Streets program is to improve the quality of life in Boston’s neighborhoods. The vitality of a neighborhood’s business district is critical to the health of the neighborhood as a whole and for that reason all sectors of the community are involved with each Main Street organization. Stakeholders include residents, business and property owners, public and private institutions, community development corporations, and merchant associations.
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