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Thread: Small town, small minds: main street revitalization

  1. #1
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    Small town, small minds: main street revitalization

    I need some HELP, have moved to small town with huge potential, but having hard time showing these people what a gold mine they are sitting on...

    Two "Main" Streets both lined with turn-of-the-century architecture (Some even older, with lots of architectural character), trying to implement Main Street Revitalization. Need reference material to educate community about the benefits of preservation ordinance to protect history and plan for future. Number of historic buildings and homes have been demolished and paved over for parking, another building on chopping block, trying to prevent future demolition. Encourage restoration with the intent of increasing heritage tourism.

    I have been cruising the web, downloading all that I can find, but I am running out of ink and paper. Need facts, numbers, other talking points, (KISS), need a way to prove that preservation is smart and the "right" thing to do.

    Appreciate any and all suggestions.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian psylo's avatar
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    Lawrence, KS revived a historic downtown in the early 80s I believe, you might be alble to use that situation as an example. They've kept most of the orignal architecture in the Mass St. region which is now a thriving area, that some credits for helping push to seperate shopping malls in town out of business as some locals like to say (if they really is open to debate). Hopefully that will help you some maybe as an example.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Queen B's avatar
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    You are probably just what the town needs, some fresh blood. You see the town in a totally different view than those that have "lived" there their whole life. You probably will not make huge strides instantly and they will probably loose more structures before things can turn around but just the fact that you are there and vocal might turn on the light in a few people and then a few more who knows it might just happen.
    I lived most of my life in your sister city, Emporia, KS. I do know that the two cities have done some competition things in the past, right now I can't think of what it was but I know it is back there in my memory...
    Post some pictures for us if you can. We would love to see what you are talking about.
    Find out who in town is the most progressive with money and get to know them. We have a local bar owner here and his family that have done wonders to revitalize our downtown area. I believe that the "downtown" organizations have done wonders to help towns in Kansas. I am not certain where they got their original funding, I assume from grants but their whole focus is on reviving and restorations.
    Keep your chin up and your vision in mind and you can make a difference.
    It is all a matter of perspective!!!

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    It is good to see that someone is excited to get things started. Don't let it discourage you. Just keep chugging along. I might consider getting in touch with the city of Houghton in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. They have done a remarkable job of retaining the architectural beauty and bringing the downtown back to a vibrant hub. Patrick Coleman from UP Engineers and Architects may also have some ideas for you. Can't wait to check this town out!




    Quote Originally posted by wickedone42
    I need some HELP, have moved to small town with huge potential, but having hard time showing these people what a gold mine they are sitting on...

    Two "Main" Streets both lined with turn-of-the-century architecture (Some even older, with lots of architectural character), trying to implement Main Street Revitalization. Need reference material to educate community about the benefits of preservation ordinance to protect history and plan for future. Number of historic buildings and homes have been demolished and paved over for parking, another building on chopping block, trying to prevent future demolition. Encourage restoration with the intent of increasing heritage tourism.

    I have been cruising the web, downloading all that I can find, but I am running out of ink and paper. Need facts, numbers, other talking points, (KISS), need a way to prove that preservation is smart and the "right" thing to do.

    Appreciate any and all suggestions.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally posted by wickedone42
    I need some HELP, have moved to small town with huge potential, but having hard time showing these people what a gold mine they are sitting on...

    I have been cruising the web, downloading all that I can find, but I am running out of ink and paper. Need facts, numbers, other talking points, (KISS), need a way to prove that preservation is smart and the "right" thing to do.

    Appreciate any and all suggestions.
    Reference Laura Bush and her "Preserve America" program. You can find a lot of references by googling. Also, don't underestimate the power of personal stories. Spend some time talking to local advocates whose families will have some great stories about those buildings. Fun project! Enjoy.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian biscuit's avatar
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    Does small town = small minds? Well, as much as I hate to say it, usually, yes, it does.

    Fortunately you live in a state that, despite all its faults, runs a really great Main Street program. My advise to you is that you go to the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development’s (DHCD) Virginia Main Street web-site . They will have contact information for the people you need to speak to in Richmond as well as a link to the national Main Street program web site. Also, take a couple of field trips to towns that have participated in the program and speak to the Main Street managers there on how they got started and organized their respective communities. Culpepper is one of biggest success stories and is worth the trip to the center of the state just to see. And I also believe that Franklin has, or did have, a Main Street program of their own a few years back.

    Good luck.
    Last edited by biscuit; 07 Mar 2005 at 11:39 AM.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    Check out the National Trust for Historic Preservation's "Main Street Program" if you haven't already... its a gold mine.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    I'd bet there are citizens that share your views, you just haven't found them yet. Talk it up at meetings, in the coffee shop, wherever. Introduce yourself to the owners of renovated structures. You will find a support group.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    I don't know how to say this in a way that won't offend you, but I think if I had started this thread, I would have named it 'Small town, big potential'. I know you are just expressing your frustration but the phrase "small minds" is fundamentally disrespectful and that type of attitude tends to become a self-fulfilling prophesy: if they sense your underlying attitude that they have "small minds", their minds are likely to snap shut to all of your ideas, no matter how good they are. The rubric I use for thinking about such thing is that "If a man asks a woman to have sex with him and she says 'yes', it is called 'making love'. If he asks her and she says 'no' and he does it anyway, it is called 'rape'." Similarly, no matter how good your ideas are, if you try to cram them down the throats of people you think are too stupid and "small minded" to really understand or something, you and your ideas will not be welcomed there. And it will be nigh impossible to redeem yourself afterwards and make otherwise good ideas palatable.

    Like mike gurnee said, there may be people there who share your views and "you just haven't found them yet". But, IMO, your view that they have "small minds" is one they are unlikely to share and that view may be "the poison pill" which bars them from taking any interest in any of your other ideas.

    MZ -- With Good Intentions, but probably Paving a Road to Hell... (and may you learn from my example and not repeat my gauche mistakes).

  10. #10
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    Thanks for the advice

    Quote Originally posted by Michele Zone
    I don't know how to say this in a way that won't offend you, but I think if I had started this thread, I would have named it 'Small town, big potential'. I know you are just expressing your frustration but the phrase "small minds" is fundamentally disrespectful and that type of attitude tends to become a self-fulfilling prophesy: if they sense your underlying attitude that they have "small minds", their minds are likely to snap shut to all of your ideas, no matter how good they are. The rubric I use for thinking about such thing is that "If a man asks a woman to have sex with him and she says 'yes', it is called 'making love'. If he asks her and she says 'no' and he does it anyway, it is called 'rape'." Similarly, no matter how good your ideas are, if you try to cram them down the throats of people you think are too stupid and "small minded" to really understand or something, you and your ideas will not be welcomed there. And it will be nigh impossible to redeem yourself afterwards and make otherwise good ideas palatable.

    Like mike gurnee said, there may be people there who share your views and "you just haven't found them yet". But, IMO, your view that they have "small minds" is one they are unlikely to share and that view may be "the poison pill" which bars them from taking any interest in any of your other ideas.

    MZ -- With Good Intentions, but probably Paving a Road to Hell... (and may you learn from my example and not repeat my gauche mistakes).
    Yes, You may be right, I am a YANKEE in the South...I will try to be more positive, but I have found that this town would rather bury their heads in the sand and let things continue to decline, than step out on the limb and take a chance on changing things for the better.

    I am meeting lots of people who talk the talk, but not too many willing to extend the effort to walk the walk. There was a time about 10 yrs ago that a group organized to revitalize, but there is a long drama, and some questionable activities, and that left a very bad taste in a few mouths. This town is full of committees willing to discuss the problems, but not too many willing to take the ball and run with it, so here I am running against the wind.

    Thank you to all for your suggestions and support, and I apologize if I have offended, it wasn't my intention, I am sincerely hoping to motivate this community to come together and make some changes for a more positive future.

  11. #11
         
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    Quote Originally posted by wickedone42
    Yes, You may be right, I am a YANKEE in the South...I will try to be more positive, but I have found that this town would rather bury their heads in the sand and let things continue to decline, than step out on the limb and take a chance on changing things for the better.

    I am meeting lots of people who talk the talk, but not too many willing to extend the effort to walk the walk. There was a time about 10 yrs ago that a group organized to revitalize, but there is a long drama, and some questionable activities, and that left a very bad taste in a few mouths. This town is full of committees willing to discuss the problems, but not too many willing to take the ball and run with it, so here I am running against the wind.

    Thank you to all for your suggestions and support, and I apologize if I have offended, it wasn't my intention, I am sincerely hoping to motivate this community to come together and make some changes for a more positive future.
    You may want to find those that did form a group years ago and try to revive their interest. We just started another redevelopment area with a core group of people in an area that tried it years ago, but fell apart for several reasons. It has really taken off and we are seeing lots of positive things happening.Sometimes it just takes a new person to get the ball rolling. In 10 yars I am sure there are new people in town. I would start with what they have started and then research the Main Street program. Depending on the population of your city/town it may be a great asset. And regardless if you can or can't implement the Main Street program you can use many of the revitalization techniques that they use. First and foremeost if demolition is your main concern, you may want to check your city ord. for the demolition procedures and take a baby step to changing it to make sure PZ or whatever board it is that you have in place reviews all demolitions.
    We have lost a lot of great buildings here as well but at the same time have preserved 100's.
    Get some people behind you, no matter how few and take baby steps to get guidelines and pricedures in place. We have a thriving historic district and have implemented several procedures to ensure the safety of our buildings. If you have any questions or are interested in what the community I work in has done feel free to PM me and I can some info. to you.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by wickedone42
    I am meeting lots of people who talk the talk, but not too many willing to extend the effort to walk the walk. There was a time about 10 yrs ago that a group organized to revitalize, but there is a long drama, and some questionable activities, and that left a very bad taste in a few mouths. This town is full of committees willing to discuss the problems, but not too many willing to take the ball and run with it, so here I am running against the wind.

    Thank you to all for your suggestions and support, and I apologize if I have offended, it wasn't my intention, I am sincerely hoping to motivate this community to come together and make some changes for a more positive future.
    No, you haven't offended me. I am a very blunt person. Some people value my candor. Others desperately wish I would go buy myself some manners.

    I don't have a planning background. But I have a volunteer career behind me and I have special-needs kids that I have homeschooled. I am not sure how to briefly convey the gist of my perspective. But, first, with volunteer committees, people are often hesitant to take responsibility for any actions. They have no authority, really. The vast majority of people feel like "outsiders" and "rejects" and like they aren't "entitled" to do anything about a project that is larger than themselves. Often, if you are willing to roll up your sleeves, people will let you run with it. I often ended up in charge of stuff because I have a healthy sense of self and a big, fat mouth. I would toss out ideas, no one else spoke up, next thing you know it is "my" project. That can be A Good Thing if you don't mind doing the work and are confident in your ideas.

    Second, there is a quote from somewhere about "meeting people at the hurt". People who have been burned can be very leery of change. I am not sure if that will make sense without an explantion and I don't want to over-explain. But it is very common in dealing with special needs kids, folks in therapy, etc. that they are highly resistent to change. You can kind of return to that "rape" analogy: people who have been injured do not want to give up control. Those are the people who most desperately need someone to put respect for them ahead of "accomplishing" anything. I know that it takes patience but if you do this a few times, you will become a big believer in its effectiveness.

    In a single post in a public forum like this, I cannot begin to talk about how much experience I have with this rubric and how important and effective it is. People who feel respected and with whom you will take the time to answer their questions -- endlessly, patiently, without acting like they are stupid -- until THEY are satisfied that THEY understand, will eventually place their trust in you, especially once you have a track record of success on smaller projects. My first goal would be building that basis of trust. And what I have found is that, with people who are extremely resistant to change, you have to start planting the seeds of ideas. After you have said it 500 times -- quietly and patiently, as just part of the conversation -- one day, they will come up with this Brilliant Idea ALL ON THEIR OWN ...and promptly repeat back to you what you have said to them 500 times. At that point, you praise their brilliance and give them your loyal, total support for their Fantastic Idea.

    If you want your ego fed, get it fed elsewhere. If you really want the project to be a success, practice biting your tongue and giving away all the credit.
    Last edited by Michele Zone; 07 Mar 2005 at 10:32 PM.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Plus PlannerGirl's avatar
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    Hi Wickedone. Im also a planner in Va, a small burb south of DC with very small town mindset (never mind its a burb of DC). Va planning save for a few areas (Arlington) seems to be stuck in the stone ages and change comes very slow.

    Meet other planners, join listserves. Your close enough I would say join the NC one-much good chatter the last time I checked in.

    Best of luck
    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." Ben Franklin

    Remember this motto to live by: "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming 'WOO- HOO what a ride!'"

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Moderator note:
    Changed the thread title. Please use descriptive thread titles outside of the FAC; no teaser titles please.
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    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jringel
    It is good to see that someone is excited to get things started. Don't let it discourage you. Just keep chugging along. I might consider getting in touch with the city of Houghton in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. They have done a remarkable job of retaining the architectural beauty and bringing the downtown back to a vibrant hub. Patrick Coleman from UP Engineers and Architects may also have some ideas for you. Can't wait to check this town out!
    Also look at Marquette Michigan. The historic downtown is impressive.
    Invest in the things today, that provide the returns tomorrow.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Mud Princess's avatar
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    Several reports and articles have been written on the economic benefits of historic preservation. You can find one such example here:

    http://www.preservenys.org/economicbenefits.htm

    Do a google search on the term "economic benefits of historic preservation" and you'll find a ton of resources.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian
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    I think the National trust for historic preservation has a side project called the "Rural Heritage Program" or something like that.. you could google and contact them. I think they even work in the rural south (north carolina sounds familiar).

  18. #18
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    To maximize your chances for success, I would add the following:

    1. Certainly follow the suggestions concerning contact with your statewide Main Street program. They have the best of both worlds to provide --- advice about specific revitalization strategies AND resources about individuals, organizations and communities who/which have been where you are now.

    2. That said, be sure to contact your statewide preservation organization as well (which I believe has been re-christened "Preservation Virginia"). I am the Executive Director of such a statewide in Ohio, and we often have the opportuntiy to come into communties and engage in overall preservation planning --- evaluating historic resources, both commercial and residential, and creating plans of actions to take advantage of those assets.

    3. From the outset, think outside the box. Some of the most successful preservation-based community revitalization programs are those that use sophisticated communication media to build community support. Project your community ten years in the future, and begin today to proactively address anticipated challenges.

    4. Realize that while you are not alone, that you are also up against a well-financed, well-connected network of interests that do not value what you do -- interests that would gladly exploit the resources you hold dear. Beat these interests at their own game, by learning their language, anticipating their moves, and developing professional tools to communicate your message.

    OK, I am done preaching.

  19. #19
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    I'd be interested to find out how/whether this project succeeds. I took a long weekend in Luray last fall, staying at the historic Mimslyn Inn on Main St. We went out for a walk and dinner Saturday evening and were totally shocked to see the streets deserted, stores and even restaurants mostly closed.

    Coming from an area where people go out in droves to Alexandria, Georgetown, Adams Morgan, I'd have expected to find the downtown crowded on a weekend (and it's a decent downtown ... quite a few historical storefronts in good condition, a couple of local restaurants, pool hall and a nice riverwalk in the middle of it all) Instead everyone was at Walmart, or a chain hotel out on the bypass. This was very disappointing because I have several hobbies (hiking, paddling, motorcycling) that Luray would be a great weekend base for, and if all the local sprawl were to move within the town border (where there's plenty of land to accomodate it all) it would be a successful small city instead of a near-ghost town...

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