What Happened to Main Street?
Downtown and neighborhood business districts are no longer the only providers of goods and services to their communities. The suburbanization of American metropolitan areas has changed the way consumers shop by luring them away from traditional business districts. With sprawl taking development beyond our suburbs and big box stores filling the void between housing developments—strip malls, and superstores are outnumbering commercial districts. Chain superstores are growing bigger as they strive to offer one-stop shopping for consumers by filling greater and greater square footage with new product lines. New technology has become another factor threatening Main Streets as many stores offer online shopping or new conveniences.
These challenges have placed multiple stresses on commercial cores that must fight disinvestment and look for ways to attract new businesses and customers.
Is there HOPE for Main Street?
Many of these changes have contributed to economic decline, there are also trends and assets that support rejuvenation of our traditional commercial districts—what we call "Main Street".
Many consumers are tired of the homogeneity and impersonality of shopping malls, big box businesses and chain stores. People value personal attention, name recognition, quality merchandise, and exemplary service—ALL potential features of traditional commercial districts.
A community's business district represents a substantial share of its economy—its jobs, its tax base, its municipal investment, its business.
Because consumers are more mobile today than several decades ago, the market area that a downtown or neighborhood commercial district can potentially serve is much greater than it used to be.
More and More Americans enjoy visiting historic places—not just for vacation but also for everyday business and leisure activities. Traditional community centers—Downtowns—offer unique, historic shopping environments.
The renewal of a downtown won't happen overnight; it's a gradual process that begins with small steps, eventually building capacity to tackle larger, more complicated revitalization projects and problems. "Big Fix" solutions to commercial district revitalization almost always fail to bring the kind of lasting, positive change that they promise.