Smart growth advocates are found in both the public and private sectors and as we all strive for a better Salt Lake City, we need every advocate we can get. That is why Salt Lake City’s Department of Economic Development applied for and received not one, but two National Main Street America designations in our City. One is for the Granary District, and the other for State Street “Midtown District” (State Street from 600 S. to 1700 S.)
As City leaders, we chose to work with Main Street America because they have a proven track record. They have helped over 2,000 communities across the country bring economic vitality back downtown, while celebrating their historic character, and bringing communities together.
Our role is one of organization and assistance, and so far we’re seeing some great results. The Granary District has formed its own board and has held successful community events (including the block party and mural unveiling). The Pickle Co. Building won grant money to help with restoration. And now, State Street has formed its own board and pursuing a branding effort as the Midtown District.
Recently community representatives and Salt Lake City Economic Development staff had the opportunity to attend the 2019 “Main Street Now” Conference in Seattle. It was a chance to learn best practices and meet with other communities across the country that are facing the same challenges that we are in the Granary District and State Street. Each one of them brought back an interesting perspective:
Darin Piccoli, Owner of The State Room and Business Advisory Board Member:
The Main Street Conference energized me as chair of our district to hit the ground running with manageable ‘sets’ projects to enhance the experience of our district.
- I was intrigued by the approach of the Urban Main program in Chicago. The idea of taking a large district and breaking it up into nodes is a great way to manage expectations of all the businesses as well as create attainable goals within each node
- For a district to really take it to the next level eventually it does need strong support for local city and/or state government. Many of the districts that have thrived are closely aligned with their mayor or governor.
- I hope in the future there are more panels dedicated to Urban Main. A constant theme with revitalization in the program had to do with older private owners not paying attention to their properties. In an Urban Main setting our biggest issue is developers or commercial realtors land banking.
From Renya Nelson, owner of Brand Aid and Granary District Board Member:
The Main Street America Conference opened my eyes to the endless ideas and solutions that we can implement within our neighborhoods. I walked away with greater knowledge surrounding specific action items that will enhance the economic vitality of our neighborhoods – attracting both residents and small businesses alike.
- Design: A strong plan around the design and layout of each neighborhood is critical to the success of future growth. I feel that Salt Lake City will benefit around a design plan for each neighborhood – one that would highlight the individual characteristics of specific areas, but would also provide a cohesive look and feel to the city as a whole. This comes down to the specific type of street lighting, trees, benches, and signage.
- Branding: While the individual MS boards have done a great job in branding themselves, they don’t fit in with the branding of the city. I feel that SLC could use an overall re-branding, keeping each district in mind, as they could fit together as part of a whole. With the right branding and a well thought out design for each district, SLC would feel like a more unified city.
- Community Events: I learned quite a bit about how much money can be generated by sponsorship dollars around community events. The Levitt foundation is a great partner for smaller markets to build consistent summer music events. We heard from a lot of towns that have generated significant revenue from music events. I feel like a permanent stage on library square and a small staff to facilitate programming could support this potential revenue generator.
From Roberta Reichgelt, Local Business and Entrepreneurship Manager with SLC Department of Economic Development:
As this was my second opportunity to attend the Main Street America Conference I was able to make the event a bit more strategic by attending panels and networking events with topics and information that were more relevant and critical to the success and sustainability of the Main Street programs here in SLC.
Top 3 Takeaways:
- It is crucial from MSA Urban Main programs to have strong relationships with City officials, City Council, and State Representatives. In order to get funding support, it is important to have their buy-in and that means involving them throughout the year in the events, meetings, and programming.
- There are a lot of creative ideas out there to fill vacant commercial spaces and cities large and small are taking this on through MSA. Many programs do this through the collaboration and creation of multiple partnerships that takes a lot of organization to create successful programs.
- Programs take time to provide results! Salt Lake City’s MSA programs need to continue to promote all the great work they have done already in order to increase community buy-in and participation. We have very strong Boards but need to increase further participation to activate our areas and bring about neighborhood revitalization.
From Will Wright, Project Coordinator with SLC Department of Economic Development:
Main Street America Now Conference creates a truly incredible environment that facilitates synchronicities and synergies among attendees. It is a great joy to witness and participate in the acceleration of ideas and energy that has now returned and set back to work on revitalization, historic preservation, and economic development in communities across the nation.
Top 3 takeaways:
- It is important to be thoughtful and intentional and to plan well in advance when placemaking in the districts so that they are places that people will naturally gravitate to and want to spend time.
- Human ingenuity is limitless and there are both opportunities for funding and opportunities to change perceived weaknesses into strengths in our districts that we can take advantage of.
- Finally, nationally, people have taken notice of the work we have done locally, and we should submit one or both of our districts for Main Street America Now 2020’s GAMSA Awards!
If you would like more information about Salt Lake City’s Main Street America initiatives, please contact Roberta Reichgelt at 801-535-7694.