What makes a great Main Street?

How did we choose our Main Streets Across America? Here are the criteria we used when we studied classic main streets from around the country.

  1. Strong local business presence
  • Are there independent and/or owner-operated businesses that have been present on the street for more than 25 years? 50 years? 100 years?
  • Do businesses strongly support the community and “do good” for others?
  • Is the street historically significant to the development of a particular product, company or industry?
    • First store location for a large well-known retailer
    • Place where a product was invented or first sold
    • Key role in the industrial revolution
  • Key attributes of commerce and economic development (current or historical)
    • Railroad or trolley tracks; served as an old stagecoach or pony express route
    • Waterway (canal, river, shipping port)
    • Strong local business association; chamber of commerce
  1. Community Gathering Spots / scenic vistas
  • Does the street have one or more of the following:
    • A favorite local coffee shop, barber shop or other spot (even a sidewalk or street corner) where people greet one another or gather to chat about the news of the day
    • Town hall; local or state government buildings
    • Town common; Band shell
    • Meeting halls for social or fraternal organizations
    • School campuses
    • Boardwalk; walking path or bike path
    • Parks, playgrounds or recreation area; community gardens; sitting/viewing area
    • Public art (sculptures, murals, unique architectural designs)
  1. Celebrations of history and traditions/Reflections of civic pride
    1. Parades; community events; festivals
    2. Farmers markets; craft fairs
    3. Monuments; statues; historical markers; flags or street banners on display
    4. Evokes a sense of nostalgia
    5. Street, buildings or landmarks named after noteworthy citizens or listed on the national register of historic places
    6. Is the street the location of a significant historic event? (political, social, cultural)
  2. Diverse social and cultural events and activities
    1. Ethnic, Multi-cultural, multi-generational organizations and activities
    2. Several different denominations of churches or places of worship
    3. Diverse businesses and business owners
    4. Theatres; museums; summer concerts; public performance
    5. Organizations and activities that create a strong sense of community and “do good” for others