By Tom Dixon

February 17, 2017


Downtown Douglas

Wyoming Main Street is one of five state programs recently selected to host a free training session provided by two nationally-renowned downtown advocacy organizations.

The National Main Street Center and Project for Public Spaces offers funding for 35 communities in the state to learn how to turn their central business districts into destinations through inexpensive, easily planned and temporary projects.

Douglas will host the training May 17-18.

Wyoming Main Street is a program of the Wyoming Business Council, the state’s economic development agency. There are 18 communities in the program, but this two-day training workshop is open to any Wyoming town because the Business Council is dedicated to improving downtowns across the state.

The approach described in this training - called Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper – offers downtown proponents opportunities to try out an idea and encourage residents to participate in the process.

“Our organization is heavily focused on long-term economic revitalization and sustainability,” said Lindsey Wallace, project manager for The National Main Street Center. “On the face of it, it can seem daunting to know where to start with these longer-term, deep dive strategies. Especially when you’re a rural town consistently grappling with limited resources, budget and, in some cases, small staff.”

The quick, easy, inexpensive projects are designed to create excitement around downtown revitalization and find out what works best in each community while the long-term plans unfold.

This is the second year of the “Cultivating Place in Main Street Communities” program. The five communities who participated in 2016 have already initiated 40 different projects in their towns.

Many of the success stories include turning vacant space into a place for people to gather and eat, relax and talk. Great Falls, Mont., for example, used a homemade deck to create sidewalk dining for local restaurants. In Elba, Ala., Main Street managers turned a vacant lot from an eyesore into a small park that can be easily removed when local officials in the town of 3,900, attract a business to the space.

“Through placemaking projects, rural communities can engage new partners and volunteers, and make underused public spaces in your downtown – like empty lots, green spaces, even sidewalks or crosswalks – more visually appealing,” Wallace said.

Though these projects are easy to pursue and temporary in nature, they are designed to generate the interest of potential investors, establish a neighborhood and regional sense of community and encourage public enthusiasm in the long term.

Participants will learn to see city streets not just as transport for people and goods, but a tool to improve the social and economic life of a town. Project for Public Spaces trainers will show how to make public places like libraries, theaters, museums, schools and churches into active places of cultural, economic and civic change.

The National Main Street Center will provide funding for workshop travel, expenses and staff assistance. The Project for Public Spaces will supply trainers, materials and follow-up support to communities.

Attendees will also have time to network with local and regional representatives of federal agencies, partner organizations and philanthropic foundations who can provide local leaders with additional resources for improving rural downtowns.

“Local Wyoming Main Streets have demonstrated strong leadership and creativity,” Wallace said. “We knew they would be able to take the lessons learned from this training and make great projects happen in their communities.”

Wyoming Main Street provided $370,000 in fiscal year 2016 to help towns with downtown planning, signage and beautification, marketing and web design, structural assessments and feasibility studies and more.

Space is limited. To sign up for the event, call Administrative Assistant Ashley Cannon at 307-777-2845, or email her at Ashley.cannon@wyo.gov.

 

About the Wyoming Business Council: Our mission is to increase Wyoming’s prosperity. We envision a Wyoming where industries are strong, diverse and expanding. Small business is a big deal. Communities have the highest quality of life. Wyoming is the technology center of the High Plains. Wyoming knows no boundaries. Please go to www.wyomingbusiness.org for more information.

Community

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