Downtown Hutchinson Kansas Main Street History

Downtown Hutchinson has been a member of the Kansas Main Street Program since 1985. The Main Street program uses a common-sense approach to tackle the complex issues of revitalization, capitalizing on downtown’s history and identifying the resources of the community itself. The Kansas Main Street program is in the Rural Development Division-Community Development of the Kansas Department of Commerce. The state program which started in 1985, provides management training, consultation visits, local program evaluation, design assistance, business enhancement strategies, incentive dollars and continuous training in the four-point approach for board, committee members and program directors. Kansas Main Street is a self-help program. Staff provides technical assistance, but the responsibility and credit for success rests with the community leaders who offer time, expertise and enthusiasm to revitalizing downtown.

A community’s central business district often accounts for as much as 30 percent of a town’s jobs and 40 percent of its tax base. But a downtown is more than an economic asset. It is a community’s crossroad - a place in our hearts and minds that evokes strong emotions and helps define our identity. In recent years, many approaches to downtown revitalization, from urban renewal to paint-up, and fix-up projects, have failed because they focused on just one or two problems, rather than dealing with the full spectrum of interrelated issues that affect traditional commercial districts. The Main Street program’s approach to downtown revitalization has succeeded in more than 1,200 towns and cities throughout the nation.

The four points described below are the keys to the success of the Main Street approach:

Organization means getting everyone working toward the same goal. The work of building consensus and cooperation among groups that have an important stake in the district can be eased by using the commonsense formula of a volunteer-driven program, an organizational structure of a board of directors and committees and a financially strong organization.

Promotion means selling the image and promise of Main Street to all prospects. By marketing the district’s unique characteristics to shoppers, investors and visitors, an effective promotional strategy forges a positive image through advertising, retail promotional activity and special events carried out by local volunteers.

Design means enhancing the visual quality of downtown through attention to all elements of the physical environment. An inviting atmosphere, created through window displays, parking areas, signs, sidewalks, street lights, landscaping and the buildings themselves, conveys a visual message of what Main Street is and what it has to offer.

Economic Restructuring means strengthening the existing economic assets of the business district while diversifying its economic base. By helping existing businesses expand and recruiting new ones to respond to today’s market, Main Street programs help convert unused space into productive property and sharpen the competitiveness of business enterprises.

The Main Street approach has eight guiding principles that set it apart from other redevelopment strategies:

1. Comprehensive

No single focus – such as lavish public improvements, "name-brand" business recruitment or endless promotional events – can do the job. Downtown revitalization requires a comprehensive strategy.

2. Incremental

Small projects and simple activities lead to a more sophisticated understanding of the revitalization process and help develop skills to tackle more complex problems and ambitious projects.

3. Self-Help

Nobody else will save Main Street. Local leaders must have the will and desire to make the project successful. Continued long-term success depends on the involvement and commitment of the community.

4. Public-Private Partnership

Both the public and private sectors have a vital interest in the economic health and physical viability of the downtown. Each sector has a role to play, and each must understand the other’s strengths and limitations so that an effective partnership can develop.

5. Assets

History is on our side. Main Street must capitalize on the unique assets it already has, like the distinctive buildings, friendly shop owners and a human scale that give people a sense of belonging and pride.

6. Quality

Built to last. Quality must be emphasized in every aspect of the revitalization program; this applies equally to each program element, from storefront design to promotional campaigns to volunteer recruitment.

7. Change

Skeptics turn into believers. Almost no one believes Main Street can really turn around… at first. Changes in attitude and practice are slow but definite – and essential. Public support for change will build as the program grows.

8. Implementation-Oriented

Make a difference TODAY. Most towns have enough plans collecting dust on the shelves to last them through the century. Main Street focuses on activity that creates confidence in the program and creates visible changes that are a reminder that the revitalization effort is underway. Main Street plans for the future while creating change NOW.