Main Street Arkansas report says historic Arkansas downtowns show success

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 1,572 views 

Main Street Arkansas’ recently released 2018 economic development numbers show growth of the Main Street communities in Arkansas who take part in the nationally recognized Main Street America program. That program bases success on the four points of Economic Vitality, Design, Promotion, and Organization, a media release on the program said.

Main Street Arkansas was founded in 1984, as part of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program,” said Stacy Hurst, director and state historic preservation officer for the Department of Arkansas Heritage, in the release. “I recently met with our Main Street Directors and enjoyed hearing the success stories from each of their communities. We are looking forward to continued growth in these historic downtowns in 2019. But for now, the 2018 economic development numbers are outstanding and worth celebrating.”

There are 20 Main Street Communities and 17 Downtown Community Networks in Arkansas. In 2018, those communities had a net gain of 62 businesses in their historic downtown commercial districts and 37 business expansions or relocations into downtown. There was a net gain of 306 jobs, the report indicates.

Investment in downtown included 181 façade renovations, building rehabilitations and new construction projects with a total investment of $136.49 million. There were 51 public improvement projects with a total investment of $1.98 million, according to the release.

Under the Department of Arkansas Heritage, Main Street Arkansas provides support for the businesses and organizations within the Main Street communities such as advising on façade renovations or interior remodels, grants, and small business consulting. But a large part of Main Street Arkansas’ success is through volunteer participation. In 2018, 24,390 volunteer hours were spent on downtown revitalization projects, the release said.

Main Street Arkansas Director Greg Phillips said 2018 numbers are exciting but lifetime investments are great numbers.

“Take a statistic such as net gain in businesses in Main Street communities since 1984, we’re at 1,429; that’s 7,391 jobs. Those are real numbers that show the effectiveness of this program to individuals,” Phillips said, noting the volunteer hours spent on Main Street events and revitalization is a staggering 658,332 hours.

Main Street Arkansas members are: Argenta Arts District in North Little Rock; Batesville; Blytheville; Conway; Dumas; El Dorado; Eureka Springs; Helena; Jonesboro; Downtown Little Rock Partnership and South Main Street (SoMa) in Little Rock; Osceola; Ozark; Paragould; Pine Bluff; Russellville; Searcy; Siloam Springs; Texarkana; and West Memphis.

Communities that are not members can be affiliates. For example, Fort Smith is not a Main Street Arkansas community, but it is a Main Street affiliate, part of the Arkansas Downtown Network, said Talicia Richardson, 64.6 Downtown director.

Fort Smith was one of the first Arkansas cities to participate in Main Street Arkansas, but in the past never moved up to being a Main Street Arkansas Community, she said. 64.6 Downtown has taken on the role of working with Main Street Arkansas, so Fort Smith will move in that direction, she added.

“I am working on the paperwork to maintain the requirements for 2019,” Richardson said.

In 2018, Main Street Arkansas awarded 64.6 Downtown the Best Downtown Improvement Project Award for Propelling Downtown Forward. Main Street  Arkansas officials will be in Fort Smith next week to visit with downtown business owners about what is available through the program to help them, Richardson said.

“That is one of the things they provide. Up until now, we have underutilized what they offered. We are working now to engage with them,” Richardson said.