Texas’s recertified Main Street cities : a narrative evaluation



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



One of the most notably successful historic preservation tools is the National Main Street Center’s Four-Point Approach™, which focuses on using design, economic restructuring, promotion, and organization to achieve its goals of preservation-based economic revitalization in cities across America. The Main Street Program’s approach has been broadly designed to accommodate the unique combination of factors that differ from city to city. Three of Texas’s twenty recertified Main Street cities were studied in order to answer the question: In recertified Main Street cities, what are the impacts within a historic downtown district after a community leaves the program and what factors encourage their return? This study examines the effects participation in the program has had on the downtown historic districts of Brenham, Gainesville, and Kilgore. The act of joining, leaving, and rejoining the program provides an opportunity for internal comparisons within these communities over time. Interviews and archival research were used to determine the reasons each selected recertified city left and returned to the program, and identified current problems that could threaten the program’s continued success. Despite some differing circumstances, these case studies suggest that the basic reasons both for leaving the program and later returning were strikingly similar: economic hardships in the cities eliminated support for the projects, causing them to end participation, while continued struggles with downtown vacancy rates and high business turnover sparked interest in rejoining. These communities realized the worth of the Main Street program’s structure and network in the success of revitalizing their downtown historic districts. The flexibility of the program’s framework allows for each participating city to tailor the approach to meet their specific needs and highlight their unique character. While the methods of implementation differ, many of the ongoing problems are the same. Recertified cities represent only a quarter of the cities currently participating in the Texas Main Street Program, but the lessons learned are potentially valuable to all Main Street communities as they face challenges in revitalizing their downtown districts and encourage the longevity of their own programs.