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Three Main Street America Staff members standing in front of a mural in Marion, Iowa.

Marion, Iowa © Tasha Sams

About

We work in collaboration with thousands of local partners and grassroots leaders across the nation who share our commitment to advancing shared prosperity, creating resilient economies, and improving quality of life.

Overview Who We Are How We Work Partner Collaborations Our Supporters Our Team Job Opportunities Contact Us
Two community members in Emporia Kansas pose with a sign saying "I'm a Main Streeter"

Emporia, Kansas © Emporia Main Street

Our Network

Made up of small towns, mid-sized communities, and urban commercial districts, the thousands of organizations, individuals, volunteers, and local leaders that make up Main Street America™ represent the broad diversity that makes this country so unique.

Overview Coordinating Programs Main Street Communities Collective Impact Awards & Recognition Community Evaluation Framework Join the Movement
Dionne Baux and MSA partner working in Bronzeville, Chicago.

Chicago, Illinois © Main Street America

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Looking for strategies and tools to support you in your work? Delve into the Main Street Resource Center and explore a wide range of resources including our extensive Knowledge Hub, professional development opportunities, field service offerings, advocacy support, and more!

Overview Knowledge Hub Field Services Government Relations Main Street Now Conference Main Street America Institute Small Business Support Allied Member Services The Point Members Area
People riding e-scooters in Waterloo, Iowa

Waterloo, Iowa © Main Street Waterloo

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Woman and girl at a festival booth in Kendall Whittier, Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Kendall Whittier — Tulsa, Oklahoma © Kendall Whittier Main Street

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May 20, 2021 | Community Spotlight: Market Street Arts and Entertainment District in Mount Airy, NC | By: Abby Armato, Communications Coordinator, Main Street America | 
Mt. Airy, NC. Photo credit: Robbie Curlee
The first weekend of the 2021 Market Street Arts & Entertainment District. Photo credit: Robbie Curlee

The summer of 2020 was a season of finding creative approaches to previously unimaginable circumstances. While Main Street programs may not reuse all of these approaches, some organizations are bringing the most impactful initiatives of 2020 back to their districts this summer. One such organization reusing a pandemic recovery approach is Mount Airy Downtown, Inc., who celebrated the return of their Market Street Arts and Entertainment District (MSA & ED) last weekend. This open street initiative in the heart of downtown Mount Airy, North Carolina, was developed in May 2020, and was such a success that the Main Street program decided to bring it back for a second year.

Mount Airy High School students painting parklet murals on Market Street. Photo credit: Downtown Mount Airy, Inc.The MSA & ED from Mount Airy Downtown, Inc., is part programming, part placemaking, and all community engagement. Closing the commercial district’s Market Street to vehicular traffic on the weekends, the Main Street organization brings together local makers, food trucks, live entertainment, and small businesses to create a safe, family-friendly public space. Painters, jewelers, tie-dye shirt makers, and other artists set up tents with their wares along the closed street. Market Street’s yoga studio leads classes on the asphalt right outside their business. With open containers allowed in the District, the breweries offer beverages that adult community members can enjoy while they stroll.
In celebration of the second year of the MSA & ED, local high school students painted street murals along Market Street to create defined parklets for the District. Their paintings complement the various murals and other public art installations created to define this vibrant area.

“Not only did the Market Street Arts and Entertainment District boost our local economy, it truly boosted morale and reconnected us to our sense of community by providing an opportunity to safely gather in smaller groups during a time when everyone was feeling the stress and isolation of the pandemic,” commented Lizzie Morrison, Main Street Coordinator of Downtown Mount Airy, Inc., in a recent interview.

Mount Airy Downtown, Inc., began making plans for the MSA & ED just over a year ago. At the time, the Main Street program was looking for ways to support their local businesses and community members during the early months of the pandemic. A street downtown just a block away from Main Street, then-quiet Market Street was home to two breweries, a restaurant, retail shops, and a yoga studio, which were struggling with business due to indoor gathering restrictions. The MSA & ED initiative was folded into the Main Street program’s Work Implementation Plan, working to enhance their vision for “downtown to be the center of urban living, the hub of arts, music, culinary experiences, and entertainment in the foothills, to have the largest collection of unique small businesses, and to be the center of economic development in the county.”

Musicians performing in “Melva’s Alley” during the first weekend of the Market Street Arts & Entertainment District. Photo credit: Robbie CurleeAn initial $3,000 investment supported Mount Airy Downtown, Inc., in establishing the MSA & ED in 2020. This investment paid for items like outdoor seating, plantings, and branding materials. It also contributed to new colorful crosswalks that helped define the district. Painted by volunteers, the bright crosswalks worked to increase pedestrian safety while also creating a more vibrant feel for the neighborhood. Adding additional vibrancy to the District was “Melva’s Alley,” an alley activation project that honors late jazz and blues artist Melva Houston. Today, this space features a beautiful mural of the blues musician and twinkling string lights with the intention of becoming a permanent performance area.

Since its opening, the MSA & ED has had a huge impact on the small businesses of Market Street as well as the community. Businesses in the district have reported a 30% increase in retail sales, with the breweries in particular reporting a 42% sales increase. Earlier this year, the North Carolina Main Street program awarded Downtown Mount Airy an Award of Merit in the category of Best Economic Recovery Initiative for the MSA & ED.

“The space not only puts the pedestrian first, but also crafts a more inclusive, healthy, and colorful neighborhood downtown,” said the Coordinating Program in their award announcement. “The District supports local businesses and artists by extending their footprint while cultivating community pride in an arts space they are building together.”


Want to implement an open streets initiative in your own downtown this year? Check out our Open Streets brief from the evergreen Commercial District Design: COVID-19 Response and Management series, developed in partnership with AARP Liveable. View it here >