Main Street SC has welcomed the Town of Cheraw and the City of North Augusta into its program. These communities join 18 existing participants from around the state.
Georgia Avenue in downtown North Augusta provides part of the
route for the city's Christmas parade. Photo: Wilson Studio.
Main Street SC is the state affiliate of the National Main Street Center, which began nearly 40 years ago when the National Trust for Historic Preservation explored the composition of downtowns across the country. It discovered that downtowns were struggling in four key areas: organization, promotion, design and economic vitality, and so it developed the Main Street Four-Point Approach. This approach focuses on locally-driven, incremental change.
Main Street SC encourages downtown revitalization through economic development within the context of historic preservation. The primary purpose of a local Main Street program is to ensure the long-term success of its downtown by creating, educating and training a comprehensive, professional, volunteer-based downtown revitalization organization.
Applying to become a participating community requires a core of historic or older commercial and mixed-use buildings which represent the local architectural heritage. The core may also include compatible infill development.
The City of North Augusta's program is known as North Augusta Forward. The Main Street SC onsite visit revealed a tremendous level of support for the program, according to Jenny Boulware, Main Street SC manager.
North Augusta Forward Executive Director Avery Spears-Mahoney said, "With the positive growth North Augusta is experiencing, the timing could not be more appropriate for redevelopment in our downtown area. Downtown revitalization directly aligns with North Augusta Forward's vision to become the 'community of choice' to live, work and play within the River Region. Downtown is the heart and soul of any community; it is what makes a place unique. North Augusta is ready to maximize downtown's potential in creating a gathering place and hub of economic activity."
The Town of Cheraw anticipates hiring a director within the coming months. For years, the town worked to revitalize downtown with tools like facade grants and beautification projects.
Vendors line the sidewalks for the Town of Cheraw's Market on Market.
Photo: Town of Cheraw.
"Despite these efforts, downtown still had problems with unsightly buildings and vacancies," Town Manager Mike Smith said. "Cheraw Town Council members have determined that it is going to take a committed effort to become a vibrant downtown. As a result, the Town Council voted to seek membership into the Main Street SC program."
While town officials recognize that Main Street SC's assistance is invaluable, they also realize this is just the beginning of a long-term commitment. "When a community is ready for Main Street, as North Augusta and Cheraw are, our economic development program works," Boulware said.
Results of Main Street's comprehensive effort include new businesses; job growth; facade renovations and restorations; tourism-building special events and festivals; and streetscape and infrastructure improvements. All of these contribute to a renewed confidence in downtown.
By using Main Street SC expertise and resources, downtowns gain a practical, adaptable framework tailored to local conditions. With a focus on design, local economics, community branding and partnerships, the approach sets up the framework for a successful revitalization process.
"In other words," Boulware said, "Main Street SC offers a roadmap for locally driven prosperity."
Applications for the Aspiring Main Street level are due September 1 annually with admission to the program on January 1. Cities interested in joining Main Street SC can contact Jenny Boulware at firstname.lastname@example.org or 803.354.4792.