Main Street Four-Point Approach

The National Main Street Center is a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Created by a Congressional Charter in 1949, the National Trust is a leading advocate of historic preservation in the United States. Today, the preservation movement involves more than just saving historic buildings; economic growth, urban revitalization, and the creation of new jobs are all issues the National Trust addresses through the rehabilitation of historic structures.


Established by the National Trust in 1980, the National Main Street Center (NMSC) has worked in 44 states and Puerto Rico. Through these efforts 226,900 net new jobs have been created, $16.1 billion have been reinvested in Main Street commercial districts, 56,300 net new businesses have been created, 88,700 buildings have been rehabilitated, and 1,668 communities have built strong organizations to revitalize their commercial districts.


The NMSC offers a professional membership program for organizations involved in commercial district revitalization. It produces publications, newsletters, and special reports on revitalization and preservation issues and serves as a clearinghouse for information on community redevelopment issues. The NMSC accomplishes its mission through the Main Street Four-Point Approach: design, organization, promotion, and economic restructuring.


DESIGN takes advantage of the visual opportunities by directing attention to all of its physical elements: public and private buildings, storefronts, signs, public spaces, landscaping, merchandising, displays, and promotional materials. Its aim is to stress the importance of design quality in all of these areas, to educate people about design quality, and to expedite improvements downtown.


PROMOTION takes many forms, but the goal is to create a positive image in order to rekindle community pride and improve retail sales events and festivals and to create a positive public image in order to attract investors, developers, build healthier merchants, and attract new businesses.


ECONOMIC RESTRUCTURING strengthens existing economic assets while diversifying its economic base. This is accomplished by retaining and expanding existing businesses to provide a balanced commercial mix, converting unused or underutilized space into productive property, sharpening the competitiveness and merchandising skills of businesspeople, and attracting new businesses that the market can support.


ORGANIZATION establishes consensus and cooperation by building partnerships among the various groups that have a stake in the community. This will allow the Main Street revitalization program to provide effective, ongoing management and advocacy of downtown. Diverse groups from the public and private sectors (local government, bankers, merchants, property owners, community leaders, and others) must work together to create and maintain a successful organization.

TRANSFORMATION STRATEGIES – generated through meaningful community engagement and informed by an analysis of the district’s market position — help to guide a revitalization program’s work. An effective Transformation Strategy serves a particular customer segment, responds to an underserved market demand, or creates a differentiated destination.

Some "ready-to-use" strategies — called Catalyst Strategies — fall into two broad categories: those that are focused on a specific customer segment and those that are focused on an industry, product, or service segment.

Examples include:

•  Workers and Residents
•  Elder Friendly and Aging-in-Place
•  Family-Friendly
•  Agriculture Center
•  Arts (performing and visual)
•  College Town
•  Convenience Goods and Services
•  Entertainment and Nightlife
•  Knowledge Economy

Transformation Strategies are implemented through comprehensive work in four broad areas, known as the Four Points.

ECONOMIC VITALITY focuses on capital, incentives, and other economic and financial tools to assist new and existing businesses, catalyze property development, and create a supportive environment for entrepreneurs and innovators that drive local economies.

DESIGN supports a community’s transformation by enhancing the physical and visual assets that set the commercial district apart.

PROMOTION positions the downtown or commercial district as the center of the community and hub of economic activity, while creating a positive image that showcases a community’s unique characteristics.

ORGANIZATION involves creating a strong foundation for a sustainable revitalization effort, including cultivating partnerships, community involvement, and resources for the district.


To learn more about the National Main Street Center, visit their website at