353,875,000 Reasons

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The National Trust Main Street Center is a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In the 1970s, the National Trust developed its pioneering Main Street approach to commercial district revitalization, an innovative methodology that combines historic preservation with economic development to restore prosperity and vitality to downtowns and neighborhood business districts. Today, the message has spread, as the Center advocates a comprehensive approach that rural and urban communities alike can use to revitalize their traditional commercial areas through historic preservation and grassroots-based economic development. It has created a network of more than 40 statewide, citywide, and countywide Main Street programs with more than 1,200 active Main Street programs nationally.

The Main Street Center has spent millions of dollars and countless hours over the course of the past thirty years developing a four-point revitalization methodology focused on organization, promotion, design, and economic restructuring. That methodology has been successfully replicated in communities across the country.

The Center is straightforward in pointing out that the numbers include municipalities of various sizes, economic means and investment time frames but, having tracked investment patterns in communities using their methodology from 1980 to December of 2005, they’re able to claim ownership of a Wall Street trouncing reinvestment ratio of 28.31 to 1, meaning that every dollar spent to operate a local Main Street organization has led, on national average, to $28.31 in new investment in those communities.

Develop New Albany is one of those local Main Street organizations. New Albany is one of those communities. Critics, including this writer, will quickly point out that, much like New Albany itself, DNA thus far hasn’t lived up to its potential. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

There have been encouraging signs from DNA lately. Last weekend’s historic home tour, for example, was a success clearly in line with Main Street-type promotional goals. The Main Street Center offers extensive training and educational resources to its member organizations in each of the four strategic areas as well as consulting services, financial programs, and partnership opportunities. Their Knowledge Base and library of issue specific articles and presentations, based on case studies and documented success stories, could fuel blog content and Council discussions for years. A recent search of their Knowledge Base for “tax credits” alone yielded 89 relevant results.

The city very recently committed approximately $12.5 million in economic development funds to subsidize the sewer utility. If that money were to instead be properly utilized in conjunction with Main Street redevelopment methodology, there’s strong evidence to suggest New Albany’s rate of return would be much higher than the paltry 45 cents each in monthly “savings” the current funding situation will generate.

$12.5 million x 28.31 = $353,875,000

We’d do well to capture even a small portion of that.

Revitalization is possible. It’s been done and we have access to people who’ve done it repeatedly. They want to teach us. There’s no reason we can’t learn. There are certainly no guarantees, but if I thought the city would take the opportunity seriously, I’d write a check for $6.00 to cover my household’s annual share today.

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