‘The Main Street Approach’ — what’s it all about?

Published 10:57 am Saturday, August 9, 2014

by Gayle Schmitz

This is the second in a series of articles to recall to mind or to inform our local community about the Downtown Franklin Association (DFA) and Historic District.

The Main Street Approach is a philosophy, a program and a proven comprehensive approach to downtown commercial district revitalization. This program has been implemented in more than 1,200 cities and towns in 40 states across the nation with the help of the National Main Street Center and statewide downtown revitalization programs. We work with the Virginia Main Street Program, which is based on a comprehensive, practical, four-point strategy to encourage fundamental changes in a community’s economic base.

The Organization Committee is tasked with building a framework to provide the stability to build and maintain a long-term effort. Nancy Parrish, manager of the Franklin Incubator, is this committee’s chair.

The Promotion Committee creates activities and interest in our Downtown. Pam Ellis and Beverly Myers are the co-chairs. Their efforts bring to you the annual events of We Be Jammin’, Patriotism in the Park, the Easter Egg Hunt, the Elf Parade, Main Street Halloween, Fall Festival and other family-friendly events.

The Economic Reconstruction Committee works to further interest in the Downtown area. Juanita Richards is the chair. They have created business activities such as Downtown Business Spotlight—Know Your Neighbor and are currently working on a new Guide to Downtown Businesses and Services, Adopt-A-Planter, and a “Franklin Features” Photo Contest to coincide with Fall Festival. They also produce a quarterly newsletter to recap DFA events, inform about upcoming events, showcase individual businesses, and provide news and information to our citizens and DFA colleagues.

The Design Committee, with co-chairs Victor Story and Patti Rabil, is tasked with enhancing the attractiveness of the downtown businesses and with the physical changes to the Historic District. This involves such projects as facade grants for downtown businesses, the Farmers Market, and the picnic tables and concession building at Barrett’s Landing.

We will discuss each of these committees in more detail in future articles.

The DFA consists of a Board of Directors, an Executive Board of Officers (who are also on the Board), and Dan Howe, the Executive Director of the DFA. “Downtown Dan,” as he is affectionately known, runs the day-to-day business at the Franklin Depot Visitor Center on Main Street with the help of Office Manager Sandy Holloman. Dan and Sandy are the only “paid” members of the DFA.

Sponsors and volunteer citizens are a significant part of the backbone that helps to support our DFA programs and activities. Sponsors provide vital financial aid and may be citizens, organizations, or business and property owners in the Historic District and beyond. Citizen volunteers give time and energy to help out at the DFA office; participate on the Board of Directors; pass out event flyers; help to select the best Christmas window; and set up/work/break down We Be Jammin’ — to name just a few. Volunteerism is a mainstay of the DFA. Without the help of all of these people, Franklin would not be a Main Street City.

The DFA actually consists of the “Historic District,” which is a specific geographic area established in February, 1985. Within this district are business and property owners who make up the Downtown Franklin Association. Many of these are the folks who make things happen in Franklin. They are volunteers who donate their time to create, assist with, and support events and projects. Property owners in this group pay a special tax to help fund the DFA.

The designation of Main Street Community does not come without a lot of hard work. We are evaluated yearly and must commit to full participation in the criteria set forth by the program. We are proud to have been part of the original Main Street franchise in 1985 and to have retained this designation for almost 30 years. We have won “Milestone Awards” for more than 50,000 volunteer hours and for more than $40 million dollars in public and private investments toward physical improvements in the downtown district.