It’s taken more than a decade, but Middletown has been named an official Main Street community, a designation that can provide national prestige to downtown revitalization efforts.
The Main Street Program, administered by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Heritage Ohio, works with communities across the state to revitalize their historic or traditional commercial areas, according to its website.
Matt Eisenbraun, Middletown’s assistant economic development director, said the Main Street program is a national platform “to guide communities in re-energizing a key area of civic engagement and community development — their downtown.”
He said the Main Street designation will help the city’s economic development efforts.
“Companies that are looking to relocate or expand want to know how the community will help attract and retain the best employees available,” Eisenbraun said. “Having the Main Street designation immediately communicates that we understand this need and we are using ‘best practices’ to create a great place to live, work, and play.”
Middletown is now one of 24 other Ohio communities in achieving the designation administered by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
“I think as a community it’s showing progress and that things are changing and that our future is worth fighting for,” said Mallory Greenham, executive director of Downtown Middletown Inc.
Local businesses in Middletown began efforts to become a Main Street community more than 10 years ago, but it was not until 2011 that the local effort officially organized.
Greenham helped re-energize the efforts to achieve the designation about 1½ years ago.
“We cheered when it was announced,” said Greenham, who had worked with the Main Street program in Marietta before coming to Middletown. “ I felt excited for the people who stayed with this all these years as we got past the finish line.”
But Greenham said work is only beginning as there is an annual accreditation process. However, being a Main Street community now opens the door to a wider network of training and other assistance, she said.
Lauren Matus, who has been working in various community roles, said Greenham, the DMI board and community volunteers worked very hard to receive this distinction.
“We also hope to benefit from new opportunities to attract tourists through the publicity provided by becoming a Main Street community,” she said.
Jay Moorman of BeauVerre Riordian Stained Glass Studio, and one of the original stakeholders in the effort, said he was “ecstatic.”
“I was totally blown away by the strides we’ve seen in the last two years downtown with all of the new businesses,” he said.
He said the growth of new businesses and the establishment of the downtown entertainment district and its Designated Outdoor Refreshement Area have helped to drive more visitors and new businesses to downtown.
“I’ve always believed there was a tipping point that people would eventually believe the area was a good place to do business,” Moorman said.
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OHIO MAIN STREET COMMUNITIES
Middletown joins these communities as Main Street cities:
- Cleveland, Gateway District
- Cleveland, Warehouse District
- Mount Vernon
- Van Wert
SOURCE: HERITAGE OHIO
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