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Main Street America believes that everyone deserves access to a vibrant neighborhood – a place that has a thriving local economy, is rich in character, and features inviting public spaces that make residents and visitors feel that they belong. Yet, we know that many Americans, whether in small towns or big cities, miss out on these benefits. Our mission is to make this right.

Main Street America entered a partnership with the City of Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development as part of the INVEST South/West Initiative to serve as the technical assistance service provider to local Chicago-based community organizations charged with leading commercial corridor revitalization efforts and interested in learning and applying the Main Street approach to help revitalize neighborhood commercial corridors.

Thanks to this partnership, Main Street America is pleased to announce in 2022 we can extend this program to support organizations serving other Chicago neighborhood commercial corridors with priority given to community-based organizations located in or near INVEST South/West priority corridors and serving low- to moderate-income communities.

Please see a listing of priority corridors below:

  • 47th/Ashland;
  • 63rd/Ashland;
  • 79th Street (Ashland to Lowe);
  • Chicago Ave (Austin to Cicero);
  • Chicago Ave. (Kedzie to Pulaski);
  • Cottage Grove (42nd Street to 47th Street)
  • North Ave. (Central Park to Cicero);
  • Ogden Ave. (Kedzie to Pulaski);
  • 79th Street (Stony Island to Exchange);
  • Commercial Ave. (87th Street to 92nd Street);
  • 111th Street/Pullman National Monument;
  • Michigan Ave. (111th Street to 119th Street

About MSA, UrbanMain and INVEST South/West

Main Street America is a proven leader in the commercial district revitalization field. Our approach to helping to transform local economies, known as the Main Street Approach®, is a time-tested methodology that focuses comprehensively on the key factors that build shared prosperity and community wealth in commercial districts. Building off nearly four decades of success, this model harnesses the social, economic, physical, and cultural assets that set a place apart, ultimately leading to tangible outcomes that benefit the entire community.  The Main Street Approach equips local leaders and residents with a practical framework for improving the quality of life in their own communities.

Main Street America launched its new UrbanMain program in August 2017. UrbanMain is designed to support the needs of urban commercial districts in neighborhoods through a suite of tailored technical services and a dynamic network to connect individuals leading those local neighborhood development efforts. UrbanMain technical services include comprehensive multi-phased programming, extensive community engagement, and rigorous market analysis to support corridor leaders, city officials, property owners and residents in developing and implementing district revitalization strategies. Learn more about UrbanMain programming here.

Main Street America entered into a partnership with the City of Chicago’s Department of Planning in November 2020 to provide communities and community-based organization interested in applying the Main Street approach to revitalize their commercial corridors. Specifically, the City of Chicago created a program known as “INVEST South/West” to marshal the resources of multiple City departments, community-based organizations and corporate partners toward ten (10) neighborhoods on the City’s South and West sides (the INVEST South/West Neighborhoods); and the program is designed to be a collaborative effort among government, businesses, philanthropies, and community leaders to maximize pubic investments in order to attract private capital, respond to changing commercial trends and enrich local culture. The primary goal of INVEST South/West is to re-activate neighborhood cores that have historically served as focal points for pedestrian activity, shopping, services, transportation, public spaces and quality -of-life amenities for local residents.

Selected neighborhood groups will be required to provide a staff person to serve as Main Street program lead.

In spring 2022, MSA and the City of Chicago will select additional neighborhoods to participate in the program. Funding permitting we will select additional neighborhoods to participate in 2023 and 2024.

Program Overview

Main Street America technical services team will provide direct support to grant recipients over an 18-month timeframe. The program will consist of market assessment, organizational assessment, and community asset mapping and engagement to help neighborhood development groups arrive at a sustainable and equitable strategy for economic growth. Services will include the following:

  • Main Street 101 Fundamentals training
  • Community Asset Mapping, Engagement and Partnership Building
  • Volunteer Recruitment & Retention
  • Business mix and Trade Area analysis
  • Neighborhood attitude survey
  • Business Recruitment and Retention
  • Yearly program assessments
  • 2-year free Main Street America Membership
  • Free registration to the annual Illinois Main Street Conference
  • Free registration to attend the Main Street Now Conference

Participants will then be guided through a process of developing Transformation Strategies that will provide direction for revitalization work. A Transformation Strategy articulates a focused, deliberate path to revitalizing or strengthening a commercial district’s economy.

Applicant Eligibility Requirements

Applicants must be a “Managing Entity.” This Managing Entity should be based in the neighborhood; have a proven ability to convene small businesses, property owners, residents, institutions, and local stakeholders; and a have track record of achieving measurable community outcomes. These entities also must have sufficient staffing and sound financials to sustain economic development work in the neighborhood.

The Managing Entity must be a local community development corporation, merchant association or chamber of commerce with 501c (3) or 501c (6) status and have a Federal Employment Identification Number.

The Managing Entity’s mission must be focused on place-based community economic development with preference given to INVEST South/West communities as identified by the City of Chicago.

Successful applicants must also have:

  • At least one year of audited financial statements,
  • A designated staff person responsible for leading change on behalf of his or her organization around commercial revitalization and serve as the MSA’s on-the-ground point person,
  • Defined neighborhood commercial corridor boundaries,
  • Distinct areas with older and historic building stock, and/or cultural heritage (please explain in your application)
  • Existing funding stream in place supporting commercial revitalization activities (e.g., Special Service Area, City of Chicago identified delegate agency or regional business center, philanthropic support, etc.),
  • Exhibited ability to organize and collaborate with community stakeholders (residents, property owners, business owners, etc.) and political leaders,
  • Demonstrated ability to develop and manage community partnerships to carry out and manage joint community economic development change efforts, and
  • Letters of support from City government, council members, and/or other local stakeholder groups.

The Managing Entity will:

  • Maintain relationships and build collaborations among organizations to achieve results.
  • Commitment to staff the program with a staff person that will serve as lead for this project.
  • Work in collaboration with MSA to convene local stakeholders, small business owners, and property owners for focus groups, and community-wide meetings.

Monitor and report to the MSA annually on:

  • number of new businesses created in district
  • number of new leases
  • new net jobs created in district
  • public/private dollars invested in district
  • number of new partnerships developed
  • tracking of volunteer's hours working on Main Street programming
  • number of facades renovated on in district
  • progress on strategy implementation

Application Submission process:

All applications must be submitted online through the submittal application portal. The deadline for submitting a proposal is Monday, February 14th 2022 at 5:00PM CST. Please contact Dionne Baux at dbaux@savingplaces.org with questions.

National Main Street Center