By Owner/Publisher Thomas Palmer, 1808Delaware

In honor of Main Street Delaware’s 25th Anniversary, today we begin a three part look at the organization’s past, present, and future.

Today and Wednesday we will share posts about the arrival of the Ohio Main Street Program in Delaware. The first of those is below. Then on Friday, we’ll take a look at an exciting future for downtown Delaware that was announced this past week.

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Main Street Delaware, I thought I would share a bit about how the Main Street program first came to town. The first step in that process was actually a phone call; I know this as I am the person who made the decision to do so.

If you are unaware of that program, the Ohio Main Street Program is part of a national organization now called Main Street America. In the four decades of its existence, the movement has generated some amazing investment statistics, according to its website, including $95.33 billion dollars of investment, 314,431 rehabilitated buildings, 717,723 net jobs created, and 161,036 net new businesses. The program itself, through its vaunted “Four Point Approach,” is the gold standard for downtown revitalization nationwide.

In Ohio, individual community Main Street programs are coordinated by Heritage Ohio, which until the early 2000s was known as Downtown Ohio, Inc..

Twenty years ago, there was no Main Street program in Delaware, nor was there any similar program in central Ohio. There was great interest in downtown, however, and the work now done by Main Street Delaware was being accomplished by two separate organizations — Downtown Delaware, Inc., and Celebrate Delaware. The former group was composed of business and property owners, while Celebrate Delaware was a promotional group largely composed of merchant representatives. Those groups had remained largely separate for almost a decade.

It was in the summer of 1998 that things began to change, and that change accelerated the following year.

I joined Downtown Delaware, Inc. as the city’s first full-time Downtown Coordinator that summer, having served on the Board of one of Ohio’s three original Main Street Program in Galion. From the outset, my goals were focused both on doing what I could to generate economic and community development along the streets of downtown Delaware while also exploring ways to integrate Main Street-style ideas into the mix.

I launched downtown Delaware’s first newsletter that fall, for instance. Before the year ended, I also was the first Downtown Delaware representative to attend a Celebrate Delaware meeting (a bit scandalous but the right thing to do, I reasoned).

This series will continue on Wednesday with a look at the event which introduced Main Street to Delaware.

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