Myerstown Vitality Partnership
The MVP is a nonprofit, community-based organization focused on revitalizing the Borough of Myerstown, which has experienced significant disinvestment over the past few decades. It is a partnership between the Myerstown Borough Government, the local business community, local agencies, and individuals from throughout the community to promote the building of community wealth, and to improve the community’s overall health.
The MVP is involved in a range of initiatives that are critical to community health including, but not limited to, economic development, real estate development, community events, streetscaping, and neighborhood planning projects. The overall goal of these initiatives will be to anchor capital in the community by promoting the development of residential, commercial, and industrial property, and by promoting the enhancement of community conditions for residents.
The MVP is working toward implementation of a Main Street Revitalization Program: a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and administered by the Pennsylvania Downtown Center (PDC), which is a comprehensive, community-based approach to revitalizing downtowns and central business districts. The Main Street Revitalization Program is a “Four-Point Approach” revitalization that has worked in more than 45 states and Puerto Rico since the 1980s. PDC reports that communities following the Main Street Revitalization Program’s approach see a 5-year return on investment of $7.87 for every $1 invested in the program.
Organizationally, MVP is a nonprofit Community Development Corporation (CDC) whose income comes primarily from private and public donations. MVP is registered with the IRS as a public charity (501(c)(3), which means that donations are considered charitable
contributions, and therefore tax deductible. It is a future goal of the MVP to be entirely self-funded with private donations, grants, and other revenue sources. Once the Borough is designated as a “Keystone Main Street Community” through the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, it will become eligible for an array of grants that focus on revitalization activities.
As an independent nonprofit organization, MVP will be governed by a board of directors. As a public charity, the organization is governed by a board of directors reflective of the constituency it serves. The board contains a majority of representatives from the private sector and local organizations, and ex officio members from the Borough government. The Board of Directors will be required to keep a simple majority of members from the private sector, and board members will serve a 3-year term. A President/CEO is appointed by the board to administer day-to-day operations.
THE MAIN STREET “FOUR-POINT APPROACH”
Design • Promotion • Economic Restructuring • Organization
Design takes advantage of the visual opportunities inherent in a downtown by directing attention to all of its physical elements: public and private buildings, storefronts, signs, public spaces, landscaping, merchandising, displays, and promotional materials. Its aim is to stress the importance of design quality in all of these areas, to educate people about design quality, and to expedite improvements downtown.
Promotion takes many forms, but the goal is to create a positive image of main street in order to rekindle community pride. Promotion seeks to improve retail sales events and festivals and to create a positive public image of downtown in order to attract investors, developers and new businesses.
Economic restructuring strengthens a downtown's existing economic assets while diversifying its economic base. This is accomplished by retaining and expanding existing businesses to provide a balanced commercial mix, converting unused or underutilized space into productive property, sharpening the competitiveness and merchandising skills of downtown businesspeople, and attracting new businesses that the market can support.
Organization establishes consensus and cooperation by building partnerships among the various groups that have a stake in main street. This will allow the Main Street Revitalization Program to provide effective, ongoing management and advocacy of downtown. Diverse groups from the public and private sectors (city and county governments, local bankers, merchants, the chamber of commerce, property owners, community leaders, and others) must work together to create and maintain a successful program.
From the National Main Street Center at www.mainstreet.org
THE EIGHT PRINCIPLES OF MAIN STREET
While the Main Street Four-Point Approach provides the format for successful revitalization, implementing it is based on eight principles that pertain to all areas of the revitalization effort.
- Comprehensive. Downtown revitalization is a complex process that cannot be accomplished through a single project. For successful, long-term revitalization, a comprehensive approach must be used.
- Incremental. Small projects and simple activities lead to a more sophisticated understanding of the revitalization process and help to develop skills so that more complex problems can be addressed; and more ambitious projects undertaken.
- Self-Help. Local leaders must have the desire and will to make the project successful. The PA Downtown Center provides direction, ideas and training, but continued and long-term success depends upon the involvement and commitment of the community.
- Public-Private Partnership. Both the public and private sectors have a vital interest in the economic health and physical viability of downtown. Each sector has a role to play, and each must understand the other's strengths and limitations so that an effective partnership can be forged.
- Identifying and Capitalizing on Existing Assets. Business districts must capitalize on the assets that make them unique. Every district has unique qualities, like distinctive buildings and scale, that give people a sense of place. These local assets must serve as the foundation for all aspects of the revitalization program.
- Quality. Quality must be emphasized in every aspect of the revitalization program. This applies equally to each element of the program, from storefront design to promotional campaigns to educational programs.
- Change. Changes in attitude and practice are necessary to improve current economic conditions. Public support for change will build as the program grows.
- Implementation-Oriented. Activity creates confidence in the program and even greater levels of participation. Frequent, visible changes are a reminder that the revitalization effort is underway. Small projects at the beginning pave the way for larger activities as the program matures.
From the National Main Street Center at www.mainstreet.org