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Statewide Blytheville Camden Dumas Little Rock Searcy
Statewide Culture 1

Main Street Arkansas: Preservation and Prosperity

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Picture the moment you step out of the cutest downtown boutique store in a revitalized center of town. You are wearing sunglasses, staring at a neo-classical, historically ornate courthouse as a soft, warm breeze wafts the scent of coffee and scones in your direction. You look left, and then right, before carefully crossing the brick road of the path before you. History abounds all-around, yet you seem surrounded by modern amenities and shopping experiences.

This is what it’s like on a downtown street or square in Arkansas. For this experience where rich history meets modern amenities, you can thank the Main Street Arkansas and Historic Preservation Program.

Main Street Arkansas

Main Street Revitalizes Arkansas Communities

Main Street Arkansas uses the Four-Point Approach developed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The first five Arkansas cities joined the register in 1985, only one year after establishing the program. Volunteers and community leaders across the state devote hours to preserving their spaces and creating vibrant communities.

These Main Street leaders recognize “that today’s economic development and tourism growth is not about looking at what you don’t have but celebrating what you do have. Successful economic development is not about one big thing in a town. But instead, about multiple small things working synergistically to form a plan that makes sense locally.” The Main Street Arkansas designation is a distinctive honor and sought-after recognition for Arkansas communities.

Main Street Arkansas Communities and Downtown Networks

Camden Main Street Arkansas

Camden | Downtown Network

With a new designation in 2020, Camden began the year with solid momentum and didn’t let the COVID-19 pandemic stop them. They were able to award small business grants totaling $8,700. With a focus on business, creating new public gathering spaces and preserving historical buildings, they gained significant support and have carried that forward. New awnings were installed, pet-friendly infrastructure was developed, murals were added and restored, and adjacent church buildings prioritized beautification.

Photo courtesy of Arkansas Parks & Tourism.

Siloam Springs | Main Street District

Siloam Springs was part of the first five Main Street Districts designated in Arkansas and has remained “committed to the economic development of the Main Street area while improving the historical character of downtown.” Over time, more than $3.7 million was invested in networked businesses improving facades, building rehabilitation, public area improvements and public art installments, including a downtown mural by elementary school student artists.

SoMa 501| Downtown Network

SoMa (Southside Main Street) District in Little Rock is a thriving example of a food community and historical preservation district combining efforts to preserve tradition and stories in Arkansas’ Capitol City. With a history dating back to dirt roads and horse-drawn carriages, sprawling neighborhoods from Central High School and the governor’s mansion to abandonment with the arrival of new highways, Southside Main Street has withstood difficult days to arrive at a time where family-friendly, walkable streets meet the famed Community Bakery, Green Corner Store, The Root Café, Loblolly Creamery and Esse Purse Museum, the only museum of its kind anywhere in the country.

Main Street Searcy - White County Courthouse
Photo courtesy of Al Fowler.

Searcy | Main Street District

Main Street Searcy is an example district for the state, having played a considerable role in attracting the “Small Business Revolution” television series. The nonprofit organization also helped build engagement with the local college campus, and has multiple established events like the Farmer’s Market, Trick-or-Treat on the Square, Get Down Downtown and Holiday of Lights. Additionally, Main Street Searcy works with downtown businesses to improve building deterioration, increase access to public facilities, and preserve historic sites.

Dumas | Downtown Network

Built around the historically designated commercial district still bearing the original owners’ names, Dumas is a town rich with farming history like many southern Arkansas towns. Dumas also received the designation in 2016 as a Certified Local Government Community in a partnership between the National Parks Service and the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program. This distinction among 20 other Arkansas communities provides additional funding to preserve historic properties locally. In addition to supporting partnerships between members in the downtown network, Main Street Dumas manages the Dumas Area Arts Center, Farmer’s Market, and the Billy Free Memorial Park.

Blytheville - Main Street Arkansas
Photo courtesy of Arkansas Parks & Tourism.

Blytheville | Main Street District

With a home in the historical 1937 Greyhound bus station, this Main Street community shares history with John Grisham and the farming community of Mississippi County. The Blytheville Coffee Company is among its members with a designation on the Arkansas Coffee Trail. In addition, Blytheville’s Main Street hosts an annual chili cook-off each fall, Second Saturday Summerfest, and is a partner in the Lights of the Delta Christmas display.

Entrepreneurs have been the backbone of the American economy for 200 years…Main Street seeks to create an environment where it’s easier for these businesses to get off the ground, so they are more likely to succeed.

-Patrice Frey, President, and CEO of National Main Street Center, Inc.

Main Street Arkansas’s accomplishments through the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Grant funds were invested in local communities, totaling $643,500.
  • Seven public art projects were created through public art grants.
  • Main Street business owners were provided with 125 renderings and signage plans.
  • Main Street business communities were offered 29 trainings and workshops.
  • Through program businesses, 2,000 masks and PPE were distributed.
  • The organization experienced a net gain of 33 new businesses adding 322 new jobs.

Learn More and Connect

Main Street Arkansas
Main Street Grants | Public Art Program and Downtown Revitalization Grants
Main Street Technical Assistance | Consulting, Interior and Exterior Design, Ongoing Training

Meet the
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Keisha (Pittman) McKinney lives in South Arkansas with her husband and sweet Boxer, Bailey and one-year-old son! Keisha is passionate about connecting people and building community, seeking solutions to the everyday big and small things, and encouraging others through the mundane, hard, and typical that life often brings. She put her communications background to work as a former Non-profit Executive Director, college recruiter and fundraiser, and Digital Media Director at a large church in Northwest Arkansas. Now she is using all of those experiences through McKinney Media Solutions and her blog @bigpittstop which includes daily adventures, cooking escapades, #bigsisterchats, the social justice cases on her heart, and all that she is learning as a #boymom!

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One response to “Main Street Arkansas: Preservation and Prosperity”

  1. […] Last year, Arkansas hosted 32.4 million visitors, with 12.6 million staying overnight. Some were families seeking weekend destinations, and others were cyclists looking for world-class trails. Some came to drop a student off at a university, and others looked for historic preservation among small-town Main street communities. […]

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