• Grand Haven

    A Master Level Main Street Community, participating since 2005.

Michigan Main Street (MMS)

Michigan Main Street (MMS) assists communities interested in revitalizing and preserving their traditional commercial district.

The program provides technical assistance for communities desiring to develop their own local Main Street program by utilizing the Main Street Approach™ – a common-sense approach to tackling the complex issues of revitalization by capitalizing on downtown’s history and identifying the unique assets of the community itself.



How does the Michigan Main Street Program help communities?

Main Street America

Michigan Main Street (MMS) began in 2003 and is a Main Street America™ Coordinating Program. As a Main Street America™ coordinating program, MMS is affiliated with the National Main Street Center, which helps to lead a powerful, grassroots network consisting of over 40 coordinating programs and over 2,000 neighborhoods and communities across the country committed to creating high-quality places and to building stronger communities through preservation-based economic development.

MMS communities are designated through a competitive application process. These communities have continued to generate real results by supporting new and existing businesses, planning and funding physical improvements, organizing events and promotions to raise the profile of their downtown district and engaging community members in downtown revitalization. Information reflecting the impact of the MMS Program is self-collected and shared with the Michigan Main Street Center by Select and Master Level communities on a monthly and annual basis.

To read more about the successes of the Michigan Main Street Program, download the full Michigan Main Street 2017 - 2018 Annual Report.


Main Street Approach™

Main Street Approach

The Main Street ApproachTM is a unique, historic preservation based economic development strategy that focuses on leveraging existing social, economic, physical and cultural assets to energize community revitalization efforts and help manage success for the long term. The approach leads to tangible outcomes that benefit the entire community through encouraging communities to enact long-term change while also implementing short-term, inexpensive and place-based activities that attract people to the commercial core and create a sense of enthusiasm about the community.


The Main Street Approach is a methodology consisting of three integrated components:

  1. The vision provides a foundation for outlining the community’s identity, expectations and ideals for future development while being grounded in an understanding of the economic market realities of the district.
  2. Transformation strategies identify long-term and short-term actions that provide a clear sense of priorities and direction to help move a community closer to implementing their vision. Work on these strategies should align with the Main Street Four Points of organization, promotion, design and economic vitality.
  3. The Main Street organization must show visible results that can only come from implementing action items and completing projects in the short-term and long-term. Main Street must focus on measuring progress and results in order to justify and demonstrate the wise use of scarce resources.

MMS Four Points


Interested in participating in the Michigan Main Street Program?

Michigan Main Street Training Series

The first step for communities interested in participating in the Michigan Main Street Program is attending the Main Street Training Series, which provides:

  • A basic understanding of the Main Street Approach™
  •  An overview of the strategies that build awareness and participation in future Main Street efforts

The Main Street Training Series is offered at no-cost in Select and Master Level Main Street communities across the state. The Main Street Training Series is a day long seminar that includes 2 training sessions: “Main Street Basics” and “Main Street In Practice” and a panel discussion with the local Main Street Program.  The training is offered three times annually. Communities that attend the Training Series will learn the fundamentals of establishing a local Main Street Program and will be able to decide if Main Street is right for their community. 

Communities interested in continuing to participate in the Michigan Main Street Program and reach the Engaged Level will need to complete the following activities: 

  • Develop a communications plan following the principles learned during the Main Street Basics Training Session
  • Develop a fund development plan following the principles learned during the Main Street In Practice Training Session
Engaged Level

A community will officially be recognized as an Engaged Level Main Street Community once they have participated in the Main Street Training Series and have developed their communications and fund development plans. A community has up to three years to participate as an Engaged Level community working to implement their plans and apply to the Select Level. Communities interested in applying for the Select Level will need to complete the following activities prior to application.

Engaged Community Activities:

  • Identify or establish local MMS host organization
  • Implement communications plan
  • Implement fund development plan
  • Host community site visit
Select Level

Once a community has successfully fulfilled the requirements of the Engaged Level, they have the option to apply for the Select Level. At this level, communities can expect assistance in implementing the Main Street Approach™. Michigan Main Street staff, along with other professionals, work closely with Select Level communities to train their boards and committees, hire a full-time Main Street Director, recruit volunteers and get the program up and running. The Select Level requires a 5 year commitment from participating communities. 

Master Level

The Master Level is available to communities that have successfully completed 5 years in the Select Level. The Master Level focuses on continuing to assist communities that have successfully integrated a full Main Street program into their community. This is achieved by continuing to offer Select Level trainings and networking opportunities through MMS, as well as the opportunity to act as mentors for other Michigan Main Street communities. The Master Level requires a 2 year commitment from participating communities. Communities have the opportunity to renew their participation for as long as they are actively practicing the Main Street ApproachTM.  

For additional information about the Michigan Main Street program levels and services, download our Program Brochure. 

Key Dates

Learn more about the Main Street Training Series content and how to register. 

2018 Engaged Level and Select Level Application Dates:

  • September 7, 2018 - Letter of Interest due at MEDC by 4pm
  • December 7, 2018 - Completed applications due at MEDC by 4pm
  • December 28, 2018 - Engaged Level - Communication and Fund Development plan due to MEDC by 4pm
  • February/March 2019 - Announcement of chosen Select Level Communities
  • March 2019 - Begin Select Level services

2019 Engaged Level and Select Level Application Dates

  • September 6, 2019 - Letter of Interest due at MEDC by 4pm
  • December 6, 2019 - Completed applications due at MEDC by 4pm
  • December 27, 2019 - Engaged Level - Communication and Fund Development plan due to MEDC by 4pm
  • February/March 2019 - Announcement of chosen Select Level Communities
  • March 2019 - Begin Select Level services

Is the Michigan Main Street Program right for your community?

Successful Main Street Districts provide:
  • Walkable, human-scale environments
  • Unique, historic and visually attractive architecture
  • A mix of uses, activities and consumers
  • A strong existing tax base that attracts new businesses and creates jobs
  • A center for activity and community life
  • Positive community image and identity
  • Opportunities for public-private partnerships
  • A place for the community to define its identity through a shared vision of place
Key Questions: 
  • Does your potential district meet MMS standards for traditional downtown and/or neighborhood commercial districts?
  • Is historic preservation important to local citizens and stakeholders?
  • Is downtown revitalization a community priority?
  • Do you want to leverage human and financial resources in support of downtown?
  • Is there a desire to build broad-based community support for downtown revitalization?
  • Are public and private stakeholders ready to engage in these efforts?

If so, participation in the Main Street Training Series is the first step.

Goals of The Main Street Training Series & Engaged Level:
  • Familiarize community and key stakeholders with the Main Street ApproachTM
  • Access tools designed to build awareness and resources for future Main Street programming
  • Identify local stakeholders and strategies to engage them in the Main Street effort
  • Join a statewide network of participating communities, including access to the MMS Listserv, to ask questions, make connections and see Main Street in-action across the state
Frequently Asked Questions

Looking for more guidance about the Michigan Main Street Program?

What is a traditional downtown or traditional commercial district?

A “traditional downtown” or “traditional commercial center” is defined as a grouping of 20 or more contiguous commercial parcels containing buildings of historical or architectural significance. The area must have been zoned, planned, built or used for commercial purposes for more than 50 years. The area must consist of, primarily, zero-lot-line development and have pedestrian friendly infrastructure.  

What is the Michigan Main Street Program?

The objective of the Michigan Main Street Program is to support and improve Michigan’s downtowns and traditional commercial neighborhood districts. The Michigan Main Street Program employs the Main Street ApproachTM, a community-driven, comprehensive strategy that encourages economic development through historic preservation. The program provides technical assistance that helps a community build partnerships and collaboration among stakeholders and encourages historic preservation. It promotes environmentally-sustainable redevelopment, integrates a community's cultural assets and fosters entrepreneurial development and downtown living.

What are the Main Street Four-Points®?

The Four-Points® of the Michigan Main Street Program refer to proven techniques for community revitalization developed by the National Main Street Center. These techniques include Design, Economic Vitality, Promotion and Organization, all working together with community collaborations and partnerships.

  • DESIGN means capitalizing on the assets of the downtown's physical environment, such as historic buildings, and creating an inviting atmosphere through renovation and perhaps new construction, all the while developing sensitive design management systems and long-term planning for sustainability.
  • ECONOMIC VITALITY means strengthening a community's existing economic base by helping existing businesses and recruiting new ones, thereby converting unused space into productive property.
  • PROMOTION is the effort to market the downtown's unique characteristics to residents, visitors, investors and business owners through advertising, retail activities, events, and marketing campaigns.
  • ORGANIZATION refers to the effort to involve all the downtown's stakeholders to work toward a common goal, and driving a volunteer-based Main Street Program under the direction of a governing board, standing committees, and the guidance of a paid program director.

What are the benefits of the Main Street Program?

When a community participates in a comprehensive revitalization effort, its traditional downtown or traditional commercial neighborhood district can experience a return to economic vitality. Benefits include:

  • Protecting and strengthening the existing tax base
  • Creating a positive community image
  • Creating visually appealing and economically viable downtown buildings
  • Attracting new businesses
  • Creating new jobs
  • Increasing investment in the downtown
  • Preserving historic architectural resources
  • Tailoring to specific community needs

Can Main Street apply to the entire town?

No. The Main Street area must be either a "traditional downtown" or "traditional neighborhood commercial district." The Main Street program should focus its attention on one central area and core. Those in the surrounding area will certainly benefit from a stronger core and are encouraged to take part in the revitalization of the district. The TIF or Assessment district may be significantly larger than the Main Street area, but the Main Street area likely will not encompass the entire TIF or Assessment district but must focus on one centralized core area. Programming that benefits downtown doesn’t usually have the same impact on other areas of the city, like an industrial park. Also, a smaller district allows Main Street volunteers to see their impact soon, expanding the district as the organizational capacity and community’s density grows.

How does Michigan Main Street assist communities?

Our staff and national consultants provide technical assistance and services to local communities at three different levels: Engaged, Select, and Master. Detailed description of our services can be found on our website. Engaged services focus on building local momentum and support for downtown development. Select services begin to establish organizational capacity and downtown development programming. Master services begin to focus on strategy and sustainability of the redevelopment efforts.

Is the Michigan Main Street program a grant program?

No. At no point in time will a community receive a check from the Michigan Main Street Center as part of the Main Street program. MMSC staff provides technical assistance to our Main Street communities. However, communities who participate in MMS receive additional consideration for grants from Michigan Economic Development Corporation and other partner granting agencies.

Who pays for a local Main Street program?

When applying for the Select Level, communities are required to submit a 5-year budget completely funding the program, including staff, professional development, travel and any overhead. The budget should be a public/private partnership. MMSC does not charge a community to be a part of the program, nor do they fund any part of a community's budget. Typical funding comes from DDA and PSD’s, pledges and sponsors, memberships, contracts for services, and local municipal contributions. Communities can learn more about fund development planning and executing fundraising strategies at the Main Street Training Series.

Are all levels of the Michigan Main Street program required to have staff?

No. The Engaged Level is not required to have staff. At the Select and Master Level, communities, regardless of their size, are required to have a full-time staff person dedicated to the revitalization of the downtown.

If Main Street is a volunteer-driven program, why do we need to have a full-time director?

Though the decisions and projects in a Main Street program are carried out by volunteers, it is vital to have someone handling the day-to-day management of the program. Much of the individual’s time will be committed to volunteer management in order to get the greatest participation from community stakeholders and strengthening partnerships in the community. Trust us. If downtowns are competing with malls and box stores who have managers, then why wouldn’t we afford our downtowns the same leadership?

Can the Mayor or City Manager also be the Main Street Director?

No. As the Main Street Director must focus the majority of their time on the Main Street district, this is not possible. The Main Street Director may be the assessment or TIF district director if the Main Street area is in that district. 

We already have four committees, why would we need to be part of Main Street?

Michigan Main Street assistance is more than just having 4 committees that discuss issues related to the 4 points. It is about broadening the circle of responsibility around the success of downtown and strategically leveraging community assets to have successful and sustainable community development. Besides, if you’re already doing Main Street why not access free resources to strengthen your efforts.

Can anyone use the Main Street name?

No. Only communities in good standing at the Selected and Master Level are allowed to use the Main Street name, which is trademarked by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Engaged Level communities are a part of the Michigan Main Street Network, but not allowed to use the name.

Is the Michigan Main Street program only open to Downtown Development Authorities and other quasi-governmental organizations?

No. Communities at the Select & Master Level must have a hosting organization with a board, bylaws, etc. However, that organization can be a Downtown Development Authority, Corridor Improvement Authority, Principal Shopping District, Business Improvement Zone, etc., We also have several programs that function as a 501(c)3 or 501(c)6. The focus of that organization must be the revitalization of the Main Street district.

Community advocates who have not identified a host organization for their Main Street program are welcome to participate at the Engaged Level. The Main Street Training Series will discuss the pros and cons of organizational structures and strategies for identifying or establishing a host organization.

How do Downtown Development Authorities utilize the Main Street program?

Many Michigan Main Street programs are structured as a quasi-governmental organization, like a DDA or PSD. While the districts may be two different sizes, the application of the Main Street Four Point Approach has been successful. In these cases, the TIF organization has a responsibility of implementing the projects outlined in their Downtown Development Plan for all areas of their district. However, by engaging in the Main Street program, they are choosing to use the Main Street ApproachTM to accomplish those projects. In these instances, the only services that could be offered to Main Street businesses and not businesses in the TIF district would be property specific services (Design Services, Customer Service Training, Retail Merchandising). However, these services are often best suited for businesses within a traditional commercial district anyway. Managers in TIF districts often are the Executive Director for the TIF district as well.

Who can lead the local Main Street effort?

Main Street efforts can be initiated by anyone in the community, not just the local municipality. Citizens interested in finding ways to create more sustainable solutions to downtown development can begin to participate at the Engaged Level and slowly build the capacity to apply to be a Select Main Street community. Individuals or organizations that have engaged in the past include; Chamber of Commerce, Business Association, Historical Society, Planning Department, local service club, Downtown business or property owner, etc.

Contact Information

Interested in learning more about Michigan Main Street?

General Inquiries

Please email michiganmainstreet@michigan.org regarding general questions.  You may also contact your regional Community Assistance Team (CATeam) Specialist for more information.