Category: Events

Why are Main Streets Important?

Why are Main Streets Important?

By Mary Heberling, Main Street Program Coordinator
When you think of main streets, what are some of your first thoughts?  Empty storefronts?  Historic, old buildings?  Lack of foot traffic?  These are most likely correct observations for many different cities and towns across the United States, but it wasn’t always the case.  At some point in time, main streets and downtowns were the heart and soul of a community.  It was their social structure; a place where a plethora of friendly business owners, willing to go above and beyond for their local residents, located and ran their shops.  Today they can be described as a deserted area where remnants of the past still linger.  So how did this devastating shift against main streets happen in the first place?
The building of highways that diverted traffic from the downtown core, the exodus of people to single family homes far away, and many other factors attributed to the decay of these central streets.  With less traffic, people commuting out of the town, and development building off of the highways; it made it harder for main street businesses to stay afloat and survive.  Today you can see the effects with empty storefronts, depleted buildings, lack of shops, and more.

These are the facts of what happened and some may say just the natural process of development, but throughout the country, many towns, communities, metropolitan areas are starting to take notice of their downtowns and main streets again.  They are showing a new investment and interest that hasn’t been seen in 20 or more years.  In fact, over 2,000 communities in the U.S. are participating in the National Main Street Program and have created great and vibrant main streets again.   So what’s the big deal?  Why are main streets so important?

First off, your Main Street or downtown is much more than a shopping center.  They may not be your community’s most dominant shopping core, but they do provide unique shopping and service opportunities.  You will see attorneys, physicians, accountants, insurance offices, and much more, along with typical retail and restaurants.  Those unique aspects then play into your draw to tourists.  They want to spend time in a place they can’t see and experience on a normal basis.  Our main street is like no other in the world, so let’s celebrate and embrace it!

Main streets are a prominent employment center.   They employ hundreds of people and can sometimes be the largest employer of a community.  Many of those businesses are most likely local and independently owned as well.  Not only do they hire local community members, but when you shop at a store on Main Street, you are supporting a local family, who in turn supports our schools, parks, etc.  They keep profits in town, which emphasizes the importance of Main Street as a reflection of the tax base.  As property values decrease in those main street areas due to neglect, the tax burden on other parts of your community increases.  Parks, roads, utilities, etc may suffer from lack of funding.

Main streets play a big role as a business center.  They serve as incubators for new businesses, creating new opportunities and success for the future.  These new businesses then can attract other businesses looking for unique and great places to move.  Your main street now plays the role of business recruiter and maintains retention.  Soon those historic buildings that create the character of your community are now new business centers and hubs.  A perfect example of excellent building re-use.

However, the most important reason is because your Main Street provides a sense of community and place.  Author Carol Lifkind of Main Street: The Face of Urban Americansaid, “…as Main Street, it was uniquely American, a powerful symbol of shared experiences, of common memory, of the challenge, and the struggle of building a civilization…Main Street was always familiar, always recognizable as the heart and soul of the village, town, or city.”

Main Street isn’t and never was meant to be neglected and forgotten.  Let’s not forget our main street in St. Helens.  Let’s bring back our unique community center and celebrate its vast history and look forward to the future.  Make a difference in your community and get involved in Main Street St. Helens!

What’s Your Waterfront?

St. Helens Waterfront Redevelopment Project

Community Visioning Workshop

May 12 & 14


The City of St. Helens invites your participation in developing a vision for the waterfront.  On May 12 -14, a team of multi-disciplinary professionals from across the country will be visiting St. Helens to facilitate a public involvement process  and make professional recommendations based upon their findings.  The project is sponsored by the American Institute of Architects, Center for Communities by Design, Sustainable Design Assessment Team (SDAT) program which strongly encourages public involvement in the assessment process.  Please join us in creating a vision to help guide the future of our community.

St Helens Water Fron Project - Supported by SHEDCo

*** Please forward this invitation to anyone interested in participating in the process.

For more information on the project and to register please view the following links:

Project website:

Promotional video:  What’s Your Waterfront?

American Institute of Architects SDAT program:  Sustainable Design Assessment Team (SDAT)

Contact us:

Registration encouraged:     SDAT Registration

Ticket Flyer-Back ScheduleTicket


Project Background

In November of 2013, the City of St. Helens with the assistance of AmeriCorps volunteers, submitted an application to the American Institute of Architects, Communities by Design, Sustainable Design Assessment Team (SDAT) program. The SDAT program offers community guidance from a multi-disciplinary approach based on the principles of sustainability; Economy, Environment and Social factors.  The SDAT brings a multidisciplinary group of professionals (such as architects, urban designers, landscape architects, planners, hydrologists, economists, attorneys, and others) to work with community decision makers and stakeholders to assist in developing a vision and framework for a sustainable future.

The AIA SDAT program awards a handful of assessment projects throughout the country each year and St. Helens was fortunate to be among the 2014 cohort.  The selection was awarded based upon the catalytic nature of the opportunity and the sense of community willingness to participate in the SDAT Process.

The project application was titled the St. Helens Waterfront Redevelopment Project, A Canvas of Opportunity and the project has two areas of focus.  The primary area will involve the former Boise Veneer Mill site property adjacent to the Historic Olde Towne. This 17 – acre waterfront property adjacent to Historic Olde Towne presents a unique opportunity to expand access to the waterfront, create connecting transportation linkages and expand the downtown area. The City’s involvement with the Veneer property will be to ensure development decisions are made in the public’s interest.

The secondary focus of the SDAT will be to provide a more global assessment of the neighboring Boise White Paper site.  The City is currently in negotiations with Boise White Paper to obtain all or part of the 200+ adjacent waterfront acres.  This expanded acreage opens up a host of possibilities for assessment.

The goal of the SDAT is to assist in developing a community based vision for the waterfront. During the initial visit in February, the SDAT project manager and AIA staff met with local leaders and representatives of stakeholders organizations to pool as much information – data, ideas, suggestions, comments, preferences, etc. – as possible. Based on this initial scoping visit, the project manager has invited other discipline experts to join the SDAT project.  This team will be studying the St. Helens Waterfront Redevelopment materials submitted in the City’s application and visit May 12 – 14 to conduct a series of inclusive public workshops to assist in developing the City’s waterfront redevelopment plans. The team member biographies are available on the City’s website.

During the Public Workshop on May 12, the public is invited to attend any or all of the concurrent Community Group Workshops on sustainability themed topics such as  Public Space, Connectivity, Community Identity, Economic Development, and the Environment. On May 14 the SDAT group will reconvene In the Columbia Theater from 6 – 8 pm to present their initial findings and recommendations.  A formal report will be prepared and submitted following the event.

Once again, public involvement is strongly encouraged and please pass this message along to anyone interested in participating in the project.

For more information please contact


Thank you and I look forward to you participation.

We are St. Helens YouTube Channel


St. Helens has a new YouTube channel called We are St. Helens that will highlight the town.  The channel will have 5 series:

1. Business Insider – promoting local businesses through interviews and visual showcases of their product or services

2. Out and About – enticing surrounding communities about upcoming and previous events

3. Discover Our Roots – educational videos promoting the unique history of the town

4. Hearts of the Community – representing various non-profits and service organizations within the community

5. Urban Unplugged – highlighting various outdoor amenities and activities for visitors

Videos will be uploaded to YouTube twice a month every 2nd and 4th week of the month.

Make sure to subscribe to the channel to get updates for when new videos are posted or “Like” SHEDCO’s Facebook page!  The YouTube channel link is:

Don’t forget to watch the first introductory video posted last week below!