Skip to main navigation Skip to main content

Kentucky Main Street Program

​​​​​​​​​​About the Kentucky Main Street Program

The late 20th century economic decline witnessed by many of Kentucky's central business districts threatened the many architecturally and historically significant buildings in these downtowns. Because of the importance to preserve not only the buildings, but also the economic vitality of a community's downtown, the Kentucky Heritage Council developed the Kentucky Main Street Program to assist communities with revitalization​ efforts.

The Kentucky Main Street Program is a Main Street America™ Coordinating Program and is based on a Four-Point Approach developed by Main Street America's National Main Street Center, a division of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The four components of the program are: Organization, Promotion, Design and Economic Vitality. The goal of this program is to encourage downtown revitalization and economic development within the context of historic preservation.

As a Main Street America™ Coordinating Program, Kentucky Main Street helps to lead a powerful, grassroots network consisting of over 40 Coordinating Programs and over 1,200 neighborhoods and communities across the country committed to creating high-quality places and to building stronger communities through preservation-based economic development.

Since 1979, the Kentucky Main Street Program has been a successful addition toward reversing the economic decline in Kentucky's downtowns, both small and large. Participation in this program requires local commitment and financial support. A Main Street director administers the program locally through a volunteer board. The Heritage Council provides technical and design assistance, on-site visits, a resource center, national consultants and grant funding.

While many cities have seen immediate improvements, the program establishes an effective organization that will continue to monitor and guide revitalization efforts. It is primarily a self-help program, locally administered and funded, with technical assistance and guidance provided by the Heritage Council. The efforts center on certain aspects of downtown revitalization. A public-private partnership is developed which uses a comprehensive approach, relies on quality, involves changing attitudes, focuses on existing assets, and is both incremental in nature while being implementation oriented.

There are many reasons for revitalizing a downtown, but once the process has begun communities note positive changes such as:

  • Renewed confidence in the downtown through an improved image.
  • New job opportunities through the attraction of new businesses and strengthened service/retail markets.
  • Savings in tax dollars. Revitalization stabilizes and improves the area's tax base, while protecting the investments already made in the downtown.
  • A process that enables property owners to maintain historic commercial buildings and preserve an important part of a community's unique heritage.

Developing A Successful Program 

Thresholds needed to be met for developing a successful program:​

  • When a broad consensus has been reached in the community as to the importance and value of a viable downtown.
  • When community leaders understand and appreciate the importance of economic development, not only in an industrial park, but also in the downtown.
  • When community leaders understand Main Street's four-point approach to downtown revitalization.
  • When the municipal government is committed to the project, both with financial and human resources.
  • When the local chamber of commerce is supportive of the effort.
  • When there is a community-wide commitment to preserving local historic resources.
  • When there is a balance of need and potential in the downtown area.
  • When projections indicate that the community will experience continued growth.
Photo: In downtown Shelbyville, from left, KYMS State Coordinator Kitty Dougoud, Mayor David Eaton, Design Chair and Planning Director Ryan Libke, Main Street Director Darlene Snow, Main Street Board Chair George Best, and Shelby Foundation Chair Neil Hackworth gather as a Kentucky Main Street Beautification Award is presented for the Shelbyville Sculpture Walk.

Demonstrated Return on Investment

In 2021, Kentucky Main Street communities cumulatively reported $60.5 million in investment in downtown commercial districts. Statewide, the program also reported 548 (net) new jobs in Main Street districts, 130 new businesses, and 201 historic building rehabilitation projects completed.

Since the program's inception in 1979, Kentucky Main Street can document $4.7 billion of public-private investment throughout the state generated by participating communities!

Nationwide, statistics show that shopping dollars spent downtown have a greater return on investment back into the community:

  • 6 cents of every dollar spent with a “big box” retailer is retained/recirculated in a community (Source: Rocky Mountain Institute)

  • 20 cents of every dollar spent with a chain store is retained/recirculated in a community (Source: Small Business Administration)

  • 60 cents of every dollar spent with a sole proprietorship is retained/recirculated in a community (Source: Small Business Administration)

About the Main Street Four-Point Approach®

As a unique economic development tool, the Main Street Four-Point Approach® is the foundation for local initiatives to revitalize their districts by leveraging local assets - from cultural or architectural heritage to local enterprises and community pride.

The four points of Main Street work together to build a sustainable and complete community revitalization effort. They also correspond with the four forces of real estate value, which are social, political, physical, and economic.


Design means getting Main Street into top physical shape and creating a safe, inviting environment for shoppers, workers, and visitors while preserving a place's historic character. Successful Main Streets take advantage of the visual opportunities inherent in a commercial district by directing attention to all of its physical elements: public and private buildings, storefronts, signs, public spaces, parking areas, street furniture, public art, landscaping, merchandising, window displays, and promotional materials. An appealing atmosphere, created through attention to all of these visual elements, conveys a positive message about the commercial district and what it has to offer. Popular design activities also include instilling good maintenance practices in the commercial district, enhancing the district's physical appearance through the rehabilitation of historic buildings, encouraging appropriate new construction, developing sensitive design management systems, educating business and property owners about design quality, and long-term planning.* 

Economic Vitality

By building economic vitality, we can show you how to strengthen your community's existing economic assets while diversifying its economic base. Successful communities accomplish this by evaluating how to retain and expand successful businesses to provide a balanced commercial mix, sharpening the competitiveness and merchandising skills of business owners, and attracting new businesses that the market can support. Many Main Street programs also achieve success through creative reuse of historic properties. Converting unused or underused commercial space into economically productive property also helps boost the profitability of the district. The goal is to build a commercial district that responds to the needs of today's consumers while maintaining the community’s historic character.* 


Organization establishes consensus and cooperation by building partnerships among the various groups that have a stake in the commercial district. The most effective Main Street programs get everyone working toward the same goal. With this level of collaboration, your Main Street program can provide effective, ongoing management and advocacy for your downtown or neighborhood business district. Through volunteer recruitment and collaboration with partners representing a broad cross section of the community, your program can incorporate a wide range of perspectives into its efforts. A governing board of directors and standing committees make up the fundamental organizational structure of volunteer-driven revitalization programs. Volunteers are coordinated and supported by a paid program director. This structure not only divides the workload and clearly delineates responsibilities, but also builds consensus and cooperation among the various stakeholders.* 


Promotion takes many forms, but the goal is to create a positive image that will renew community pride and tell your Main Street story to the surrounding region. The techniques we teach, and the variety of tools at your disposal, will help to rekindle the vitality of your community. Promotions communicate your commercial district's unique characteristics, its cultural traditions, architecture, and history and activities to shoppers, investors, potential business and property owners, and visitors.* 

* Source: National Main Street Center 

​Nationally recognized. Locally powered.

Main Street AmericaTM has been helping revitalize older and historic commercial districts for more than 35 years. Today it is a network of more than 1,600 neighborhoods and communities, rural and urban, who share both a commitment to place and to building stronger communities through preservation-based economic development. Main Street America is a program of the nonprofit National Main Street Center, a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.


Main Street America Headquarters:

53 West Jackson Blvd., Suite 350

Chicago, IL 60604


​​​​​Program Resources

Kentucky​ Main Street Program Directors​ updated January 2023

Committee worksheet

Board member template


Kentucky Streetscape Design Guidelines for Historic Commercial Districts

Learn More

If you are interested in learning more about how the Kentucky Main Street program can benefit your community, contact:

Kitty Dougoud
Kentucky Main Street Program Administrator
(502) 892-3605

We also encourage you to visit a Kentucky Main Street community and take time to meet with the local director.