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Alberta Main Street named winner of 2019 Great American Main Street Award for their historic neighborhood revitalization efforts

March 25, 2019

Alberta Main Street, an Oregon Main Street Network participant, is one of the three winners of the 2019 Great American Main Street Award (GAMSA) presented by the National Main Street Center Inc., the country’s leading nonprofit organization dedicated to commercial district revitalization. Selected by a national jury of community development professionals and leaders in the fields of economic development and historic preservation, the award winners serve as exceptional models for comprehensive, preservation-based commercial district revitalization. Alberta is being recognized for building a thriving and equitable Main Street that reflects the diversity of their district. The awards were announced and presented at the 2019 Main Street Now Conference in Seattle on March 25, 2019. Alberta Main Street is the second Oregon Main Street Network Community to receive this national award.

“Alberta Main Street serves as a model for neighborhoods in cities that are struggling to retain their character in the face of new development, gentrification, and displacement” said National Main Street Center CEO and President Patrice Frey. “Alberta has been able to grow its local economy without sacrificing the heritage and historic character that make this arts district unique.”

Alberta Main Street has worked diligently to create an inclusive commercial district by offering programs that encourage small business development and property ownership among residents who have been historically marginalized from economic growth. Alberta hosts free small business seminars and networking events, offers matching grants to businesses and property owners, and provides one-on-one technical assistance. Their programming has paid off: 60 percent of Alberta businesses are women-owned and 23 percent are minority-owned.

"Alberta Main Street is taking serious steps to provide a more inclusive approach toward success for all members of the community, including those who have been displaced by rising housing costs,” said Elise Scolnick, long-time Alberta Street resident, activist, and Alberta Street Board member. “This means reaching outside of the neighborhood to those who once lived here, and asking them back into the fold. Through dialogue, cultural representation, and prosperity initiatives, which are in planning and implementation phases, Alberta Main Street wants to embrace both the heritage and future of our community."

That future is bright if you look around Main Street today. Alberta is lined with locally-owned businesses, public art, unique shops and galleries, and historical markers in the planning process that document the history of the African American community in the neighborhood. Residents and visitors are flocking to Main Street. Last year, events, programs, and activities drew 30,000 people to the district, with an estimated economic impact of over $5 million. Between 2015 and 2016, 60 percent of Alberta Street businesses reported an increase in revenue, and 40 percent planned to expand operations.

Alberta Main Street owes much of its success to its determined leader and ambassador for their Main Street— founding Executive Director Sara Wittenberg, who passed away in August 2018.

Alberta Main Street is the second Oregon Main Street Network organization to receive this national award, Downtown Oregon City Association received a 2018 Great American Main Street Award. Both Alberta Main Street and Downtown Oregon City Association were recipients of two of the first Oregon Main Street Revitalization Grants after the grant program was established by the Oregon Legislature in 2015.

“We are very proud to have two back-to-back Great American Main Street award communities. This is a testament to the perseverance and commitment of our Main Street communities after the statewide program was re-established by the legislature in 2007. Coupled with tools like the Oregon Main Street Revitalization Grant, our communities are making significant strides in revitalizing historic downtown across the state.” said Sheri Stuart, State Coordinator of Oregon Main Street.

About the Oregon Main Street Network
Oregon Main Street is part of Heritage Programs in Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, and is a designated coordinating program member of the National Main Street Center. Oregon Main Street provides assistance to all communities whether they are just beginning to explore options for their downtown or are seeking recognition as an accredited Main Street® town. Between 2010 and 2018, communities participating at the Performing Main Street and Transforming Downtown levels – the two highest levels in the OMS Network – saw an increase of 650 net new businesses, 3,226 net new jobs, 1,106 private sector building improvement projects, $97,901,913 of private sector reinvestment and $104,225,575 public sector reinvestment.

About the National Main Street Center
The National Main Street Center has been helping revitalize older and historic commercial districts since 1980. Today’s network consists of more than 1,600 neighborhoods and communities, rural and urban, collectively known as Main Street America, which 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.

About the Great American Main Street Awards
Each year, Main Street America, a program of the National Main Street Center, celebrates the country’s best examples of comprehensive commercial district revitalization. Winners are selected from a nationwide pool of applicants by a national jury based on successful and innovative uses of the Main Street Approach®. Criteria for winning include: strength of the Main Street in creating an exciting place to live, work, play and visit; commitment to historic preservation; implementation of model partnerships, and demonstrated success of the Main Street Approach®. The National Main Street Center is a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.