Design is one of the four points of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Main Street approach that work together to build a sustainable and complete community revitalization effort.
Design means getting Main Street into top physical shape. Capitalizing on its best assets — such as historic buildings and pedestrian-oriented streets — is just part of the story. An inviting atmosphere, created through attractive window displays, parking areas, building improvements, street furniture, signs, sidewalks, street lights, and landscaping, conveys a positive visual message about the commercial district and what it has to offer. Design activities also include instilling good maintenance practices in the commercial district, enhancing the physical appearance of the commercial district by rehabilitating historic buildings, encouraging appropriate new construction, developing sensitive design management systems, and long-term planning.
National Trust for Historic Preservation Main Street Program
Design involves improving the downtown's image by improving its physical appearance – not just the appearance of buildings, but also of street lights, window displays, parking areas, signs, sidewalks, streetscapes, landscaping, promotional materials and all other elements that convey a visual message about what the downtown is and what it has to offer.
Heritage Ohio Main Street Program
General responsibilities of a Design Committee (as recommended by Heritage Ohio in their Main Street Board Handbook (© Downtown Ohio, Inc. 2002)):
The Design Committee's purpose is to create an attractive, coordinated and quality image of the community by capitalizing on its unique assets and heritage. Its responsibilities do not lie solely with the improvement of traditional commercial buildings. It should be involved in all aspects of design that have an impact on the overall image of the downtown, including analyzing parking, developing a logo, coordinating window displays and acting as a design resource for property owners. If the local Main Street program is planning to develop a local low-interest loan pool or other financial incentives to stimulate interest in design projects, this committee will play a critical role in setting up and administering a design review and approval process.
Many Design Committees make the mistake of jumping immediately into establishing design ordinances. However, an ordinance is only one of a variety of measures that the Committee should consider for the protection of the business district's visual quality.
The Committee's members should include people who are qualified — either by profession or volunteer interest and experience — to supervise its projects, such as architects, landscapers, interior designers, graphic artists, sign painters, contractors, historic commission representatives, artists and citizens interested in good design. It might also include a downtown property owner and the city's building inspector.