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Ashland became a designated Wisconsin Main Street community in 2020.  The Wisconsin Main Street program was created in 1987, and is affiliated with the National Main Street Center administered by the Wisconsin Ecomomic Development Corporation (WEDC).  The Main Street Program is designed to provide technical assistance to communities in the planning, management, and implementation of strategic development projects in the downtown.

Main Street communities receive intensive technical assistance from WEDC’s downtown development staff and consultants to provide tailored support, design assistance and topical solutions for local challenges as well as targeted support for local businesses and property owners.

What is the Wisconsin Main Street Program?

Wisconsin Main Street Program is a comprehensive revitalization program designed to promote the historic and economic redevelopment of traditional business districts. Currently, there are 34 Wisconsin Main Street communities. Wisconsin Main Street Programs have brought significant numbers of new businesses and jobs to their respective downtowns. Façade improvements and building rehabilitation projects have upgraded the image of Main Street. Promotional activities bring the community together in a positive way.

The Four-Point Approach

In 1980, the National Trust for Historic Preservation established the National Main Street Center to assist downtown revitalization efforts. The Wisconsin Main Street Program is based on the Trust’s philosophy, which advocates restoration of the historic character of downtown while pursuing traditional development strategies such as marketing, business recruitment and retention, real estate development, market analysis and public improvements. Four elements combine to form a multifaceted approach to downtown development:

Economic Vitality involves analyzing current market forces to develop long-term solutions. Recruiting new businesses, creatively converting unused space for new uses and sharpening the competitiveness of Main Street’s traditional merchants are examples of economic restructuring activities.

Promotion creates excitement downtown. Street festivals, parades, retail events and image development campaigns are some of the ways Main Street encourages consumer traffic in the downtown. Promotion involves marketing an enticing image to shoppers, investors and visitors.

Design enhances the attractiveness of the business district. Historic building rehabilitations, street and alley clean-ups, colorful banners, landscaping and lighting all improve the physical image of the downtown as a quality place to shop, work, walk, invest in and live. Design improvements result in a reinvestment of private and public dollars into the downtown.

Organization involves building a Main Street framework that is well represented by civic groups, merchants, bankers, citizens, public officials and chambers of commerce. Everyone must work together to renew downtown. A strong organization provides the stability to build and maintain a long-term effort.