How We Began
In the 1940s, Mount Vernon's beautiful and historic downtown was served by the Downtown Merchants Association (DMA). Members of this group worked hard to plan events to bring people downtown to shop.
As the nation's economy shifted following WWII, patterns of development and increasing reliance on the automobile resulted in large shopping areas being created at the edges of most communities across the nation. Downtowns were hit hard, with many stores closing and buildings falling into disrepair. The make-up of many central business districts was also changing, with professionals such as accountants, attorneys, doctors, and insurance agents occupying many of the spaces once used for retail or apartments.
Visionary leaders of the DMA realized that the group needed to address the complex issues facing America's downtowns and include a wider range of interests that could have a positive impact. In late 1990, community leaders formed what we are proud to call the Heritage Centre Association (HCA) and began tackling issues such as parking, security, appearance of buildings, traffic flow, marketing, and planning. HCA is governed by an executive board with committees, including Organization, Promotion, Design, and Economic Restructuring.
The Heritage Centre Association's vision for Mount Vernon is a downtown brimming with activity in a beautiful setting with green spaces and well-preserved, lovingly restored, fully utilized historic buildings. It includes a thriving retail and restaurant district, ample parking and easy access to trails, waterways, and parks--a place where people of all ages come to shop, dine, work, and live. Residents and visitors alike can enjoy educational, arts, and cultural experiences and participate in a variety of community events. This vision includes thoughtful and generous involvement by community and business leaders and the support of a downtown organization with adequate, consistent funding and purposeful direction.
HCA is linked to state and national Main Street organizations.
HCA is a part of Heritage Ohio (2009) and National Trust for Historic Preservation (2010)
- Forty-three other states have Main Street programs
- Nearly 40 towns in Ohio are Main Street Communities
- Our organization is evaluated by Heritage Ohio on an annual basis
HCA utilizes the Heritage Ohio four-point approach:
- Design: Improving one’s downtown image by enriching its physical appearance
- Organization: Building consensus and cooperation between groups that play a role downtown; member services; fund raising.
- Promotion: Involves marketing downtown through promotional activity and special community events and activities.
- Business Enhancement: Strengthening the existing economic base of downtown while diversifying it.
Characteristics of a successful Main Street organization:
- Widespread community support
- Broad-based community representation
- Distinct constituency (no conflicts)
- Committed, dependable fund raising
- Full-time management
- Strong public/private partnership
- Commitment to success, over time
- Working committees
- A clear, shared mission and well defined goals and objectives
- A work plan with assignments and timetables addressing the four points