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America's Top Main Streets for 2016

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By National Main Street Center

The National Main Street Center Reveals Its 2016 Great American Main Street Award Winners

The National Main Street Center announced today that Audubon Park in Orlando, Fla., Dahlonega, Ga. and Shaw District in Washington, D.C. have been chosen as 2016 Great American Main Street Awards® (GAMSA) winners. Awarded by the National Main Street Center, a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, GAMSA is the nation's premier accolade for downtown revitalization achievement. The awards were presented at the 2016 Main Street Now Conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

"The 2016 GAMSA winners have succeeded in making their towns an exciting place to live, work, play and visit through implementing our historic preservation-based methodology for downtown revitalization," said Patrice Frey, president and CEO of the National Main Street Center. "In each locality, the local Main Street organization has collaborated with residents, business owners and other local partners to revitalize their district by promoting the assets that makes that community special."

The 2016 winners are a diverse group in geography and character, but together demonstrate the broad applicability of the Main Street Approach:

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Audubon Park. Credit: Steven Miller Photography

Audubon Park, Orlando, Fla.--Developed post-World War II, Audubon Park was long defined by a wide, four-lane commercial main drag dotted with suburban strip malls. Under Audubon Park Garden District's leadership, that corridor is now flourishing with small businesses, gardens and events that stand in stark contrast to typical suburban sprawl. The redevelopment of a foreclosed church into a nationally recognized food and culture hub, a thriving shopping and dining scene and a retro modern home tour are just a few of the attractions that make this neighborhood one of America's best.

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Dahlonega, Ga. Credit: Dahlonega Main Street Program

Dahlonega, Ga.--Drawn by a charming and walkable downtown, first-rate restaurants, and unique shops featuring the best of Southern Appalachian hospitality, Southern Appalachian hospitality, downtown Dahlonega is a top destination in the Southeastern United States. Located just 65 miles north of Atlanta and the site of the first U.S. Gold Rush, more than a million visitors travel to Dahlonega (pop. 6,000) every year. With the Main Street approach as its guide, Dahlonega Main Street uses a combination of tools, including preservation grants, design guidelines and promotion strategies to preserve downtown Dahlonega's strong sense of place while also expanding economic development opportunities.

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Shaw District. Credit: Elvert Barnes

Shaw District, Washington, D.C.--By actively involving its multicultural community, cultivating tech businesses, and supporting the arts, Shaw Main Streets has transformed a long blighted neighborhood into a hot dining and entertainment district while preserving affordable housing and protecting legacy businesses. Highlights of Shaw Main Street's 13-year tenure include the rehabilitation of the Howard Theatre, once the largest venue in Washington's segregation-era "Black Broadway," and the creation of flexible work space for 400 start-up tech businesses in a former Wonder Bread factory.

The National Main Street Center also selected Renaissance Covington in Covington, Kentucky and Los Alamos MainStreet in New Mexico as "Ones to Watch"--places that are making great strides in using the Main Street approach to revitalize their downtown. Renaissance Covington is recognized for its restoration of the historic Odd Fellows Hall, its successful use of pop up spaces for retail and performance purposes, and streetscape and façade improvements. Los Alamos MainStreet has preserved the unique history of a town that run by the US Atomic Energy Commission in until 1957, while maintaining its reputation as a hub for innovation and invention through lively events, public-private partnerships and building redevelopment projects.

GAMSA winners were selected by a national jury composed of former award winners, community development professionals, and governmental agency representatives who are active in community revitalization and historic preservation. 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 Main Street Approach is a proven methodology for historic preservation-based community revitalization. It was developed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation more than 30 years ago and has been implemented by more than 2,000 communities throughout the U.S.

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.

About the National Main Street Center

Originally launched as a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1980, the National Main Street Center pioneered a transformative, grassroots strategy to help flagging downtowns counteract booming suburban growth. This novel approach was in stark contrast to the urban renewal projects that were destroying commercial districts and neighborhoods all over the country. Today, the Center leads a coast to coast network of revitalization programs--known collectively as Main Street America--who share both a commitment to place and to building stronger communities through preservation-based economic development.