This story appeared in the November issue of the PRC’s Preservation in Print magazine. Interested in getting more preservation stories like this delivered to your door monthly? Become a member of the PRC for a subscription!

The historic Columbia Theatre in downtown Hammond was filled with an energetic crowd in September for the Destination Downtown Conference, which focused on revitalizing historic commercial corridors and more. In 1984, the National Trust for Historic Preservation launched its pilot Main Street program in Louisiana with the communities of Donaldsonville, Franklin, Houma and Hammond. Since then, Hammond, and the other communities, have remained steadfast in their desire to honor historic downtown corridors while invoking the Main Street Approach. During this year’s conference, attendees experienced strong community buy-in, as illustrated by the simple, yet vibrant, welcome signs in storefront windows and the warm conference welcome from Hammond Mayor Pete Panepinto and Tangipahoa Parish President Robby Miller.

1: Destination Downtown storefront signs in Hammond welcome “Main Streeters” at the community buy-in. Photo by Brian M. Davis.

2: Hammond Mayor Pete Panepinto speaks at the Destination Downtown conference. Photos by Brian M. Davis

3: Hammond, La. hosted the Destination Downtown 2019 Conference in September. Photo by Brian M. Davis.

Louisiana Main Street, the Hammond Downtown Development District and the City of Hammond hosted the annual Destination Downtown Conference, and they did not disappoint. What a pleasure it was for me to work with this community, which pulled out all the stops to welcome visitors from the tristate area. Destination Downtown is a regional conference sponsored by Louisiana Main Street, Mississippi Main Street Association and Main Street Arkansas, attracting more than 250 professionals in preservation-based commercial district revitalization, including new and experienced Main Street directors, board members, architects, planners, economic development professionals, public officials, volunteers and consultants. Attendees hail from communities of all sizes, from small rural towns to neighborhood commercial districts in larger cities across Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas.

During the 2019 conference, speakers from across the country presented topics related to downtown revitalization efforts and to the successful implementation of the Main Street Approach. Topics included sessions on aligning an organization’s plan of work with the community’s vision for downtown, how to work with developers, strengthening the board of directors and volunteers, website development, social media, attracting new businesses, tools for building community consensus, diversifying a Main Street organization’s revenue sources, and building a downtown entrepreneurship ecosystem.

In addition, attendees were able to use Hammond as a learning lab through tours and presentations on the history of the downtown revitalization effort in the city. Hammond was a great location to witness firsthand how community investment over time yields positive transformations for all. Additional tours explored Ponchatoula’s Main Street district and the Global Wildlife Center in Folsom.

The location of the Destination Downtown conference rotates annually between Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi.In 2020, the conference will be held in Starkville, Miss., on Sept. 9-11. Save the date and plan to attend.

Ray Scriber is the director of the Louisiana Main Street program.