What is the Wisconsin Main Street Program?

Source: http://www.wedc.org/mainstreet

The Wisconsin Main Street Program is a comprehensive revitalization program designed to promote the historic and economic redevelopment of traditional business districts. Each year, the Department of Commerce selects communities to join the program and receive technical support and training needed to restore their Main Streets to centers of community activity and commerce. Currently, there are 33 Wisconsin Main Street communities, including Fond du Lac neighbors Ripon, West Bend and Sheboygan Falls. Since it began in 1987, Wisconsin Main Street Programs have brought significant numbers of new businesses and jobs to their respective downtowns. Facade 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 create this program:


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.


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.

Economic Restructuring

Economic Restructuring 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.

For more information, log on to the Wisconsin Main Street Program website: http://www.wedc.org/mainstreet or contact Downtown Fond du Lac Partnership Director at (920) 322-2006 or info@downtownfdl.com.