Kansas opens window to Main Street program aimed at revitalizing downtowns

Gov. Laura Kelly and David Toland, secretary of the Kansas Department of Commerce, are working to develop a low-cost alternative to the Main Street program helping to revitalize downtown areas in rural communities. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)
Gov. Laura Kelly and David Toland, secretary of the Kansas Department of Commerce, are working to develop a low-cost alternative to the Main Street program helping to revitalize downtown areas in rural communities. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — The Kansas Department of Commerce is launching a low-cost subsidiary of the Main Street program to share with more rural communities technical assistance useful in sustaining downtown economic activities, officials said Thursday.

Gov. Laura Kelly, a Topeka Democrat, moved last year to resurrect the Main Street program discontinued in 2012 by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback. Main Street delivers economic development aid to about two dozen communities across Kansas. The affiliated program would invite communities to be part of the downtown viability program without being fully involved in Main Street.

“My administration brought back the Main Street program because it is a proven tool to help Kansas’ rural communities recruit and retain businesses, and restore and preserve the unique history of their downtown corridors,” the governor said.

The Main Street effort was started in 1985 to assist mostly rural communities with strategies to preserve downtown areas. There will be a $400 fee for communities to participate in the supplemental program through the Department of Commerce, officials said.

Scott Sewell, director of the 25-city Kansas Main Street program, said the goal was to introduce Main Street concepts to a broader audience.

“As we work to help those 25 designated communities continue to be successful with their downtown revitalization efforts,” he said, “we also want to expand the program’s reach and bring some of the same tools to more communities, organizations and individuals who care about their local downtown.”