What is NC Main Street?

The N.C. Main Street Center works to stimulate economic development within the context of historic preservation, using a comprehensive approach to downtown revitalization developed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and utilized by the National Main Street Center to assist communities across the country.

In 1980, the National Trust created the National Main Street Center to share lessons learned in a pilot program based on their downtown revitalization process: the Main Street Four Point Approach. For the next three years, the National Main Street Center conducted a national demonstration in six states, including North Carolina, encouraging the creative use of business and government resources to support local revitalization initiatives.

The NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center within the N.C. Department of Commerce, is the licensed agency that is charged with administering the Main Street program throughout the state. The Center is committed to following the program guidelines and licensing agreement as outlined by the National Main Street Center and signed by the N.C. Department of Commerce.

The N.C. Department of Commerce designates communities as a “North Carolina Main Street community”. When designated, the local city or town government, and specifically the chief elected official, is notified of the designation. The city or town government determines who will administer the Main Street program at the local level and the city or town manager communicates that information to the N.C. Main Street & Rural Planning Center. From time-to-time, that administration may change. This document outlines the steps that must be followed for a change in local administration to occur.

Since 1980, over 111 communities have directly benefited from the North Carolina Main Street program, bringing economic strength to North Carolina’s downtown commercial districts, securing $2.3 billion in new investment creating more than 19,800 net new jobs and rehabilitating 5,500 buildings.

Main Street Four-Point Approach


The Main Street Four-Point Approach is a comprehensive revitalization process designed to improve all aspects of a downtown, producing both intangible and tangible benefits.

Four elements are combined to create a well-balanced program:



Organization: Building partnerships to create a consistent revitalization program and develop effective management and leadership downtown. Diverse groups - merchants, bankers, public officials, the chamber of commerce and civic groups - must work together to improve downtown.

Promotion: Reestablishing downtown as a compelling place for shoppers, investors and visitors. This means not only improving sales but also rekindling community excitement and involvement. Promotion ranges from street festivals to retail merchandising, from community education to marketing and public relations.

Design: Enhancing the visual quality of the downtown. Attention is given to the downtown environment elements - not just buildings and storefronts but also public improvements, rear entries, signs, landscaping, window displays and graphic materials.

Economic Vitality: Strengthening the existing economic assets of the business district while diversifying its economic base. Activities include conducting market analysis to understand the changing market place, adapting vacant buildings that have outlived their original purposes for use as entertainment or cultural facilities and sharpening the competitiveness of Main Street's traditional merchants.
The N.C. Main Street Center serves as the state's leading resource in downtown revitalization. The Center promotes downtown revitalization through the state using a process based on economic development within the context of historic preservation, a concept developed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and managed by the National Main Street Center. It administers the National Main Street Center's program in North Carolina and manages the Main Street Solutions Fund program.