Renovating Smaller Central Business Districts: The Impact of Main Street Revitalization on Rural Job Growth


Downtown revitalization has become a necessary approach for communities attempting to reverse the momentum of economic decline and suburbanization. One such endeavor, the Main Street Program, equips smaller towns and cities with the resources and know-how to leverage their dense, walkable retail corridor(s) as an economic development asset. This paper uses longitudinal business establishment data to evaluate the viability of the Main Street Program as a means of downtown revitalization. I use a difference-in-differences design to estimate the program’s causal impact on growth in the downtown job market—jobs in and adjacent to the downtown (Main Street) retail district—in communities that adopted the Main Street Program (compared to those communities that did not). This analytical focus on a hyperlocal spatial area is necessary because of the scale of the program: unlike larger urban counterparts (such as the Urban Enterprise Zone program of the 1990s), the Main Street Program is only likely to have an impact on a relatively small spatial extent beyond the community’s central business district. Due to this inherently small-scale nature, the Main Street Program is best studied in the context of rural town centers within micropolitan areas (and other moderately-populated non-metropolitan counties).

Oct 25, 2019
Upjohn Institute & Chicago Federal Reserve Bank Research Workshop
Kalamazoo, MI
Andrew J. Van Leuven
Andrew J. Van Leuven
Assistant Professor of Community and Rural Development