Howell among top U.S. downtowns

Kathleen Achtenberg

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Revitalization effort earns national Great American Main Street Award

Success in downtown Howell is the direct result of years of planning and dedication from Howell officials, funding partners, developers along with Howell Main Street and Downtown Development Authority.

Downtown Howell
Downtown Howell

And now, the Howell leadership team has a “medal” to go with the mettle to back up their pride and boast as being among America’s best downtowns.

On Thursday (April 26), Howell celebrated being named the 2018 winner of the Great American Main Street Award presented by the National Main Street Center, and a national jury of community development professionals. The award is presented the community that has been deemed an exceptional model for comprehensive, preservation-based commercial district revitalization.

“Howell is a prime example of a small rural community that is doing big things,” said Patrice Frey, president of National Main Street Center. “They have all the charm you’d expect in a historic Main Street community, but they don’t stop there. Downtown Howell is setting itself apart as a supportive place for entrepreneurs and business owners and that’s how we’re seeing small community stay competitive in today’s economy.”

The hard work has paid off.

Main Street Logo
Main Street Logo

And, the results are impressive.

Downtown Howell has a paltry vacancy rate of 1.2 percent and an impressive mix of retail, dining and service-related businesses.

Howell is an active participant in MEDC’s Michigan Main Street program with 28 other communities around the state. The program focuses on the importance of building a strong “sense of place,” a vital part of developing vibrant city centers and downtowns.

On a state level, the Michigan Main Street program has been a catalyst for job grow and private investment.

From 2003 to 2017, the program played a vital role in the creation of nearly 1,200 businesses with private investment of $258 million. The program also attracted nearly 1,200 façade improvements and enlisted the support of 634,000 volunteer hours from residents across the state committed to revitalizing their downtowns.

The success of downtown Howell underscores the vital role of residents and the business community in driving local economic growth, said Jeff Mason, CEO, Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

“Frankly, Howell would not be recognized as being among the top downtowns in America if you had not proven your ability to work together for a common purpose,” said Mason.

“Cooperation and collaboration are at the heart of community, and we, at the MEDC, believe our collaboration with many of you here today is the foundation for the ongoing development of making Howell a great place to live, work and play,” he said.

With businesses like the new local brewery (Aberrant Ales), Frontal Lobe co-working space, Howell Opera House and movie theater, Howell provides many attractions and reasons for people to visit and businesses to locate.

In the last three years, Howell Main Street has gone the extra mile to make downtown a welcoming and diverse place. They’ve added murals, install bike racks and raised more than $30,000 to create a pedestrian plaza and outdoor art gallery.

The Great American Main Street Award comes at a critical time in Howell’s history, and the designation helps to shape the identity of your community for generations, said Mason.

“Being named one of the top downtowns in the country is a proud and lasting accomplishment. It’s an achievement that will support the positive identity of Howell and drive ongoing business attraction campaigns,” he said.

More information on the National Main Street Center is available online at For further information on the Michigan Main Street Program, visit

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