City of Howell named Winner of 2018 Great American Main Street Award

Monday, March 26, 2018

Downtown Howell officials accepted award today at Main Street Now Conference in Kansas City, Mo.

LANSING, Mich. – Howell Main Street is a winner of the 2018 Great American Main Street Award (GAMSA) presented by National Main Street Center Inc. (NMSC), the Michigan Economic Development Corporation announced today. 

Howell Downtown
Howell Downtown

“The years of planning and dedication on the part of Howell officials, funding partners, developers, Howell Main Street, and Downtown Development Authority have resulted in an active, thriving downtown that is a destination for visitors and a wonderful place for residents to call home,” said MEDC CEO Jeff Mason. “Howell has worked diligently to enhance the sense of place and vibrancy in its downtown, engage residents and businesses, and drive economic growth in the community, and is well-deserving of this recognition.”

Howell is an active participant in MEDC’s Michigan Main Street program. Since its inception in 2003, the program has aimed to create communities distinguished by a “sense of place.” The rationale is based on a range of studies that show investing in creating a sense of place is an integral part of developing vibrant city centers and downtowns, thereby making the state economically stronger and culturally diverse.

Selected by a national jury of community development professionals and leaders in the fields of economic development and historic preservation, the Great American Main Street award winners serve as exceptional models for comprehensive, preservation-based commercial district revitalization. The NMSC recognized Howell Main Street’s achievement in transforming the downtown district into a cultural destination through community-driven economic development and placemaking efforts. The awards were made possible through support from U.S. Bank.

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

This transformation is spearheaded by Howell Main Street Inc., in conjunction with the Downtown Development Authority. Despite a challenging regional economic environment, downtown Howell now has a vacancy rate of just 1.2 percent and is home to a diverse mix of businesses that foster a strong sense of place to attract and keep people downtown.

In years past, downtown Howell was home to mostly professional services that filled a need, but failed to bring the kind of energy and enthusiasm needed to make the city's downtown a place that drew people in and gave them a reason to stay. Through extensive engagement with local partners and the city, and strategic business recruitment, downtown now boasts a diverse mix of businesses featuring unique retail, dining establishments, and service industries. Anchored by entertaining destinations like the new local brewery Aberrant Ales, entrepreneurial attractions like the Frontal Lobe co-working space, and cultural institutions like the Howell Opera House and Howell Movie Theatre, downtown Howell is once again a destination.

“Downtown Howell has long-been a charming and family-friendly town. However, the community recognized that we needed to grow, change, and get creative in our approach to making Howell a destination for our residents and visitors. The Main Street program was just the change that was needed,” said Howell Main Street C.O.O. and DDA Director Cathleen Edgerly. “Through years of hard work, strategic planning, collaboration and creative vision, we are proud to have fostered a strong sense of place in our community. Today you’ll find millennials and retirees alike coming to downtown Howell as a place to invest, live, work, and play.”

The impact of the Main Street program, and its focus on deliberate, strategic investment in downtown is especially evident in Howell’s burgeoning arts scene. What began as a couple one-off initiatives to bring outdoor art to the district has become a transformative movement in the community. In the last three years alone, Howell Main Street has overseen the addition of murals in the downtown district, installed six new art-inspired bike racks, and raised over $30,000 for an alley transformation resulting in a pedestrian plaza and outdoor art gallery.

Taken together, these efforts have transformed Howell from a quaint and charming historic bedroom community into a thriving downtown that draws thousands of students, young families, and retirees to arts and cultural celebrations year-round.

The Michigan Main Street Center supports local communities across Michigan as they implement the Main Street Four-Point Approach®, a community-driven, comprehensive strategy encouraging economic development through historic preservation in ways appropriate for the modern marketplace. Over the past year, Michigan Main Street communities generated more than $25.6 million in private investment, 136 new businesses and 136 façade improvements.

The Michigan Main Street program ties in with Gov. Rick Snyder’s placemaking efforts to create vibrant communities across Michigan. These efforts are based on numerous studies showing that investing in placemaking creates vibrant city centers and downtowns, making the state economically stronger. There are currently 29 communities participating in the Michigan Main Street at associate, select and master levels. Each level provides services based on a community’s commitment, from one to five years in the program.

Since its inception in 2003, the Michigan Main Street has been a catalyst for job growth, private investment and community engagement. From 2003 through 2017, 1,183 new businesses were created, with private investment of nearly $257.8 million and total public investment of nearly $85 million. In addition, 1,196 façade improvements were made and more than 634,000 volunteer hours were recorded in the task of revitalizing downtowns across the state.

The Great American Main Street Award recognizes exceptional Main Street communities whose successes serve as a model for comprehensive, preservation-based commercial district revitalization. Since the program’s inception in 1995, more than 90 Main Street programs have been honored.

To be recognized, communities must demonstrate overall strength in the Main Street program and documented success in creating an exciting place to live, work, play and visit; demonstrate impact aligning with the Main Street Approach; show a commitment to historic preservation; have active involvement of the public and private sector; and demonstrate model partnerships, including inclusive engagement of community members and local stakeholders in the downtown revitalization process.

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

About the Great American Main Street Awards

Each year, Main Street America, a program of the National Main Street Center, celebrates the country’s best examples of comprehensive commercial district revitalization. Winners are selected from a nationwide pool of applicants by a national jury based on successful and innovative uses of the Main Street Approach®. Criteria for winning include: strength of the Main Street in creating an exciting place to live, work, play and visit; commitment to historic preservation; implementation of model partnerships, and demonstrated success of the Main Street Approach®. The National Main Street Center is a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

About the National Main Street Center

The National Main Street Center has been helping revitalize older and historic commercial districts since 1980. Today’s network consists of more than 1,600 neighborhoods and communities, rural and urban, collectively known as Main Street America, which share both a commitment to place and to building stronger communities through preservation-based economic development. Main Street America is a program of the nonprofit National Main Street Center, a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

About Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC)

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation is the state’s marketing arm and lead advocate for business development, job awareness and community development with the focus on growing Michigan’s economy. For more information on the MEDC and our initiatives, visit For Pure Michigan® tourism information, your trip begins at Join the conversation on: Facebook Instagram LinkedIn, and Twitter.