In the past half century, downtowns have changed drastically.
By the late 1960s, most downtowns in the United States were 70 to 80 percent vacant as shoppers dwindled and businesses moved to malls. In Arizona, rural communities like Payson were hardest hit.
When other efforts to revitalize Main Streets failed, a group of concerned citizens turned to the National Trust for Historic Preservation for help. The National Trust developed the Main Street concept as a comprehensive model to assist communities in their revitalization efforts.
The concept is based on a four-point approach that is the most widely used and accepted management program for central business districts, commercial cores and urban centers in the United States today. A fundamental tenet of the program is a public/private partnership that extends beyond financial commitments to include such things as project sharing, communication, leadership, planning, advocacy, staffing and implementation.
Arizona Main Streets
In 1986 the Arizona Legislature adopted the Main Street approach to assist rural communities to retain and expand their tax base. The state Main Street Program provides communication and assistance to qualified cities and towns with populations fewer than 50,000.
Since its inception the state program has facilitated 8,186 new jobs, 1,529 new businesses, 3,774 building projects, and $1.4 billion in local reinvestment in the downtowns of participating communities.
Payson is the newest of the 23 communities that have participated in the Arizona Main Street program since its inception in 1986. Other communities currently active in the program include Apache Junction, Buckeye, Casa Grande, Cottonwood, Florence, Globe, Holbrook, Lake Havasu, Nogales, Page, Parker, Pinetop-Lakeside, Prescott, Sedona, Show Low, Willcox and Yuma.