“Are Main Streets a thing of the past? Is that OK?
Kaid Benfield. February 4, 2013.
As someone whose job is to promote sustainability in our communities, I sometimes think the traditional American Main Street is a terrific model worth preserving and emulating. It meets so many of the basic aspirations of smart growth: it’s walkable, compact, centrally located, with many types of shops and services integrated together, usually with places to live on upper floors or in houses a short walk away. It has a human scale, neither skyscrapers nor sprawl but something in between. Does the past point the way to a more sustainable future? Some smart observers strongly believe so.
But, when it comes to “Main Street,” the definition can get a little fuzzy. The Cambridge Dictionary of Essential American English is as good a place as any to start: Main Street is “the main road in the middle of a town where there are stores and other businesses.” The Oxford English Dictionary cites usages going back as far as 1598. When those of us in the field of placemaking use the phrase, we’re generally thinking of the kind of shopping districts that used to serve smaller towns and cities. Frequently the shops and services were aligned adjacent or close to each other along the most prominent street in town, which many places literally called Main Street.”
Photo: Broadway Street, Cottonfalls Way, KS. Sandy Sorlien