Main streets and downtown areas play vital roles in cities’ communities, cultures, and economies. This trend holds true in Fremont, a City that knows its downtown and neighborhood commercial corridors as gathering spaces, representations of local history, and homes to many of the local businesses and establishments that add to its uniqueness and diversity.

Fremont recently began an exciting new chapter in its ongoing efforts to heighten economic opportunity and quality of life in these areas by joining the California Main Street Alliance (CAMSA). CAMSA is part of a national network that provides tools, resources, and strategic support to thousands of community revitalization efforts across the country. Since 1980, communities participating in the Main Street program have generated $79.12 billion in public and private reinvestment in their downtown districts, overseen the rehabilitation of 284,936 buildings, catalyzed 640,017 net new jobs, and spurred 143,613 net new businesses. Fremont’s participation in the program allows City and neighborhood leaders to access this nationwide network and a suite of revitalization tools that can help bring new momentum to the City’s economic development work.

The Main Street Approach: The Four Points and Transformation Strategies

The hallmark of the Main Street program is a framework known as the Main Street Approach. This method provides municipalities, nonprofits, and local leaders with a strategic roadmap for downtown or neighborhood commercial corridor transformation that is easily tailored to local conditions. Since its start almost 40 years ago, over 2,000 cities and towns of all sizes — from Bonaparte, Iowa (pop. 411) to Washington, D.C.’s Shaw District — have participated in the program. Together, this vast network of community-based revitalization programs used the Main Street Approach to transform their downtown economies, rally volunteers, and celebrate their historic character.

One important aspect of the Main Street Approach is its comprehensive nature. Decades of Main Street community successes have demonstrated that there’s no “silver bullet” when it comes to creating sustainable, thriving downtowns. Lasting change comes from focusing holistically on all components that impact the health of a community. In Main Street parlance, this means focusing on four key areas, known as the “Four Points”: promotion, economic vitality, organization, and design.

Short- and long-term work across these “Four Points” is guided by “Transformation Strategies,” comprehensive initiatives that direct revitalization and transform districts over time. Each “strategy is generated through meaningful community engagement, informed by analysis of the district’s market position, and based on several important characteristics:

  • Rooted in the community’s vision
  • Based on a solid analysis and understanding of the district’s economy and its best economic opportunities
  • Comprehensive implementation through a broad range of activities that span the four broad areas of work represented by the “Four Points”
  • Measurable ability to track progress

Main Street in Action

So, what does this look like in practice? Part of the beauty of Main Street is that it looks different in every city. The Main Street Approach builds on local character and history and leverages existing assets. So, success varies from place to place.  Take a look at a few success stories such as Livermore, California, Alberta Main Street, Oregon, and West Chester, Pennsylvania for a sense of what Main Street transformation can look like.

A New Era of Main Street in California

Fremont is joining the California Main Street Alliance at an exciting time, thanks to a new partnership between CAMSA and the National Main Street Center.

Due to budget cuts over the years, the California Main Street Program, which was established in 1986, struggled to maintain a consistently high level of service and benefits to communities across the state. To build greater capacity and support for the program, the National Main Street Center partnered with CAMSA in 2018 and is the current administrator of the statewide Main Street program. The newly reconstituted Main Street program has 26 initiatives located throughout the state and provides convening and networking, personalized coaching, Main Street-specific programming and tools, and professional development opportunities to its members.

Fremont’s Main Street efforts will complement its ongoing economic development work throughout the City by bolstering community outreach efforts and giving local leaders additional tools to bring new economic opportunities while reinvigorating the character of the City’s neighborhood commercial corridors.


Main Street America is a program of the National Main Street Center (NMSC), based in Chicago. The National Main Street Center is a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.