October 2021 – Mary Means

October Story Lab: How Story Saved the Nation’s Main Streets

Mary Means

If you’d asked anyone in 1975 about the future of town centers, you’d have been told, “There isn’t one.” Already there was steady decline across the country as people and businesses headed to the burbs to live and shop. Yet a small band of determined young people – passionate about historic preservation – were determined to find a way smaller communities could save their historic town centers.

And they did. Fast forward to 2021: hundreds of Main Street towns and cities have brought new life to their downtowns. Seldom is there a magazine “20 Towns You Must Visit” article that doesn’t feature several of them.

Mary Means will share the tale of how this came to be at our October gathering. She’s convinced: “It’s all because of story.”

Mary Means is widely known for leading the team that created the National Main Street Center. More than 1,600 towns and historic neighborhood corridors in 40+ states have successfully used the Main Street Approach to bring people back to their historic cores.  Her work has been honored by the American Planning Association with its national 2018 Planning Pioneer Award, and by the National Trust for Historic Preservation with the 2020 Louise du Pont Crowninshield Award, the highest honor in historic preservation. She is the author of Main Street’s Comeback and How It Can Come Back Again.


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