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Ocean Springs honored with prestigious Great American Main Street award

By Warren Kulo | The Mississippi Press | April 14, 2013

The Peter Anderson Festival, which annually draws well over 100,000 to downtown Ocean Springs, was but one of criteria used by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in selecting Ocean Springs as a winner of the 2013 Great American Main Street Award.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Ocean Springs has been chosen for the prestigious Great American Main Street Award for 2013, the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced Sunday evening.

Recognized as a leader in implementing the Main Street Four-Point Approach®, embracing sound historic preservation practices and building strategic partnerships, Ocean Springs Main Street was honored today at the annual National Main Streets Conference in New Orleans.

"We are so honored," said Cynthia Sutton, Events Coordinator for the Ocean Springs Chamber-Main Street-Tourism Bureau. "We couldn't be more excited."

The National Main Street Center's annual GAMSA awards recognize exceptional accomplishments in revitalizing the nation's historic Main Street commercial districts.

Under the strong leadership of Ocean Springs Main Street, this once-sleepy coastal community rebounded from two major disasters -- Hurricane Katrina and the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill -- to emerge as a major cultural tourism destination, according to GAMSA.

With the Main Street Approach as its guide, Ocean Springs Main Street organized a strong year-round events calendar, attracted and supported 319 new businesses -- including many restaurants, galleries and craft shops -- and facilitated infrastructure improvements, including the adaptive use of an endangered historic high school as a center for the arts.

This effort has earned Ocean Springs a nationwide reputation as an off-the-beaten-path hot spot for art-lovers, foodies and festival-goers.

"Ocean Springs is a spectacular example of how the Main Street Four-Point Approach can be used to lead a community out of crisis -- not once, but twice," says Valecia Crisafulli, acting director of National Main Street Center. "When the Main Street program set up shop in 1980, commercial vacancies were at 80 percent. Today, that number is zero.

"Ocean Springs' transformation is truly remarkable and powerful evidence of the power of an arts-based economy to fuel downtown revitalization."

The other two 2013 winners are H Street Main Street in Washington, D.C. and Rochester Downtown Development Authority in Rochester, Mich. They were selected by a national jury composed of former award winners, community development professionals and governmental agency representatives who are active in community economic development and historic preservation.

Criteria for winning include: active involvement of the public and private sectors; broad-based community support for the revitalization effort; innovative solutions to significant problems and commitment to historic preservation.

To learn about previous GAMSA winners, visit http://www.preservationnation.org/main-street/awards/gamsa/.

The Main Street Four-Point Approach® was developed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation more than 30 years ago and has been implemented by more than 2,000 communities throughout the U.S.