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Ocean Springs honored with 2013 Great American Main Street Award

Sun Herald | April 14, 2013

 Kay Burke of New Orleans walks down Washington Avenue in Ocean Springs with an armload of prints she bought at a past Peter Anderson Festival.


Ocean Springs was recognized Sunday as one of three communities nationally chosen as a 2013 Great American Main Street Awards winner, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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 Sunday at the annual National Main Streets Conference in New Orleans.

The National Main Street Center's annual awards recognize 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," a press release from the National Trust for Historic Preservation stated. "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 festivalgoers."

"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," said 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."

H Street Main Street in Washington, D.C., and Rochester Downtown Development Authority in Rochester, Mich., are the other 2013 winners. 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 problems and commitment to historic preservation.