Few had a comprehensive vision of the future during the early years of restoration. Archie Scott had it; he and others worked in sync with the city to develop and nurture all the components necessary to support the comprehensive vision of South Main as a living historic village and a cultural hub. The heart and soul efforts of the restorationists, who did much of the restoration work themselves while building businesses and donating time they did not have to District concerns and projects, went far beyond personal interests and few today understand the perseverance, tenacity, sheer force of will and love it took to rise from the South Main rubble (see Preservation Journal); it was not always easy to keep the faith ... and still, the journey is incomplete. Uncompromising attention to the integrity of every component listed below increases the percieved and real value of our unique South Main historic village...attracting more visitors, customers with more discretionary income, upscale merchants, residents and property owners willing to invest in a high level of maintenance ... and instill in all involved a sense of dedication and celebration for the vision.
1) Vision: Historic District Village and Cultural Hub
Archie and many others were dreamers whose heartfelt vision for the Historic District did not stop at what we are today, but looked forward to what many could not see. Seemingly small decisions can become defining moments causing directional shift over the years. Archie dedicated his life to restoration, preservation and protection of the Historic District; he said in his last report: Everything Matters.
Success of any vision requires a cohesive mindset with a written comprehensive plan and supporting legislation. The document, "Architecutral Design Guidelines of the South Main Historic District', created a weighty foundation on which to build.
Key to the ambience/brand is continuous quality restoration the entire length of the South Main Historic District and preservation of our authentic historic architecture which projects our unique character.
3) The Village
South Main includes businesses and residences side-by-side and over-and-under in the 'historic village' tradition. Resident villagers bring a level of care and love that is only found when a place is 'home'; merchants bring a flow that financially supports the extraordinary level of maintenance required in a Historic District. Property owners, residents and merchants...each is essential to our historic village fabric under the umbrella of our historic village brand. The ambience/character created by our completely unique mix is that which compels visitors and adds value.
4) People Assets
Some amazingly talented people have donated years, even decades of effort to the cause. It was through passion, dedication, enthusiasm, imagination, and a purpose-driven culture that South Main was restored, and it is only with continued dedication to Historic District principles that we can push to greater refinements and achievements.
We honor those who were passionately purpose-driven and dedicated themselves to the journey for the good of the whole. It is not awards, but meaningful actions that honor.
5) History & Authenticity
Our authentic and rich history offers a depth of brand that no replica development can duplicate.
It is the basis on which our pride of place rests. In order to project the strongest message, everything should relate and connect with the roots from which our historic village grows... and our identity as the South Main Historic District which so many worked to build, should not be lost in the generic and homogenized 'Main Street'.
Managed with a focused, creative, full-spectrum plan, the South Main attraction and its permanent merchants could be considered a daily event. Not with booths, tents, and outside vendors... but with a cohesive and unique South Main Historic District experience.
Events, promotions and marketing for the Historic District, all should convey and support the brand/character. Most properties and businesses on South Main are privately owned, when used as a backdrop for a city or outside organization event, organizers should create events that benefit and reflect positively on the Historic District brand. Does it follow that all events should be literal re-enactments... of course not. Encouragement of quality events that project a positive image, connect with our history and brand, and are respectful of the neighborhood's private investments should be the goal... rising above the banal beer & 'craft' booth paradigm that uses Historic District assets as their backdrop, making no contribution to District goals, and even detracting from the neighborhood image, brand and permanent merchants.
Events should be juried to meet specified criteria. Outside vendors in particular are generally only interested in the revenue, and are therefore may not be concerned about the image of the neighborhood and the impact on the private properties used as a backdrop for their event. More beer sales do not convey a positive brand image. Frontier Park is included in Historic District boundaries.
Does it follow that merchants should regularly dress in period clothing or sell period merchandise... of course not. Products and services of our South Main businesses are contemporary, but the ambience is strengthened when, for example, the interior of a shop conveys
a sense of our historic village brand, i.e. vintage store fixtures and lighting, business promotion that carries forth a vintage flavor. Details add weight to our Historic District village brand. It is important that the entire District strives to promote the brand in whatever ways are practical.
The successful business component of the equation is essential for the prosperity of the District and as a source of maintenance capital.
Legislation regarding business uses that respect the neighborhood is essential, i.e. nightlife clashes with the village mix and would sully the brand of South Main.
Because most boutique businesses across the country shop at the same big markets, and because so many customers use the internet for limitless offerings, it is difficult for a small business to be truly unique. However, when products are packaged within a unique Historic District experience, it creates an additional draw. But further— within our historic village atmosphere, is it possible to actively encourage equally unique offerings to our visitors and customers? What if we had a proactive program to encourage creative, one-of-a-kind merchandise... art & antiques? Fine craftsmen, artists, antique dealers, creative dining? Can we work to develop a comprehensive view that furthers a higher vision and focuses our reputation to further distinguish i.e. the South Main Arts & Antiques District? Of course, it is not every business that would fall into these categories, but if our mix of businesses included a higher percentage of creatives, it would become a marketable draw for all, thereby adding to our real and perceived value.
As any marketing person knows, the brand/image message must be laser focused. South Main is a marketer's dream in the raw.
A comprehensive plan with working efforts to achieve focused goals is the only way to a higher level.
8) Property Ownership
The Historic District is a mix of public and private property interests. Private investment and property maintenance provide this asset and brand for the entire city; protective city legislation and public property maintenance are essential. Encouragement of a high level of property maintenance and upscale visual appearance should be a goal of public and private efforts.
Effective and creative promotion is far more than buying ad space. The Historic District in combination with a well-funded CVB and a commitment to brand is a creative agency dream.
10) City Support
It is only through City support for the vision that the goals above can be achieved: willingness to preserve and protect our historic assets and brand, cooperation to develop comprehensive and compatible plans for both North and South Main, commitment through legislation and enforcement to further the vision, support for the principles and legislation (Architectural Design Guidelines for the South Main Historic District and zoning protections) that guided the District through the restoration decades.
No amount of effort on the part of individuals or organizations can further the vision without City support and commitment.
Legislation must ensure that the efforts of property owners striving to contribute to the vision are not diminished. Every Historic District property and every detail matters.
It is the City's charge to preserve and protect our fragile assets: people, property, neighborhood integrity and character, and the vision. The economic advantages of quality historic restoration and protection are well documented. If the South Main Historic District is managed as merely a 'shopping center', then it will be only thus, but if it is managed as the irreplaceable and defining asset that it is, St. Charles as a whole benefits as the Historic District is a key brand component for the entire city... impacting the perception of businesses and properties citywide.
If we believe we have something special and worth protecting, the care given the Historic District by the villagers and the city in all aspects, will convey that message to all.
AIM HIGHER. THINK BIG PICTURE. DON'T COMPROMISE THE VISION.