Resources for Businesses

Main Street Program

Main Street®

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a privately funded nonprofit organization that works to save America's historic places. One of its movements is Main Street®, which is 1) a proven strategy for revitalization; 2) a powerful network of linked communities; and 3) a national support program that leads the field. 

The Downtown Wilmington Main Street® mission is to preserve, promote and enhance the BID through the elements of organization, design, promotion and economic restructuring. Everyone has a stake in a revitalized downtown.

By bringing these groups (small businesses, large corporations & property owners, government, residents & consumers, civic organizations & schools, preservationists & social service agencies), we seek to transform ideas into action for a better downtown, and to foster a spirit of community teamwork to strengthen, revitalize and broaden the economic base.

More about Main Street America® 

Building a better downtown

  • Helping to create 1,800+ jobs

  • Restored 53 building facades

  • Removed 28 roll down security gates

  • Grants to 72 businesses


Our Main Street Wilmington Program is creating jobs by restoring buildings and bringing new businesses to Downtown. Over 194 New Businesses since 2010!

Our job is to create, manage and produce a quality environment for people who live, work and visit Downtown through our community-driven Main Street program. The program is built to support economic growth, urban revitalization and the creation of new jobs. From facade improvement to grand opening events and empowering business community connections — we are investing in your Downtown business community.

Back in March of 2006, Wilmington Mayor James Baker initiated the process of researching the feasibility of starting a "Main Street" program as part of an overall plan to revitalize the City. The result was the formation of a Main Street Steering Committee, a cooperative team of representatives from Downtown Visions, the Downtown Business Association, the City's Office of Economic Development and Wilmington City Council. After many months of meeting and planning, the Main Street Initiative here in Wilmington is in its 12th year.

Spearheaded by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a leading advocate for the historic preservation, and Main Street America®Main Street is a proven community-driven, comprehensive methodology used to revitalize older, traditional business districts throughout the United States. The underlying premise is to encourage economic development within the context of historic preservation. Main Street advocates a return to community self-reliance, local empowerment and the rebuilding of traditional commercial districts based on their unique assets: distinctive architecture, pedestrian friendly environment, personal service, and a sense of community.

The Main Street Four-Point Approach is a comprehensive strategy that encompasses four distinct areas: Design, Organization, Promotion and Economic Restructuring. Volunteer-driven committees under each of those areas will be working hard to move the program's initiatives along, forming an effective tool for community-based, grassroots revitalization.

The strategy of any Downtown Visions Main Street Wilmington Program is always comprehensive and incremental, understanding that at times more emphasis needs to be placed in certain areas. Having achieved dramatic visual improvements along Market Street through our Facade Improvement Program & Security Gate Removal Project where we managed each property’s revitalization from beginning to end we have gained the respect and credibility with the property owners and businesses we are now able to engage them further. In the past they would simply say no to any programs they felt came from the City. Now they are eager participants.

Our strategy is basic business;

  1. Make the outside of the business appealing

  2. Enable the consumer to find the business in the manner consumer's search today — web & mobile

  3. Guide the business towards being what the consumer seeks

  4. Recruit businesses that create a mix that consumers both need and desire

  5. Tell the story, not through just advertising, rather through engaging conversation through published stories, networking & social media.

The programs and processes we have set in each of our programs are tested, true and are becoming models now for other cities.

We have succeeded! Yet there is so much more to do. No one who visits Downtown Wilmington says it is ugly and dirty. In fact, we constantly receive praise for the dramatic improvements. Now is the time to concentrate on improving the businesses. Engage their potential customers enabling them to be aware the business exists while helping the business to improve their interior and exterior appearance, products, services and marketing. This is the only way to increase their sales and bottom line, which will in turn prompt them to hire more employees, which in turn will create jobs for the community. Most of the jobs created will be entry level which is exactly what is missing for the citizens of Wilmington. Where did you have your first job? I’ll bet it was a small business. Just imagine if each of the over 300 businesses in Downtown Wilmington hired just one person. And it doesn’t stop there…

To date all grants received for programs and projects by Main Street Wilmington have been used for capital improvements to buildings, retail recruitment and job creation. No funds have been used for administration or staffing costs.

 

 

Wilmington Storefront Project

Wilmington Storefront Project 2(V2).jpg

Vision

Downtown Wilmington and the Creative District is home to a vibrant and dynamic consumer experience with a unique mix of retail, restaurant, pop-up, gallery and other street-level spaces.

Mission

Building on the momentum and growth that the Downtown and Creative District have experienced in recent years, the mission of the Wilmington Storefront Project (WSP) is to coordinate marketing of available storefronts and engagement with prospective tenants in order to identify appropriate uses for available spaces.

Project Description

A group of invested partners are developing a comprehensive strategy to effectively market and fill currently available spaces. Known as the Wilmington Storefront Project, this collective effort is led by a partnership of The Buccini/Pollin Group, The City of Wilmington — Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, Downtown Visions and Wilmington Renaissance Corporation.

Development Phase Goals

  • Inventory of all available storefronts, including space description and rent agreement details

  • Collection of relevant market data that prospective tenants would want information on

  • Evaluation of most recent list of desired retail establishments

  • Production and distribution of marketing materials

  • Creation and promotion of WSP website

  • Development of a list of target commercial brokers

  • Development of a list of target regional small business owners

  • Development of a 15-month cultivation strategy

  • Engagement of a full or part-time individual to conduct cultivation

  • Development of benchmarking success measures and timelines

Core Operating Activities

  • Lead generation

    • Identification and outreach to prospective business owners

  • Engagement with interested business owners

    • Site location assistance

    • Assistance and consultation with regulatory approvals

    • Access to demographic and consumer market data

    • Business development technical assistance

  • Coordination of incentives

    • Marketing assistance

    • Façade improvement

    • Tenant Fit Out

    • Signage

    • Downtown Development District Grants

    • Low-interest long-term financing

Already have a business idea and plan? Use this site to get started on your State of Delaware licenses, certifications and permits. Already running a business? Use this site to get information about renewals or expansion, and connect to State Agencies.

http://firststeps.delaware.gov/

 

PROPERTIES AVAILABLE

The following properties are currently available and may qualify for incentives. Please contact Lani Schweiger at lschweiger@downtownvisions.org for information.

  • 101 W 9th St.

  • 105 W 9th St.

  • 113 W 9th St.

  • 107 W 9th St.

  • 214 W 9th St.

  • 216 W 9th St.

  • 219 113 W 9th St.

  • 224 W 9th St.

  • 226 W 9th St.

  • 302-320 W 9th St.

  • 401 N Market St.

  • 402 N Market St.

  • 404 N Market St.

  • 405 N Market St.

  • 406 N Market St.

  • 407 N Market St.

  • 408 N Market St.

  • 409 N Market St.

  • 410 N Market St.

  • 411 N Market St.

  • 412 N Market St.

  • 415 N Market St.

  • 417 N Market St.

  • 608 N Market St.

  • 627 N Market St.

  • 701 N Market St.

  • 727 N Market St.

  • 815 N Market St.

  • 824 N Market St.

  • 835 N Market St.

  • 907 N Orange St.

  • 909 N Orange St.

  • 925 N Orange St.

Façade Improvement Program

Within the Wilmington Downtown Business Improvement District, a block-by-block inventory done by Downtown Visions in 2009 showed that 78% of the buildings would benefit from improved façade treatments, in order to improve their appeal and, in many cases, preserve key historic features. The external appearance of a commercial or retail building is a major factor in attracting potential customers. Statistics from the National Trust for Historic Preservation Main Street Center show that for every $1 invested in façade improvements, $18 resulted in increased Downtown business in 2012.

Since 2010, Downtown Visions’ Main Street Wilmington Program has completed seventy two (72) building projects and awarded approximately $810,000 in grants towards the restoration of buildings within Downtown Wilmington. These building projects included the removal of twenty eight (28) exterior roll down security gates, fifty eight (58) new business signs or awnings, new exterior lights in a dark block, the lighting of the Grand Opera House, the repainting of an entire block of buildings, and the complete restoration of fifty three (53) building facades. These improvements directly resulted in several new business openings as well as improving the revenues through visual appeal of thirty eight (38) existing businesses. This has inspired private owners of neglected buildings to join into the movement to revitalize downtown investing their own funds without the need for public subsidy. Both public and private investment has increased dramatically with the creation of the Downtown Development District administered through the Delaware State Housing Authority and private investment by companies like the Buccini/Pollin Group.

A walk down Market Street proves that our Main Street Wilmington Program has been incredibly successful in the restoration of the once hidden and neglected historic character. The program has inspired others to become partners and new businesses to call Downtown Wilmington their home. It is our intent to continue this needed program along the 9th Street corridor and the side streets connecting with Market Street.

As a part of the Façade Improvement Program the Security Gate Removal Project is designed to not only restore the visual aspects of the buildings, but to also improve the perception of safety in the downtown. External roll down security gates have a negative psychological impact especially on visitors during the evening hours. Because current City Code does not forbid the use of these gates we have felt the need to offer 100% funding towards the removal. To reduce our costs we have managed the project internally and contracted directly with vendors. All grants awarded are for physical improvements and do not go towards soft costs. Since 2012 we managed the removal of 28 external roll down security gates.  Each has expressed interest in doing residential on the upper floors of their properties. The ability to do multiple buildings yielded substantial savings and increased productivity.

Downtown Visions staff oversee the entire project from beginning to end. Grants are offered on a matching basis up to $25,000 per façade improvement.  Gate removal offers 100% reimbursement up to $15,000 for the removal of an external security gate.  Many of the vacant or available locations even in prominent locations do not meet current code requirements and the market lease rate is not sufficient to cover the investment needed by the property owner. This cost becomes the burden of the new business which makes the location cost prohibitive.

Even with these investments there remain significant gaps in affordable housing opportunities within Downtown Wilmington, both in physical separation between locations and in the ability for individual property owners to finance.

Downtown Visions Main Street Program is currently doing a complete comprehensive inventory of every building within the Business Improvement District (BID). This analysis first will primarily focus on vacant buildings and those with vacant upper floors or underutilized. Each will be evaluated as to square footage, number and size of apartments, condos or commercial units.

Our nationally renowned Main Street Program is designed to help you find the right location, guide you through the process of opening your business, and even find grants and/or funding to help you get started. Contact Lani Schweiger at lschweiger@downtownvisions.org