Many rural communities are engaged in revitalization efforts to renew downtown areas and restore them to their former prominence as a center of community activity.
On this page, find information, funding sources, and more to assist a community considering a downtown revitalization project.
Information for Rural Communities
Regional Rural Development Centers
The four regional rural development centers coordinate rural development research and extension education through out the United States. They focus on social and economic problems common to rural areas of the region through a cooperative multi disciplinary effort, including financing, public services, fiscal analyses and leadership roles. They study economic development, improved community facilities and services, capacity building and natural resources.
- North Central Regional Center for Rural Development. Michigan State University
- Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development. The Pennsylvania State University
- Southern Rural Development Center. Mississippi State University
- Western Rural Development Center Utah State University
Community Planning Resources
- Citizens' Institute on Rural Design [rural-design.org] CIRD is a leadership initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the Housing Assistance Council. Find resources for arts and culture, downtown revitalization, growth, heritage and preservation, land and agricultural conservation, and transportation. Resources available in various formats, including case studies, how-to guides, and reports.
- Creating Resilient and Vibrant Downtowns. [wisc.edu] University Extension Programs and Resources for Downtown Development. Provided by Universities of WI, IL, MN, and Iowa State University.
- Downtown and Business District Market Analysis: Using Market Data and Geographic Information Systems to Identify Economic Opportunities in Small Cities. [uwex.edu] University of Wisconsin-Extension
- Engaging Small Businesses in Rural Economic Development: Seven Guidelines for Success. [missouri.edu] A. Hause and M. Rahe. University of Missouri Extension. 2019.
Articles about Downtown Revitalization
- Rebuilding Main Street in Rural America: How to Engage Support, Find Funding and Build a Stronger Community. [mainstreet.org] Wendy Van Duyne. Main Street America. 2019.
- Smart Growth in Small Towns and Rural Communities. [epa.gov] U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
- Why Main Streets are a Key Driver of Equitable Economic Recovery in Rural America. [brookings.edu] The Brookings Institution. 2020.
- Downtown Revitalization in Lost Nation, Iowa Best Practices & Recommendations. [uiowa.edu, PDF, 936 KB] L. Engle, J. Gill, M. Pryor, and D. Wagner. University of Iowa. 2016
- Working Together: A Guide to Collaboration in Rural Revitalization. [ces.ncsu.edu] A. Savage, S. Brune, M. Hovis, S.E. Spencer, M. Dinan, and E. Seekamp. NCSU Extension. 2018.
- A Rural Service Provider's Guide to Immigrant Entrepreneurship. [uni.edu, PDF, 6.9 MB] University of Northern Iowa, RBC/ SBDC, Iowa Center for Immigrant Leadership and Integration. 2006
- Creative Uses for Downtown Buildings in Small Towns - A Sample of Ideas to Bring People Back Downtown. [wisc.edu, PDF, 2 MB] B. Ryan, E. Lutz, and M. Kono with E. Welty. University of Wisconsin Extension. 2017.
- Small Business Perspectives on the Role of Rural Libraries in Economic Development. [uchicago.edu] B. Mehra, B.W. Bishop, and R. Partee II. The Library Quarterly 87(1). 2017.
Practices and Model Programs
- Brownfield Grant Recipient Success Stories. Environmental Protection Agency.
- Heritage Travel - Legacy Itineraries. National Park Service.
- Extension-Led Economic Development Model - A Recipe for Success. Journal of Extension, Vol. 51(2):2. 2013.
- Vibrant Rural Communities: Case Studies. NADO Research Foundation, Brett Schwartz. 2012.
Journals of Interest
- Downtown Digest. Downtown Research & Development Center
- Journal of Housing & Community Development. National Association of Housing and Redevelopment
- Journal of the Community Development Society.
- Planning. American Planning Association
- Preservation Magazine. National Trust for Historic Preservation
- Public Management (PM) [icma.org]
- Public Works Magazine [concreteconstruction.net].
- American Planning Association. Chicago, IL. A non-profit, public interest group that focuses on research, policy, education and information dissemination for practicing planners, officials, and citizens involved with urban and rural planning issues. Also has the Small Towns and Rural Planning Division with specific small town focus.
- International City/County Management Association (ICMA). Washington. The professional and educational organization representing appointed managers and administrators in local governments. Services include: annual conference; publications; research; and special focused initiatives that include Brownfields, sustainable communities, Intelligent transportation systems, performance measurement, military base reuse smart growth and best practices symposium are just some of the many programs.
- International Downtown Association. Washington, DC. Dedicated to the revitalization of downtown areas and their adjacent neighborhoods. Focuses its programs on effective management of downtowns, including retailing, security, maintenance, physical design, business development, transportation, culture and entertainment.
- National Association of Towns and Townships (NATaT). Washington, DC. Provides technical assistance, educational services, and public policy support to local government officials of small communities across the country. Conducts research and develops public policy recommendations to help improve the quality of life in small communities.
- Main Street America. Washington, DC. Assists states, communities and citizens in the revitalization of business districts within a preservation context. Provides information and consultation on downtown revitalization, through technical assistance, the National Main Street Network, conferences, products and Main Street Certification Institute.
Funding Sources for Economic Development Efforts
For additional sources consult A Guide to Funding Resources [nal.usda.gov].
Appalachian Regional Commission
- Appalachian Regional Commission Programs. These programs are directed at specific counties designated as being in the Appalachian area.
U.S. Department of Agriculture
- Rural Development
- Rural Development - Business Programs provide financial backing and technical assistance to stimulate business creation and growth among rural businesses. The programs work through partnerships with public and private community based organizations and financial institutions.
- Rural Development - Community Facilities Programs provide funding to construct, enlarge, extend, or otherwise improve community facilities providing essential services to rural residents.
- Rural Development - Cooperative Services provides marketing, low-cost supplies and services to rural America. Cooperatives assist with electricity, e-connectivity, affordable housing, capital, financial services, telecommunications, health care, food, hardware, building supplies and more.
- Rural Development Programs & Services - USDA Rural Development operates over fifty financial assistance programs for a variety of rural applications.
- State Rural Development Offices
U.S. Department of Commerce
- Economic Development Administration provides assistance to rural communities through a variety of programs including the Public Works and Economic Development Facilities Program.
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
- Indian Community Development Block Grant Program (ICDBGP) offers block grants to Indian tribes and Alaska Native villages to improve their communities.
- State Community Development Block Grant Program provides eligible communities with annual direct grants that they can use for community projects.
- Local Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Offices
U.S. Department of the Interior
- Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development (IEED)
- Working with Communities. The National Park Service provides many technical and funding assistance programs to State Historic Preservation Offices and communities for local projects.
- Preserve America Communities. Designation program that recognizes communities that protect and celebrate their heritage; use their historic assets for economic development and community revitalization; and encourage people to experience and appreciate local historic resources through education and heritage tourism programs.
U.S. Department of Transportation
- Transportation Enhancement Activities: program includes bicycle transportation, pedestrian walkways and other transportation enhancements.
- The Rural Surface Transportation Grant: will support projects to improve and expand the surface transportation infrastructure in rural areas to increase connectivity, improve the safety and reliability of the movement of people and freight, and generate regional economic growth.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- Brownfields and Land Revitalization "Brownfields are real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. Cleaning up and reinvesting in these properties protects the environment, reduces blight, and takes development pressures off greenspaces and working lands."
- Brownfields Federal Programs Guide 2021 Edition. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.