MT. PLEASANT—An official from the Main Street America, a nonprofit organization dedicated to revitalizing older and historic commercial districts, tour Main Street in Mt. Pleasant last week and discussed plans to continue revitalization of the historic downtown.
Norma Ramirez De Miess, vice-president of Main Street America program, a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, toured Main Street and other parts of Mt. Pleasant with Monte Bona, executive director of city’s Community Development and Renewal Agency (CDRA) and Steven Clark, chairman of the Main Street Committee.
Main Street America has worked with more than 2,000 communities to revitalize the economy, and appearance of commercial districts.
“Our Main Street program actually began more than 35 years ago,” Bona, said.
Bona recited some of those projects, including development of low-income housing, reconstruction of the Wasatch Block building, the restoration of Liberal Hall, facilitating dozens of grants for façade maintenance, helping to develop the industrial park and constructing the ConToy Arena.
Although Mt. Pleasant has participated in the national Main Street program continuously since 1994, participation by the state of Utah has been patchy.
The state dropped support of the program in the early 2000’s and didn’t resume its affiliation until November, 2021. In that interim, Mt. Pleasant, Brigham City, Helper and Parowan maintained continuous affiliation.
Bona and Clark escorted De Miess on a walking tour of downtown that began with the Wasatch Academy Music Conservatory, where they were joined by Nancy Hewitt of Wasatch Academy. The building was a Presbyterian church and later a community church, before being sold to Wasatch.
De Miess told Hewitt, “I love how you’ve preserved the original architecture while adding new space that makes the building more functional for its current usage.”
She particularly liked how the builders preserved the original stain-glass windows and incorporated the wood frame structure that used to be the backdrop of the sanctuary into the building entrance. “This shows how historic elements can be preserved without sacrificing function and utility,” De Miess said.
Hewett led the group to two other restored buildings on State Street. One is an old automotive garage that is now the school’s fine arts building, and the second, a once-decrepit commercial building, now serves as the school’s architectural/engineering arts and robotic arts facility.
“We did this all with an eye to maintaining the original exterior characteristics while gaining function on the inside,” Hewitt said.
A luncheon was held at city hall for De Meiss, city officials and Main Street Committee members, after which De Miess met with the mayor and members of the city council. She talked about preserving not just the buildings but the character of the community.
“Your downtown tells the story of community,” she said, “and Mt. Pleasant has such a rich history that needs to be told.”
She encouraged the city officials to identify and play to the things that make the city unique. She said it’s important for a city to develop a theme that guides its planning. Ideally the theme centers on historic elements that can draw people to the city.
When she asked what some of Mt. Pleasant’s unique aspects were, one person cited it as the geologic center of the state. Another person pointed out the alleged connection between the city and the legend of the Sundance Kid.
De Miess then met with the Main Street Committee and expressed her appreciation for Mt. Pleasant maintaining its long-term affiliation with the national program. She encouraged the committee to develop a five-year plan.
“The first thing you must do is confirm who you are as a city,” she said. “You have to decide how you want people from outside to see your community. If your theme doesn’t match who you really are, your plan will fail.”
She said the essential role of the committee is to support small businesses. Cindy Fuller, a committee member and business owner, said that city officials must be carefully deliberate about the way the city is promoted to tourists and other “outsiders” in order to make sure they aren’t just here by accident.
She cited Solvang, California, a Danish-themed community that has become a real destination, as an example.
De Miess said that once a city establishes a theme, it must promote and encourage the development of new businesses that match the theme to multiply the theme’s effectiveness and longevity.
De Miess said that encouraging people to visit your community implies the need for infrastructure to accommodate them. She said that people eat out more than ever. She discussed lodging and how it can impact the success of the plan.
She encouraged the Main Street Committee to push participation into a wider segment of the community. She asked how many subcommittees the committee had and what their function was. She said bringing people into subcommittees can broaden input into the community development process.
De Miess, who resides in San Antonio, Texas, concluded her visit with a tour of the restored train depot, the Track 89 lodging facility, the ConToy Arena and the industrial park. She said she would return later in the year to see how the city is doing and to visit other attractions including Skyline Drive.