Tenleytown Main Streets – A Guide

To help readers understand the planned Tenleytown Main Streets, Tenleytown, D.C. has developed the following overview of the program and the funding available for the Wisconsin Avenue commercial corridor. The guide is based on a review of official Main Streets materials, the DC Department of Small and Local Business Development website, and the request for applications issued for Tenleytown Main Streets. Any errors, however, are our own, and we encourage you to consult those sources for additional information.


What is the Main Streets program?

Main Streets is a model for historic preservation-based community revitalization based upon an approached developed by the National Main Street Center. Established in 1980, the National Main Street Center has worked with more than 2,000 commercial districts across the United States. It is affiliated with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, but operates as an independent subsidiary headquartered in Chicago, Illinois with offices in Washington, D.C.

What is the Main Street Approach®?

The Main Street Approach® consists of four elements:

Organization: Local Main Streets organizations form partnerships with local businesses, community groups, and citizens to build consensus, and operate from a strong volunteer base representing the diversity of the community they serve.

Promotion of Commercial District: Main Streets promote local businesses, community attractions and events, and the history and culture of the neighborhood to encourage people to work, live, visit, shop and dine in and around the commercial district.

Design: Main Streets work to beautify the commercial district and improve public safety with an eye toward “preserving a place’s historic character.”

Economic Restructuring: Programs focus on retaining, growing, and attracting businesses to the commercial district, and can include re-conceptualizing historic properties currently underutilized.

How does Main Streets define “historic preservation”?

According the the National Main Street Center website, historic preservation “involves saving, rehabilitating, and finding new uses for existing buildings, as well as intensifying the uses of the existing buildings, through building improvement projects and policy and regulatory changes that make it easier to develop property within the commercial district.”

How are Main Streets organized?

Main Streets organizations are required to have: a Board of Directors, typically comprised of 10-15 members representing the local business and residential community; an Executive Director, who is a full-time, paid staff person; and volunteer committees supported by large numbers of volunteers from the community. The organizations receive accreditation from the National Main Street Center based on ten criteria:

  • Has broad-based community support for the commercial district revitalization process, with strong support from both the public and private sectors.
  • Has developed vision and mission statements relevant to community conditions and to the local Main Street program’s organizational stage.
  • Has a comprehensive Main Street work plan
  • Possesses an historic preservation ethic
  • Has an active board of directors and committees
  • Has an adequate operating budget
  • Has a paid professional program manager
  • Conducts a program of ongoing training for staff and volunteers
  • Reports key statistics
  • Is a current member of the National Trust Main Street Network

Does D.C. have any Main Streets?

D.C. Main Streets began in 2002. There are currently eight Main Streets in the city: Barracks Row Main Street, Congress Heights Main Streets, Deanwood Heights Main Streets, Historic Dupont Circle Main Streets, H Street Main Street, North Capitol Main Street, Shaw Main Streets, and Rhode Island Avenue Main Street. The 2016 budget for the District of Columbia provides for the creation of two new Main Streets in Tenleytown and Van Ness.

Map of Tenleytown Main Street AreaWhere and what is the Tenleytown Main Streets?

The Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Support Act of 2015 establishes a “Tenleytown Retail Priority Area.” The commercial district stretches from Tenley Circle to Ellicott Street along Wisconsin Avenue. See the map for the area the DC Department of Small and Local Business Development defined in the request for applications for the Main Streets program.

[Editor’s Note: The commercial district excludes the block between Ellicott and Fessenden streets, which surprises us given: 1) the number of businesses on the block, including Pete’s New Haven, Coffee Nature, Matisse, Tanad Thai, Bikram Yoga, Happy Paws, Le Chat Noir, Cafe India, PetMAC, and many more; 2) the block will be an important economic area for the Georgetown Day School expansion and mixed-use development; and 3) the continued success and growth of businesses on this block will help draw visitors down from Friendship Heights and into the northern half of the Tenleytown commercial district. We recognize, however, that the line had to be drawn somewhere. We just would have drawn it at Fessenden Street.]

The 2016 budget allocates $200,000 for commercial revitalization of Tenleytown through the application of the Main Street Approach®. The funding will be awarded to a non-profit organization incorporated in D.C. through a competitive grant application process managed by the DC Department of Small and Local Business Development. A notice of funding availability was published on July 10, 2015 followed by a request for applications. Proposals in response to the RFA are due October 2, 2015 at 2:00 p.m. The funding award will be announced November 16, 2015. The anticipated grant period is January 1, 2016 to September 30, 2016.

How will the available funds be spent?

The request for applications defines the objective of the Tenleytown Main Streets as developing “programs and services to: (1) assist business districts with the retention, expansion and attraction of neighborhood-serving retail stores; and (2) unify and strengthen the commercial corridor.”

Under this rubric, the RFA specifies that:

  • up to $80,000 may be spent on administrative expenses, including rent, salaries, office equipment. The successful applicant must hire one full-time staff person for Tenleytown Main Streets by February 1, 2016.
  • up to $80,000 may be spent on programs, including subgrants, service contracts, and advertising.
  • at least $40,000 shall be allocated for technical assistance for organization members to learn the Main Street Approach®.

Applicants are expected to secure matching funds, though a specific dollar amount is not defined. They are required to submit 10 pledge letters from donors, as well as 10 additional letters of support from community stakeholders.

The grant can be renewed annually, dependent upon continued accreditation by the National Main Street Center, but the award typically drops to $125,000 in subsequent years. All grant funding is provided by the District of Columbia.

What organizations are applying?

Currently, only one organization has announced that it is seeking the funding. The organization is a newly established non-profit named Tenleytown Main Street (http://tenleytownmainstreet.org/). It was founded by Andrew Aurbach, Jonathan Bender, and Anne Wallace.

Where can I get more information?

For further information, we suggest the following sources:

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