Rawlins today became the first community in the northern Rocky Mountain region to win the prestigious Great American Main Street Award (GAMSA).
Rawlins Downtown Development Authority/Main Street Executive Director Pam Thayer and staff along with board of directors, city council and Junior Main Street members, and downtown business owners and volunteers will officially receive the award during today’s opening plenary between 2 and 4 p.m. MDT at the 2015 National Main Streets Conference in Atlanta.
Thayer launched Rawlins’ Main Street efforts in 2006.
”Nine years ago it was overwhelming, but as we moved through the steps, it became a little clearer,” Thayer said. ”And sitting through these classes (at the National Main Streets conference), all I can think about is how much more work we have to do.
”For me, the award represents filling up our tank. It’s getting the gas to keep us moving forward.”
Rawlins was a GAMSA semifinalist last year, a first for a Wyoming Main Street program member, and was given the inaugural One to Watch award. Wyoming Main Street is a Wyoming Business Council program.
“We are so proud Wyoming is home to the first GAMSA recipient in the northern Rocky Mountain region,” Business Council Chief Executive Officer Shawn Reese said. “Rawlins is an outstanding example of how a community can work together to achieve downtown development and enhanced quality of life.”
The National Main Street Center (NMSC) was created in 1980 as a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Each year, the NMSC recognizes the country’s best examples of comprehensive commercial district revitalization. Winners are selected from a nationwide pool of applicants by a national jury. Criteria include strength of the Main Street in creating an exciting place to live, work, play and visit; commitment to historic preservation; implementation of model partnerships, and demonstrated success of the Main Street Four-Point Approach®. There are more than 2,000 Main Street communities across the country.
“We are honored to receive this level of recognition,” Rawlins Mayor Robert Grauberger said. “All the hard work from Pam Thayer, the board of directors, and the volunteers, plus the support from the businesses, the community and the City of Rawlins are the reasons we have won this award. We are very proud.”
The town of about 10,000 people is located along Interstate 80 in south-central Wyoming. It was founded in 1867 when surveyors for the transcontinental railroad stopped for water. Hard times hit in the late 1990s and the downtown vacancy rate topped 50 percent. Since Rawlins joined the Wyoming Main Street program nine years ago, the downtown building vacancy rate dropped from 45 percent to 10 percent and 59 private and public rehabilitation projects were completed. The total dollars reinvested in the downtown district since 2008 is about $8.5 million.
Evidence of Rawlins’ can-do spirit is seen in the rehabilitation of the badly deteriorated Rainbow Te-ton buildings, which the Rawlins DDA/Main Street converted into an entrepreneurial center, and the Carbon Mercantile, a community-owned clothing store.
Since the 2014 National Main Streets Conference in Detroit, Rawlins completed a downtown streetscaping project, a public art sculpture project and passed an ordinance that changed the district’s zoning to allow for downtown living.
“Rawlins is a textbook example of how the health of a Main Street is so closely tied to the health of its small businesses,” National Main Street Center President and CEO Patrice Frey said. “Rawlins DDA/Main Street has done a tremendous job of nurturing existing businesses, attracting new enterprise and fostering a true entrepreneurial spirit.
“With the DDA/Main Street now set on creating more downtown housing and façade improvements, we have no doubt Rawlins will only continue to grow and thrive.”