Should We Let Main Streets Disappear?

Kaid Benfield pens a provocative column in which he suggests that the traditional American Main Street is a thing of the past, and may no longer fit our modern retail economy. Are traditional main streets still worth preserving and emulating?
February 4, 2013, 2pm PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Allan Ferguson

While he stops short of suggesting it would be better to let small town main streets fade rather than focus resources on preserving and invigorating them, Benfield is clearly conflicted about whether traditional main streets, and not just the concept of "Main Street," still have a role to play in the retail and cultural future of America. 

Traditional main streets, he argues, are "now something that used to be, much more than something that is....Even the Main Streets that are relatively healthy today evoke the past, not the present."

"The places in America that still have successful Main Streets likely have special economic circumstances, such as a tourist economy, a truly remote location, or a surrounding or nearby wealthy suburb whose residents like the historic, walkable atmosphere for certain occasions but go to the mall or a big-box to buy clothing or electronics."

While he states at the outset that he "sometimes [thinks] the traditional American Main Street is a terrific model worth preserving and emulating," he concludes that if "[t]here’s no need for a horse-and-buggy or an icebox anymore; maybe we no longer need a barbershop next to a children’s clothing store next to an insurance office, either."

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Published on Monday, February 4, 2013 in NRDC Switchboard
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