That is what a former president of the organization told the Rotary Club of Cleveland during its Thursday luncheon.
Doug Caywood, master principal of The Lewis Group architecture firm in Cleveland, served as the organization’s president in 2009-10 and has been actively involved for many years in assisting and helping develop ideas for the MainStreet program.
“My passion was to be in a downtown area and working to preserve the heart of Cleveland,” Caywood said.
He said there have been two new MainStreet communities formed within the last few weeks.
“That goes to show the vitality of wanting to develop downtowns,” Caywood said. “There are 29 MainStreet communities in Tennessee and we have been one for the last 24 years.”
He said of the 27 member communities in 2013, there were 647 net new jobs created in downtown areas, 126 public improvement projects and 173 net new housing units.
“That is $59.8 million that has been [brought in by] those projects statewide this past year,” Caywood said, adding there will be 14 new housing units (such as apartment complexes and other developments) in Cleveland this year.
Caywood said many know the MainStreet program from the events that are held downtown.
“The Cruise-in, the Farmers Market at the Museum Center at Five Points, Relay for Life Block Party, Christmas parade and the Evening Shade at Johnston Park have been long running for years and years,” he said.
The organization is now celebrating the 10th anniversary of its master plan.
“It gave us standards for park benches, lighting and sign posts,” he said. “It identified projects that were crucial in helping our downtown grow and improve functioning on a daily basis for pedestrians, people living downtown, people shopping and people working downtown.”
He noted the main projects have been the renovated Courthouse Square, the creation of First Street Square, streetscape improvements, new stop sign system and wayfinding programs throughout the city.
“There are many things you may have taken for granted and not known MainStreet Cleveland was instrumental in getting done,” Caywood said.
Contrasting the area’s landscape to that of just a couple of decades ago can be enlightening, he said.
“To think back to what it looked like in 1994 and what it looks like now, until you have a 75-slide presentation, would you have thought that much has happened in the last 20 years?” he asked.
He said putting the program together was surprising to him as to how much had happened in that period of time.
Main Street Cleveland Executive Director Sharon Marr gave a brief overview of the organization before introducing Caywood.