Coming Soon!  Main Street Design Guide

November 1, 2021

The physical elements located in a commercial downtown district embody a community’s past, serve as a venue for its present, and contain the potential for its future vibrancy. Physical elements help to tell the story of the unique/diverse assets a community has to offer. 

The Iowa Downtown Resource Center (IDRC) is happy to announce that the newly created “Main Street Design Guide” will be available for download soon at

This guide was created to assist community stakeholders (local Main Street programs, business owners, developers, city officials, volunteers, etc.) in Iowa’s downtown commercial districts. 

This resource can be a great tool for any community interested in preserving and maintaining the historic character of its physical assets while embracing diversity, quality design, sustainability practices and accessibility for all. The guide can be adopted in addition to or in lieu of individual design guidelines already in place. 

Although it focuses on the design point of the Main Street AmericaTM Four Point Approach, the impact it can have on a community does not stop there. A successful approach to design positively impacts environmental sustainability, economic resiliency and social well-being.

This guide builds on the following core values:
  1. Retain and preserve the historic character of the district and individual properties. 
  2. Prioritize rehabilitation of existing buildings and repair of deteriorated materials and features over new construction or replacement. 
  3. Focus on maintenance to prevent the need for future, large-scale rehabilitation or demolition of properties.
  4. Maintain authenticity. Do not add features to a building that portray a false sense of history, such as ornamentation that never existed. Base any restoration efforts on documentation or physical evidence.
  5. Design for longevity. Quality materials and quality design contribute to resilience.
  6. Celebrate diversity. Main Street should be a place where everyone is included and feels welcome. Celebrating diversity – whether racial, ethnic, cultural, religious, generational, gender identity, sexual orientation or socioeconomic differences, among others – contributes to a rich and inviting experience for all visitors and helps set your community apart from others. 
  7. Provide for a living, breathing community. Retain changes to the building over time if they have positively contributed to the building. This means keeping changes that have gained their own historic significance or are necessary to keep the building occupied and thriving. 
  8. Consider your neighbor. Embark on improvements with adjacent buildings in mind. New construction should be compatible with the surrounding existing buildings.
  9. Follow sustainable practices. Sustainability is not only good for the environment but can provide cost savings over time.
  10. Ensure accessibility for all. Make sure all people can access and enjoy downtown regardless of their physical ability.

Questions? Contact Design Specialists Maia Fiala Jessen or Sarah Lembke

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