America Walks Presents at Main Street Now Conference

America Walks’ State and Local Program Director Ian Thomas attended the Main Street Now conference in Kansas City this week.  Hosted by Main Street America, this annual conference attracts more than 1,500 planners, economic development professionals, Main Street Managers, and others focused on preserving the historic character of cities and towns across the country, and promoting shared prosperity.

Over recent years, the synergy between walkable community design and the success of small and mid-size towns and business districts has become increasingly apparent.  During this week’s conference, Ian Thomas facilitated a 2-hour panel discussion and interactive problem-solving session that included Laura Torchio (Project for Public Spaces), Michael Wagler (Iowa State Main Street Coordinator), and Batesville, AR Mayor Rick Elumbaugh and Main Street President Bob Carius.  The presentations showcased three case studies of small (10,000 – 25,000) towns in rural states in which pedestrian-oriented streetscape and traffic calming projects on Main Street have catalyzed economic investment in these communities.

The conference also featured keynote speakers Gil Penalosa (founder of 8-80 Cities and former Parks Commissioner in Bogota, Colombia) and Melody Warnick, author of “This is Where You Belong: Finding Home Wherever You Are.”  Looking ahead, America Walks hopes to work more closely with the Main Street movement to expand safe, healthy, walkable, and vibrant rural communities.