According to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, revitalization programs have to create a special sense of place to draw people back into town centers. The Trust recognizes that old central business districts can’t compete with Wal-Mart on price and commodity type products, but they can compete on the ambience created by our turn-of-the-century town centers. Thus the Trust makes historic preservation an important part of its main streets program and uses those attractive structures to create an ambience for specialty shops that will have a competitive edge.
One of the things the town will have to think about, as it gets basic issues like perceptions about safety under control, is how it’s going to create that special sense of place. So many of its historic structures have been lost that this will be another challenge for planners. Take a look at this 1977 photo of a parade coming down North Street. Notice all the buildings that have been lost in that block in the past 30 years, mostly to paved lots for more parking spaces.