Laramie Main Street Alliance Recognized for Revitalization Efforts
The Main Street Alliance honored for preservation-based work
- Published In: Other News & Features
- Last Updated: May 23, 2022
The Laramie Main Street Alliance recently received the Great American Main Street Award, which recognizes communities for their work in preservation-based commercial district revitalization. (Photo courtesy of the Laramie Main Street Alliance)
By Kristi Eaton
Special to the Wyoming Truth
An organization dedicated to preserving, revitalizing and highlighting local economic development and historic preservation in Laramie recently won a national award, an achievement that the organization’s director hopes will drive more visitors to the community and downtown district.
The Laramie Main Street Alliance was honored with the Great American Main Street Award, which recognizes communities for their work in preservation-based commercial district revitalization. A group of professionals and leaders in the fields of economic development and historic preservation selected Laramie.
“It feels like the Oscars of Main Street work,” Laramie Main Street Alliance Director Trey Sherwood said in an interview with the Wyoming Truth. “To be recognized at the national level for the best practices in revitalizing downtown is just a huge honor. But definitely, we want to leverage it to benefit all of our businesses and our community.”
Main Street America President and CEO Patrice Frey said Laramie’s “creative and thoughtful approach” has been inspiring.
“Their longstanding commitment to economic vitality and community-driven change ensure a promising future for the historic city,” Frey said in a statement.
Laramie is the state’s only university town, and it got an early start on Main Street work, beginning in the 1980s. However, it lacked coordination until 2005, when the Laramie Main Street Alliance formed and joined the Wyoming Main Street program. Since then, $21 million in public and private investments have spurred nearly 400 private rehabilitation projects and the creation of nearly 150 net new businesses and close to 700 net new jobs.
Two projects through the Laramie Main Street Alliance that received special attention were the Laramie Mural Project and an initiative known as Cowboy Cash— both of which address social justice and equity issues through storytelling and economic development.
The Laramie Mural Project is a collection of murals by local artists highlighting Laramie today.
“Main Street started the Mural Project in 2011,” Sherwood said. “And we did that as a partnership with the University of Wyoming Art Museum. We started to receive national recognition for that, just a few years into the project. But I think what is so unique is that we are engaging and paying our local artists to tell the story of Laramie and Laramie today.”
And the murals don’t gloss over Laramie’s history. The pieces include protesters at the Matthew Shepard trial, as well as a piece titled “Wild West Social Justice” that depicts the 14 Black football players who were kicked off the University of Wyoming team more than 50 years ago for wearing armbands to protest racism.
While the Mural Project is a celebration of place, Sherwood said, it also showcases parts of “Laramie’s history that we’re still sort of trying to reconcile with.”
Cowboy Cash, meanwhile, was created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, said Jennifer Power, communications coordinator for the Laramie Main Street Alliance. It offered University of Wyoming students gift certificates for downtown businesses and injected $40,000 into the local economy.
On-campus students who purchased a meal plan received $50 worth of gift certificates. UW pledged federal CARES Act money to fund the program to provide students with additional dining options and help offset the financial losses within the community.
In 2021, the organization distributed gift certificates for students to use at the bi-weekly farmer’s market, Power said.
“That was a way for them to explore the market, get to know downtown, and then use the gift certificates at downtown businesses,” Power added in an interview with the Wyoming Truth.
Sherwood said the work they do is place-based and grassroots.
“At the end of the day, our work is rooted in what the community wants and desires of their downtown,” she said. “And the idea that downtown is collectively owned and enjoyed by the community.”
As an economic development organization, Main Streets are unique because they use historic preservation, public art, storytelling and events as economic drivers, she said, adding, “I think the work on Main Street is more well-rounded, and it’s more inclusive to the community’s voice being reflected.”