The Elm Street program was created to strengthen older historic neighborhoods that characterize countless commonwealth communities. Today, these neighborhoods are too often beset by low property values, a negative image, and perceptions of poor public safety.
While Main Street programs have made positive changes in older downtowns, most community revitalization programs have failed to extend beyond the borders of a city or town's central business district in order to address the adjacent neighborhoods. As evidence shows, Main Streets surrounded by distressed neighborhoods continue to struggle, despite hard work on the part of downtown advocates. Sadly, this situation is not unique unto Pennsylvania.
The nation's urban neighborhoods have, since World War II, traditionally seen disinvestment, outmigration, the aftershocks of urban renewal, and more, challenge their vitality, leaving a swath of damaged communities that are no longer functioning well or, in turn, contributing to the health of nearby downtowns. These "core communities," made up of the downtown/Main Streets and their nearby neighborhoods, constitute a relatively untapped asset and together are the heartbeat of Pennsylvania's cities, towns, and boroughs.
Elm Street aims to improve the situation of Pennsylvania's urban neighborhoods while linking revitalization efforts to those in adjacent/nearby Main Streets/downtowns. With the long-established Main Street Program as a model, Elm Street as learned from some 40 years of experience by many successful and not-so-successful neighborhood revitalization programs throughout the nation. The Elm Street Concept is structured around simultaneous actions in five focus areas, integrated through a community-based strategic planning process. The elements of the so-called Five-Point Approach include:
- Safe, Clean and Green
- Neighbors and Economy
- Image & Identity
- Sustainable Organization
It is intended to operate in parallel cooperation with existing downtown or commercial corridor revitalization programs, including the Pennsylvania Main Street program. In this way, the fabric that connects healthier neighborhoods and more robust business districts can be rewoven.