Elm Street Program Operations

How Elm Street Works

The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) manages the Elm Street program. DCED accepts and either approves or rejects applications from communities for participation in the program. DCED also oversees the flow of state funding to communities receiving support for their Elm Street program.

PDC's Role in the Elm Street program

Elm St. operationsPennsylvania Downtown Center (PDC) is contracted by DCED to provide assessment, training, and technical assistance to Elm Street communities, similar in approach to PDC's support and involvement with the Main Street program and its participating communities. PDC's role in the Elm Street program particularly focuses on measuring and documenting Elm Street's ability to positively impact residential neighborhoods, and to advise DCED regarding its observations.

Customary sequencing of Elm Street funding and assistance includes the following:

  • Planning Grants: To be eligible for Elm Street designation, a community must have a formal revitalization plan that addresses all aspects of the Five-Point Approach. As such, most communities apply for an initial planning grant, which provides funding for development of a revitalization plan. Communities in possession of a DCED-approved revitalization plan may forgo the planning grant and apply directly for designation.
  • Elm Street Designation: To be eligible to receive formal designation, communities must submit their formal revitalization plan and completed program application DCED. Designation carries administrative and staffing funds, including support for an Elm Street manager position.
  • Residential Reinvestment Grants: These grants provide funds for physical improvements in neighborhoods. Elm Street designation is not currently required for eligibility. However, these funds are generally reserved for use in Elm Street communities, and as the number of designated communities grows, procurement of these funds by non-designated neighborhoods is becoming increasingly difficult.

In order to make the Elm Street program accessible to a wide variety of the commonwealth's neighborhoods, the thresholds are low for acquiring a planning grant. Neighborhoods that receive planning grants are entitled to receive guidance from PDC as they create their Elm Street plan, but not all communities that receive planning grants will go on to earn Elm Street designation. DCED requires that a neighborhood's Elm Street plan, as well as the planning process itself, meet relatively rigorous standards. Distribution of residential reinvestment grants and other resources offered to designated Elm Street programs is appropriately even more competitive than the designation process. This ensures that the Commonwealth's resources are strategically targeted and properly leveraged by highly competent community initiatives, while also keeping the door open for those that are just getting started and may need more assistance to achieve designation.