Downtown Sykesville Connection has been selected as one of eight semifinalists for the national Great American Main Street Award, which recognizes exceptional communities across the country “whose successes serve as a model for comprehensive, preservation-based commercial district revitalization.”
Julie Della-Maria, executive director at Downtown Sykesville Connection, said it means a lot for the town to be selected as a semifinalist in the competition. She said most of the communities that made it to the semifinals are up to six times larger than Sykesville, which has a population of 4,700.
“[That’s] why we’re pretty excited and proud about having made it so far into the competition because it really is the biggest accolade we’ve ever had,” Della-Maria said.
In its application on the program’s website, Sykesville is described as a community that “features streets lined with restored storefronts and electric car chargers, historic sites and vibrant public art displays, and unique all-local culinary experiences inspired by the Patapsco River and railroad industry.”
The Main Street program was established in 1980 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as a way “to address the myriad issues facing older and historic downtowns,” according to its website. Since then the program has helped more than 2,000 communities across the country “bring economic vitality back downtown, while celebrating their historic character, and bringing communities together.”
Since the award’s inception in 1995, more than 100 Main Street programs have been honored.
Awardees are selected based on the strength of their Main Street program in spurring community transformation, commitment to historic preservation, innovative programming, implementation of cross-sector partnerships, community outreach and stakeholder engagement and commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, according to Main Street America, a program of the nonprofit National Main Street Center, Inc., a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
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A jury of professionals in the fields of community and economic development and historic preservation select the finalist communities.
Sykesville’s Main Street program is coordinated by four staff members, 11 board members and more than 200 volunteers who work together to improve the quality of life for the business community, residents and visitors in Downtown Sykesville, according to its website.
Some of the improvements Downtown Sykesville Connection has made during the past decade include the creation of a community garden, development of South Branch Skatepark, restoration of the Main Street sign and bike rack and sound system installations.
Dana Alonzi, board president at Downtown Sykesville Connection, said the organization will continue to work hard regardless of the outcome of the competition.
“I think we’re going to wind up wanting to push the limit really hard either way,” Alonzi said. “Either because we’ve won and it sort of fuels us to push or we won’t win and it’ll fuel us to push to apply again.”
Three winners will be recognized at the 2023 Main Street Now Conference in Boston, March 27-29.