Independent We Stand has chosen a winner for the 2017 “America’s Main Streets” contest. This year, MainStreet DeLand in DeLand, Florida, was the $25,000 winner. Independent We Stand said that as a top 10 finalist, DeLand, with a population of 27,031, stood out among other Main Streets after receiving more than 300,000 total votes nationwide.
Formed in 1985, the transformed an abandoned, rundown district with a more than 50 percent vacancy rate into a downtown area that is now at almost 100 percent capacity. The Association says they are dedicated to continuing downtown economic development while also preserving and promoting DeLand’s historic roots.
“Established Main Street organizations like the one in DeLand, with strong support from their community and independent businesses, fall right in line with the mission of Independent We Stand,” said Bill Brunelle, co-founder of Independent We Stand. “We can’t wait to see how MainStreet DeLand Association utilizes this prize and how it will impact independent businesses and the people who support them.”
DeLand was the first Florida community to receive the Main Street designation in 1985, and was also the first city in Florida to have electricity. The downtown also boasts galleries, shops and dozens of independent restaurants, with no big-box chains.
“For two or three — or even four or five years — we are going to benefit from winning this contest, and maybe even longer, it will bring us recognition we couldn’t put a price tag on,” said Wayne Carter, executive director of MainStreet DeLand Association. “When you come to DeLand you are going to get great food and find unique clothing, gifts and specialty items you can’t get at a big-box store.”
Carter has already developed a wish list for DeLand, with items both large and small. The highest priorities for now are a new website and a wireless speaker system to bring music to the area. The Association will announce their plans on spending the prize money during a “Main Streets Make Us Better” event in observance of the Fourth of July.
The 2017 semifinalists in alphabetical order are: