Sterling Main Street designated as an accredited Main Street America program

Community members walking around the Sterling Marketplace on Sunday, May 5, to marvel at the vehicles on display at Sterling's 11th annual car show.

STERLINGSterling Main Street has been designated as an accredited Main Street America program for the 15th year in a row, recognizing its commitment to preservation-based economic development and community revitalization.

“Having originally received accreditation in 2009, when Sterling Main Street became a designated Illinois Main Street community, and having maintained accreditation every year since is a testament to our organization’s commitment to the ongoing revitalization of downtown Sterling,” Sterling Main Street Executive Director Janna Groharing said in a joint news release from Main Street America and Sterling Main Street.

Main Street America is a movement dedicated to revitalizing historic downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts. It collaborates with a network of coordinating programs and community main street programs, including Illinois Main Street and Sterling Main Street. Each year, Main Street America designates each program as either affiliate status or accredited status. Of the two, accredited status is the top designation a program can receive.

To quality for accredited status, programs must demonstrate a proven track record of achieving outcomes in alignment with the Main Street approach, Main Street America’s framework for community-driven revitalization. Also, communities must show exceptional performance in six areas: broad-based community commitment to revitalization, inclusive leadership and organizational capacity, diversified funding and sustainable program operations, strategy-driven programming, preservation-based economic development, and demonstrated impact and results.

Sterling Main Street’s performance was evaluated through assessments conducted by the organization’s personnel and board of directors as well as Illinois Main Street.

In 2023, the Main Street America programs generated $5.68 billion in local reinvestment, helped open 6,630 new businesses, facilitated the creation of 35,162 new jobs, aided in the rehabilitation of 10,556 historic buildings, and logged a total of 1,664,763 volunteer hours. On average, for every dollar that a Main Street program spends to support its operations, it generates $18.03 in new investment back into the community, according to the release.

For Sterling Main Street throughout 2023 and into 2024, “all of the events continue to grow” and “more and more people are getting involved,” Groharing said in an interview with Shaw Local.

In 2023, they sealed six historical murals to prevent deterioration: the Sterling Hydraulic Co., Old Downtown, the Lady Zouaves, the Secret Six, First Avenue Bridge and the First City Hall and Fire Station.

"The First City Hall and Fire Station." painted by Gary Kirby in 1998, is one of Sterling's official murals and can be viewed at the Sterling Fire Department's main station at 110 W. Fifth St. For a self-guided map and walking tour of the rest of the murals, go to Sterling Main Street's website, sterlingmainstreet.org.

Additionally, they’ve “seen an incredible amount of growth in the farmers market and the pop-up markets,” Groharing said.

In 2024, Sterling Main Street drew the largest crowd to date for its annual car show May 5, with 180 vehicles registered for the event.

Groharing credits Sterling Main Street’s continued success to its board of directors.

“We have a really good group of people,” she said.

As an accredited Main Street America program, Sterling Main Street is a recognized program among the network of individuals and organizations who share a commitment to building stronger communities through place-based economic development, according to the release.

The accreditation status is “like a badge of honor.” Programs within this designation get access to special resources and training from Main Street America, Groharing said.

“Main Street leaders are visionaries that see things that no one else can see and create the future world we all want to live in,” Main Street America President and CEO Erin Barnes said in the release. “The size and impact of our network demonstrates that great things happen when visions are realized through strategic, grassroots collaboration.”

Payton Felix

Payton Felix

Payton Felix reports on local news in the Sauk Valley for the Shaw Local News Network. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago in May of 2023.