About WMS

Our Mission Statement

Stimulate the physical, economic and cultural vitality of downtown Waukegan and the lakefront through community and business partnerships.

Our Strategic Plan 2015 – 2018


What is “Main Street”?

For over 30 years, the Main Street movement, sponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, has helped cities and towns all over the country to focus on the revitalization of their downtown neighborhoods. The National Trust Main Street Center is the driving force behind the more than 2,000 programs that use the proven Main Street Approach® to rebuild and reinvent the heart of their communities.

Waukegan was designated an Illinois Main Street Community in March, 2002, after meeting a rigorous set of guidelines. Waukegan Main Street (WMS) employs a full-time, professional executive director, who works with the Board of Directors and many other committed individuals, all volunteers, to implement the Main Street Approach. As a not-for-profit 501 (c) (3) organization, WMS receives support from all sectors of the community: residents, small business owners, property owners, developers, the City of Waukegan, and other entities (such as the Park District, Port District, Public Library, etc.). These partnerships have helped WMS to lead the way toward a more vibrant downtown that is drawing people and activities back to its core.



All Main Street programs operate under this unique preservation-based economic development tool, an approach to revitalization which leverages local assets to revitalize older, struggling downtowns. The four points of the Main Street Approach® are the basis for the four standing committees which, coordinated by the executive director, accomplish the work of the organization.

Organization Committee volunteers work with the executive director to recruit, train, and motivate volunteers as well as assist the Board with fundraising efforts.

Promotions Committee volunteers focus on “selling” the downtown by creating special events, marketing campaigns, and retail promotions to communicate its uniqueness to visitors and potential investors.

Design Committee volunteers help to create an inviting downtown environment by paying attention to the “look” of its buildings, storefronts, signs, public spaces, street furniture, landscaping, etc.

Economic Restructuring Committee volunteers seek to strengthen existing businesses while attracting new businesses that fit the downtown’s unique market niche.


Eight Guiding Principles

  • Comprehensive: No single focus — lavish public improvements, name-brand business recruitment, or endless promotional events — can revitalize Main Street. For successful, sustainable, long-term revitalization, a comprehensive approach, including activity in each of Main Street’s Four Points, is essential.


  • Incremental: Baby steps come before walking. Successful revitalization programs begin with basic, simple activities that demonstrate that “new things are happening ” in the commercial district. As public confidence in the Main Street district grows and participants’ understanding of the revitalization process becomes more sophisticated, Main Street is able to tackle increasingly complex problems and more ambitious projects. This incremental change leads to much longer-lasting and dramatic positive change in the Main Street area.


  • Self-help: No one else will save your Main Street. Local leaders must have the will and desire to mobilize local resources and talent. That means convincing residents and business owners of the rewards they’ll reap by investing time and money in Main Street — the heart of their community. Only local leadership can produce long-term success by fostering and demonstrating community involvement and commitment to the revitalization effort.


  • Partnerships: Both the public and private sectors have a vital interest in the district and must work together to achieve common goals of Main Street’s revitalization. Each sector has a role to play and each must understand the other’s strengths and limitations in order to forge an effective partnership.


  • Identifying and capitalizing on existing assets: Business districts must capitalize on the assets that make them unique. Every district has unique qualities like distinctive buildings and human scale that give people a sense of belonging. These local assets must serve as the foundation for all aspects of the revitalization program.


  • Quality: Emphasize quality in every aspect of the revitalization program. This applies to all elements of the process — from storefront designs to promotional campaigns to educational programs. Shoestring budgets and “cut and paste” efforts reinforce a negative image of the commercial district. Instead, concentrate on quality projects over quantity.


  • Change: Skeptics turn into believers and attitudes on Main Street will turn around. At first, almost no one believes Main Street can really turn around. Changes in attitude and practice are slow but definite — public support for change will build as the Main Street program grows and consistently meets its goals. Change also means engaging in better business practices, altering ways of thinking, and improving the physical appearance of the commercial district. A carefully planned Main Street program will help shift public perceptions and practices to support and sustain the revitalization process.


  • Implementation: To succeed, Main Street must show visible results that can only come from completing projects. Frequent, visible changes are a reminder that the revitalization effort is under way and succeeding. Small projects at the beginning of the program pave the way for larger ones as the revitalization effort matures, and that constant revitalization activity creates confidence in the Main Street program and ever-greater levels of participation.


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