Main Street Holland, Michigan
Main Street Holland, Michigan
Principle: Foster Distinctive, Attractive Communities with a Strong Sense of Place
In a nutshell: Founded on the shores of Lake Michigan by Dutch settlers nearly two centuries ago, Holland, Michigan (population 33,000), retains the charm of its celebrated Dutch heritage while embracing new approaches to community development.
Holland’s comeback started with a main street approach in the 1970s as the town was suffering disinvestment due suburban growth on its edges. Streetscape improvements, free design assistance for businesses coupled with low-interest loans, and Snowmelt, an underground heating system that keeps the sidewalks, streets and parking areas snow- and ice-free, are just some of the factors that revitalized Main Street Holland. The approach paid off, and today Holland boasts a desirable year-round downtown with myriad shops, restaurants, pocket parks and housing choices that include high rise senior living and apartments above storefronts.
Why we like it: By embracing its past, Holland has created a bright future for its downtown. When the town began redevelopment efforts in the 1970s, it was among the first to use historic preservation as an economic development strategy. The preservation of the Tower Clock building, restoration of the Amtrak Railroad Station, conversion of an old Post Office into the Holland Museum and Hope College’s restoration of the Knickerbocker Theatre, all helped Holland maintain its unique character while giving downtown the facelift it needed and attracting new businesses.
Holland is home to an early 18th century operating windmill imported from the Netherlands, millions of tulips in the springtime, the award-winning annual Tulip Time Festival and a traditional scrubbing of the streets by Hollanders, all of which resurrect and celebrate the town’s rich Dutch history.
After the National Trust for Historic Preservation named Holland a Great American Main Street in 1997, the town continued to grow in population and in retail, boasting 33,000 residents and less than one percent retail vacancy downtown. With a variety of housing and retail options, Holland is a vibrant Main Street year-round.
Public commitment to enhancing, among other things, a distinctive sense of place has paid off. According to the Downtown Holland Master Plan, between 1988 and 1994, public and private investment in Downtown Holland totaled $4 million and $65 million, respectively. Between 1995 and 2006, those figures increased to $79 million and $156 million.
For more information:
- National Civic League’s All-America City Award, 1996
- Great American Main Street Award Winner, 1997
- National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Dozen Distinctive Destinations, 2002
- “Top Five Best Places to Retire” – Money Magazine, 2006
- Forbes Magazine “America’s Prettiest Towns“
- #2 Happiest, Healthiest Place to Live in America– Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index
- “Top Ten Cities” – Nest Egg Index, A.G. Edwards
- “Top Five Safest Cities in the U.S.” – Forbes Magazine
- #2 “19 Most Beautiful Small Towns in America” – Impulcity
- #3 “Top Ten Best Places for Families” – Livability
- Tree City USA, National Arbor Day Foundation
- USA Today named Dutch Winterfest as the “Best Place to Catch a Winter Carnival”
And Holland’s famous Tulip Time Festival has received numerous awards, including:
- USA Today’S 2016 Best Flower Festival
- One of the Top 100 Events in North America- American Bus Association
- One of the Top 100 Events of the Year- weather.com
- Best Small Town Festival- Reader’s Digest