Laramie by June Glasson, a “paint by number” mural completed in 2017. Credit: Laramie Main Street Alliance.
“Laramie’s creative and thoughtful approach to development has been inspiring to witness,” said Main Street America President and CEO, Patrice Frey. “Their longstanding commitment to economic vitality and community-driven change ensure a promising future for the historic city.”
Sitting along the Union Pacific Railroad Line, Laramie is Wyoming’s only university town. In the 1980s, a group of concerned business and property owners adopted and implemented aspects of The Main Street Approach. Unfortunately, this early work lacked coordination until 2005, when Laramie Main Street Alliance was founded and joined the Wyoming Main Street program. Over the span of the following 17 years, and in partnership with the city, LMSA’s revitalization efforts have created a climate that has resulted in more than $21 million in public and private investment, 398 private rehabilitation projects, and the creation of 148 net new businesses and 689 net new jobs.
“Laramie Main Street Alliance has shown that it takes perseverance, support from all areas of the community, and tireless work from volunteers and staff to make downtown thrive,” said Kayla Kler, Main Street Program Manager at the Wyoming Business Council. “For Laramie to serve as a leader in downtown accessibility and entrepreneurship is incredibly encouraging for the future of our Wyoming communities.”
Left: A storefront and sidewalk display in downtown Laramie. Right: Residents enjoying Small Business Saturday festivities. Credit: Laramie Main Street Alliance.
Laramie Main Street Alliance’s success is credited to the organization’s strong culture of lifelong learning, service, and community connection. One example of this ethos in action is evident in LMSA’s volunteer program, which is guided by a desire to facilitate mutually beneficial opportunities that support the organization’s transformation strategies while allowing volunteers to achieve personal goals. As a result, LMSA volunteers—from board members to University of Wyoming students—have logged 59,024 hours of service valued at over $1.2 million since 2005. The return on investment of the LMSA volunteer program also includes robust intern and mentee programs, whose participants remain engaged and successfully contribute to the community as graduate students, employees at local businesses, and as entrepreneurs themselves.
The development of the Empress is perhaps Laramie’s proudest achievement to date. Completed in 2018, this mixed-use retail and residential building replaced a large vacant lot in the center of downtown with Big Hollow Food Co-Op, a locally owned grocery store. In addition to being the first infill project of its kind in downtown Laramie, the project is on the vanguard of the community’s efforts to increase access to fresh produce and affordable housing.
LMSA is poised and ready for their next large infrastructure investment, a streetscape project called “3,2,1… Third Street!” that will remove the biggest barrier to downtown revitalization by enhancing the eight blocks of US Highway 287 that runs through the district. When complete in 2026, the businesses, residents, and visitors will benefit from a pedestrian-friendly Third Street that features public art, new lighting, improved wayfinding, and ADA-upgrades.Left: Community members strolling on a downtown Laramie street. Credit: Laramie Main Street Alliance. Right: Colorful mural featuring fish, rainbows, and hands. Credit: BHP Imaging.
The next phase of transformation will build upon LMSA’s successful collaboration-based strategies, such as the Laramie Mural Project, which has facilitated 27 mural installations, and the Cowboy Cash program, a pandemic-response initiative that offered University of Wyoming students gift certificates for downtown businesses and injected $40,000 into the local economy.Women on horseback at Laramie Jubilee Day, 2018. Credit: Sydney Edwards.
“We are thrilled that our work is being celebrated at a national level,” said Trey Sherwood, Director at Laramie Main Street Alliance. “We intend to leverage our GAMSA win to engage a broader audience in the Main Street movement and cultivate new customers for our businesses. We share this recognition with our partners, donors and volunteers who have invested in downtown’s beautification, preservation, economic and social vitality.”