Press Release – Main Street Sessions 2021

Radically Rural Main Street Sessions Consider the Post-Pandemic Downtown

Keene, NH – Experiencing what architect Rik Ekstrom calls “a new dimension,” small towns, emerging from a pandemic, are confronting an overhaul of what was once normal on their Main Streets. Ekstrom sees all of this upheaval as manageable, though not easy.

“The design process has to be founded in a ‘new economics’ that makes sense,” he says. “And hopefully the economics are as visionary as the design plan – that is where we will see change for the future driven.”

Ekstrom, the co-founder of ARExA, is this year’s leader for Radically Rural’s Main Street Track. He hopes to promote discussion around the long-term success of communities with downtowns at the core. Those who may find the Main Street sessions appealing are community organizers, business owners and entrepreneurs, municipal and city planners, developers, community leaders, and individuals interested in community-driven revitalization.

Here’s the program:
A Living Downtown: From CBD to DBC – 9/22 at 10:30 a.m.
Will our downtowns and village centers evolve from what we used to call the “Central Business District” to what we might more accurately refer to as the “Dedicated Biodiversity Commons?” Ekstrom will launch the Main Street program by identifying potential catalyst conditions that towns and small cities might seize upon, enhance and manipulate to more successfully transition to a future of interdependent, reactive and resilient build environments. Guest speakers will share their initiatives and planning guidelines, products and services that could be the backbone of the evolving downtown.

Co-Designing Main Street in the New Economy – 9/22 at 2:15 p.m.
Veteran public space advocates and facilitators Jessica Healy and Jessica Lax will discuss and demonstrate the value of the participatory-design process in solving any community’s design challenges. This session will provide a foundation on which government administrators, local leaders, and concerned citizens can build an effective process for driving economic and social well being. Attendees will leave with a strong understanding for how to enable community-led development.

Gathering in the Commons: Hosting Authentic Experiences in Rural Communities – 9/23 at 10:00 a.m.
This session will look at how rural and exurban communities might take advantage of the current post-vaccine excitement around IRL events and outdoor/natural environments to host gatherings to reinvigorate their local economies. Presenters will provide different perspectives, from long-time residents, local organizers and outside promoters, and debate the meaning of “success.” A panel discussion will address the growing importance of authenticity and meaningful connection at future gatherings, and the unique opportunities that small communities can take advantage of in providing these kinds of environments. Finally, participants will have the opportunity to weigh in on how Keene, NH has successfully/not successfully adapted to the Radically Rural Festival and how Radically Rural benefits from being hosted by Keene.

For more information on the Radically Rural, or this year’s track themes, visit the event’s website at
About Radically Rural:
The Radically Rural Summit is a national event that builds sustainability and success for rural life and places through a network that connects people to each other and to new ideas. Early bird price tickets are now on sale.

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