Work at the National Trust for Historic Preservation

Director of Research, National Main Street Center

Department: National Main Street Center
Location: Chicago, IL


Over the past 40 years, the National Main Street Center (NMSC) Ė a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation Ė has led a transformational movement, working with 2000+ communities around the country to revitalize and re-energize their older and historic downtown commercial districts.The NMSCís two core programs for supporting community revitalization efforts are Main Street America and UrbanMain.

Through these programs, we are dedicated to helping communities understand the connection between creating quality places and economic competitiveness and equipping them with the tools to make that connection a reality. Since its inception, the NMSCís approach has earned a reputation as one of the most powerful community-based economic development tools in the nation, generating over $79 billion in reinvestment in downtown areas.

NMSC is a small, geographically dispersed team. This dynamic group is passionate about Main Streetís mission, with ambitions to significantly scale and deepen our impact in communities across the country. We are results-driven, high-performing, and exceptionally team-oriented. Several of our staff have young children or elder care responsibilities, and we strive to make our organization one in which team members can thrive in both their professional and personal lives by offering flexible work arrangements, including telecommuting.

The National Main Street Centerís new research platform focuses on making the case for the economic potential of Main Streets, as well as identifying and deploying strategies that contribute to that economic potential.

This position will be a key team member contributing to the work of the Bass Center for Transformative Placemaking, of which the National Main Street Center is a partner. He or She will play a lead role in developing and executing research projects that advance the National Main Street Centerís work within the Bass Center to demonstrate the economic and fiscal impact of the Main Street program, and to identify and showcase effective strategies for creating more sustainable and inclusive economies.

An ideal candidate will have a deep knowledge of local economic development issues and have qualitative and quantitative research experience in the field. This is a new position within the National Main Street Center and is an excellent opportunity for a recent PhD graduate to apply their research interests at a national level.

This is a full time, benefits eligible position, initially supported by outside funding for the first two years, with extension contingent on continuation of funding.  The preferred location would be the Main Street Center's main office in Chicago, but other locations may be considered. 


Research and Writing

  • Work strategically with Main Street Bass Center senior staff to oversee and execute the work of the center;
  • Lead development of research methodology for in-depth case studies on rural entrepreneurship;
  • Conduct site visits for case studies;
  • Lead content development for case studies;
  • Conduct literature review on topics related to commercial district revitalization, rural entrepreneurship
  • Contribute to Main Street and Bass Center content efforts, including authoring and co-authoring briefs research briefs and articles, as well as reviewing and editing content for publication;
  • Conduct qualitative and quantitative analysis on specific placemaking and economic development topics via interviews with stakeholders, literature reviews, and situating issues within larger commercial district revitalization and economic development topics;
  • Support analysis and development of methodology for analysis of Main Street Americaís database of GIS;
  • Monitor, analyze, and report on emerging policy and research issues by regularly reviewing relevant sources;
  • Work with Vice President of Revitalization Programs in shaping NMSC's overall research approach, question development, and methodology;
  • Contribute to conceptual research on how to measure and quantify the factors that create more economically sustainable and inclusive communities, with focus on place-based factors.
  • Guide development of conference presentation materials on research topics and present at or attend conferences, as needed.

Project Management

  • Working with the Main Street Bass Center team, manage the workflow of various center activities and projects including prioritizing work, determining next steps, and preparing status reports.
  • Play a key role in stakeholder meeting and projects relating to project deliverables and objectives.


Qualified candidates must be comfortable taking a leading role at the forefront of research on the field of commercial district revitalization. They must be aware of research, trends, and literature in the field of rural and urban economic development and placemaking, and able to deploy creative and critical thinking on how to most effectively measure, document, and communicate data related to those topics.

Relevant skill sets include:

  • At least 10 years of overall professional level experience, including experience with budgeting, supervising professionals and leading teams to generate high quality results.
  • At least 3 years of experience managing large, cross-functional projects and teams, preferably within a national level non-profit setting.
  • Experience and comfort working across multiple desktop and web-based GIS applications and statistical packages.
  • Demonstrated ability to produce powerful infographics and other data visualizations that communicate complex data in an intuitive and easily understood way. Top candidates will have experience working in multiple data visualization software platforms.
  • Demonstrated ability to think critically and creatively to formulate and execute innovative research methodologies and strategies for data collection and analysis.
  • Extensive familiarity with publicly available datasets, including but not limited to the realm of buildings, streets, utilities, businesses, sales, real estate values, real estate finance, demographics, employment, income, energy and water use.
  • Familiarity with advanced economic development and real estate concepts. A broad understanding of the larger context of urban and rural policy, sustainability policy, smart growth, and district-level thinking in which the National Main Street Center operates.
  • Demonstrated thought leadership and ability to think strategically in both technical and practical context. Ability to generate new ideas, and to think creatively about how best to most effectively and strategically link the National Main Street Centerís work with that of other partners, and to tackle research questions in the most resource-efficient way possible.
  • Advanced analytical and problem solving skills, including issue identification and prioritization.
  • Advanced project-management skills and demonstrated ability to complete multiple complex and robust project, implementing independently and achieving results with limited supervision.
  • Proven ability to collaborate across divisions to implement processes and achieve results. Track record of building and maintaining productive relationships with multiple stakeholders. Public contact and ability to work successfully in close proximity to others required.
  • Ability to prioritize, multi-task efficiently and respond to a high volume of ongoing requests in a timely fashion.  Ability to adapt and be flexible in a dynamic work environment. Ability to work effectively with frequent interruptions required. Able to handle frequently changing and/or unscheduled tasks with accuracy.
  • Entrepreneurial spirit and skill set desired, with ability to help identify opportunities for growth with a potential for follow-on business.
  • Effective presentation skills. Excellent verbal and written communication skills, with experience leading conference panels and address large audiences.
  • Demonstrated success in engaging culturally diverse audiences, partners and colleagues.
  • In addition to specific software skills above, Intermediate knowledge of Microsoft Word, Excel PowerPoint and other Microsoft products, with proven ability to continually develop skills related to use of rapidly changing technology and communications best practices.
  • Willingness to travel within North America.
  • Masterís degree in geography, urban studies, economics, public policy, or related fields. PhD preferred but not required.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation an equal opportunity organization and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, sexual orientation, veteran status, or disability.  The National Trust for Historic Preservation  actively seeks opportunities to include members of these groups in its programs and activities.

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