Patrice Frey, the first president and CEO of the National Main Street Center, Inc., says that she is impressed with Edenton’s dedication to preserving old buildings for reuse as something new and different.
Frey, who began work in May, made the comment during a visit to Edenton last week, one of her first visits to a Main Street community since being named to the position. The center is a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
“I’m just so honored to have this position,” said Frey, who until recently headed the National Trust’s Sustainable Communities initiative. “This is an exciting time for Main Street because I think there’s an interest that people have in finding a sense of place in a community. That sense of place can be found in the character of buildings in a downtown area like Edenton’s.”
Frey said that the pride the people in Edenton take in preserving and maintaining their downtown area was evident to visitors like her.
“You can see that this is a community that takes a lot of pride in its downtown,” Frey said.
But Frey said that Edenton’s downtown was more than just beautiful. Equally significant, she said, was the fact that there are retail stores in place to serve the community’s needs for furniture, appliances, clothes and other things. Many towns are struggling, some not successfully, to maintain a vibrant downtown area to serve citizens and draw visitors, she said.
Frey traced her interest in the work of the National Trust and the Main Street Program back to her childhood days growing up in a Seattle, Washington suburb.
“I grew up in the seventies in a place that had very little character,” Frey said.
But an opportunity to serve as a Congressional Page when she was 16 landed her in Washington, D.C. She was amazed with what she saw.
“There were these beautiful buildings in an urban neighborhood so unlike anything I had seen before,” Frey said.
She knew she had found her mission — to bring that same beauty and sustainability to other parts of the country.
Determined to pursue that goal Frey graduated from the Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania with a Master’s degree in historic preservation with a focus on real estate design and development. For the last 15 years, she has been actively involved in the work of preservation, community development and sustainability.
On the strength of those skills she was named to lead the expansion of the Main Street Program through the center’s creation.
“Through the development of cutting-edge research, innovative policy solutions and technical tools that make it easier for people to reuse and green older buildings in our Sustainable Communities (initiative), Patrice has demonstrated that she has the vision and leadership skills to take Main Street to new heights,” National Trust President Stephanie Meeks said in a news release announcing Frey’s appointment.
Jennifer Harriss, director of Destination Downtown Edenton — the town’s Main Street program — said Frey’s visit meant a great deal to the local business community.
“This was a wonderful opportunity for Edenton and one we will not soon forget,” Harriss said. “We realize how fortunate we are to have such a vibrant downtown and we know that the Main Street Program plays a huge role in our success.”