Main Streets using Google SketchUp for Historic Preservation

Wednesday, October 20, 2010 at 9:05 AM


Earlier in the year, we were approached by the National Trust for Historic Preservation to discuss how their member communities might leverage Google’s 3D modeling and visualization tools to support downtown revitalization programs. The concept for developing a digital model of a downtown area was conceptualized by the town of McMinnville, Tennessee, which was among the first small towns in the U.S. to organize a community modeling effort. With city budgets under pressure, the Trust was keen to explore how a community modeling approach could be expanded by downtowns across the nation.

The result was “Main Streets in 3D.” The concept was simple; a contest would be held among local Main Street programs where they would outline a vision for how their downtown would leverage a digital model. Five towns would be selected to receive a full day of training to develop 3D models of their downtown using SketchUp and Google Earth. The winning communities were announced in July.

Contest submissions varied from using the digital model for tourism promotion, to city planning, to creating an urban forestry plan – all ideal use-cases for having a publicly available 3D model. Despite the different goals, all five shared a common vision to use their Main Streets in 3D projects to attract entrepreneurs, jobs, investors, and visitors to their towns.



Igloo Studios, an authorized training center for SketchUp, coordinated with leaders in each community to schedule the training sessions. In early October, the last of the five communities gathered its volunteers to learn how to put their downtown on the digital map. Alex Oliver, CEO of Igloo Studios recently blogged about the experience.

With volunteers now trained, the project transitions to the development phase. Models such as these from Oregon City are beginning to appear in Google Earth.



All five communities will deliver a report on their progress at the National Main Streets conference in May 2011.

Posted by Bruce Polderman, Product Manager