Isaac D. Kremer is a nationally recognized expert in the Main Street Approach to commercial district revitalization. This approach is comprehensive and incremental, emphasizing grassroots action in four areas — organization, promotion, design and economic vitality. He is a coaching leader who has successfully led revitalization programs throughout the U.S.
His interests in place started at a very young age while growing up in and around the Detroit area. His mother was a small business owner sparking his understanding and interest in finding ways to support small businesses. Through his undergraduate and graduate studies he explored these interests further.
Kremer secured more than $3.25 million in grants and has leveraged more than $195 million of investments. His work has been highlighted in over 30 national conferences. He has been a moderator, speaker or panelist for AARP Livable Communities, National Main Street Center, The Conservation Fund, International Downtown Association, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and others.
His writing has reached thousands of people, with articles he has written or contributed to being among the top read and shared by the National Main Street Center, NJ BIZ, and in other sources. Topics he has written on include tactical urbanism, historic preservation, community planning, and placemaking.
From 2008 to 2012 as executive director of the Oyster Bay Main Street Association, Kremer led the restoration of President Theodore Roosevelt’s hometown of Oyster Bay on Long Island. This resulted in more than a dozen building renovation projects. Most notable was the $2.5 million restoration of the 1854 Octagon Hotel where Roosevelt campaigned for governor.
Billy Joel at the 48x48x48 intervention (Photo credit: Mike Lydon)
While there he organized one of the first Better Block projects in the United States, working with residents to make low-cost changes to demonstrate the potential for long-term change. Famed musician and singer Billy Joel was among the participants in that project.
As executive director of Discover Downtown Middlesboro in Kentucky, Kremer attracted more than $1.1 million and mobilized hundreds of volunteers to build trails, encourage entrepreneurship and bring incremental change about through three more Better Block projects in 2013 and 2014.
Before and after photos of the Levitt AMP Middlesboro Pop-Up Park in Kentucky (Photo credit: Isaac Kremer)
Middlesboro won the national Levitt AMP [Your City] Grant award contest five times. This has helped to bring 10 free concerts to a neglected public space that was transformed through creative placemaking. Middlesboro was also named a Great American Main Street Award Semi-finalist and “One to Watch.”
In Metuchen he further built on this track record, leading a strategic planning process. Two “transformation strategies” were selected to guide the work of the organization. Over $170 million of private investment transformed the downtown since 2016. A total of 149 businesses opened and the vacancy rate reduced from over 20% to 4%.
During the pandemic Metuchen was able to provide over $750,000 of funding to directly support small businesses. Outdoor dining equipment, infrared heaters, and curbside pickup zones were just a few of the innovations. Since the start of the pandemic 53 new businesses have opened.
Public art has been another major initiative of the Alliance. After establishment of a Public Art Policy in 2017, several murals were commissioned by leading artists including Stephen Powers, Ariel Rutland, Edward Wetzel, and Raul Ayala.
His education and training includes a master’s degree in historic preservation planning from Cornell University and a bachelor of arts degree in economics and management from Albion College in Albion, Michigan. He also has certifications from Main Street America, National Development Center, and Project for Public Spaces.
Kremer lives with his wife and two boys in Metuchen, New Jersey. They purchased the ca. 1924 Sadie and Vanvert Tyrrell House in January 2020 and have been lovingly restoring it ever since. In his free time Isaac is a member of the Borough of Metuchen Historic Preservation Committee, sings in the St. Francis Cathedral Choir, serves on the Troop Committee for Metuchen BSA Troop 14, bakes cookies for the Fucille Foundation Cookie Walk, and grows several varieties of tomato plants from seed that he shares with family and friends.