Finding Main Street Toolkit Available

The full book club toolkit for Dar Williams’ What I Found in a Thousand Towns is now available! Use the toolkit to build “positive proximity,” and start local conversations around the key identity-building assets in your community–who knows what next steps you will take.

What I Found in a Thousand Towns emphasizes the role of projects and individuals in fostering strong community identity. Each chapter features a different group of assets ranging from local food to community spaces. The structure provides an opportunity for Main Street districts to convene and highlight a diverse group of partners, celebrating their work, strengthening alliances and inviting new participants.

Identify potential projects as a result and apply to pitch them for project funding in the 2019 Idea Pitch at Downtown Intersections.

fms tools

HOW TO GET INVOLVED: Invite a local book club, library or civic group to partner with your Main Street. Create some buzz reinforcing the value of the work you are doing. Using the Virginia videos and examples from the book, shine a celebratory light on your own local efforts and community partners. With the toolkit, you can pretty easily set up your own informal mini-conference.  Contact Doug Jackson at (804) 418-9878 or Douglas.Jackson@dhcd.virginia.gov for assistance and brainstorming support.

Afraid you do not have enough readers? Do not worry, you can use the videos to supplement and start the conversation. Launched throughout the fall of 2018 via Facebook Live conversations, the chapter videos have received more than 20,000 views on Facebook. In 2019, DHCD will promote the videos through a Finding Main Street social media campaign featuring quotes and images from the interviews conducted as part of the project with more than 80 Main Street leaders. This campaign will lead up to the 2019 Downtown Intersections and the Idea Pitch competition.

 

 

What is a “brownfield?”

Often, we think of brownfields as large industrial properties with environmental contamination and hazardous materials. However, a broader definition includes real property, the expansion, redevelopment or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant. This means that the Virginia Brownfield Restoration and Economic Development Assistance Fund (VBAF), administered by the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) in coordination with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), may be able to assist with funding to overcome environmental concerns for gateway or downtown commercial district properties.

Mutual Pharmacy, Big Stone Gap

The town of Big Stone Gap is utilizing these resources in the redevelopment of the Mutual Pharmacy that closed in 2013, with the VBAF funds going specifically to remove asbestos and lead-based paint. Along with DHCD funding from both the Industrial Revitalization Fund (IRF) and Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), as well as the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority, for construction, Big Stone Gap will transform the Mutual Pharmacy building into a restaurant and bar space with upper-story, short-term lodging in order to draw locals and visitors downtown for outdoor events and unique food, thereby increasing tourism to the area.

Mutual Pharmacy building(interior) after remediation

Once the revitalization is complete, approximately 25 jobs will be created and serve as a catalyst to bring additional business investment in downtown Big Stone Gap.

Funds from VBAF can be applied to site assessments and planning or remediation. For local government entities, planning and assessment grants are available up to $50,000 on a rolling basis as funding is available. Remediation grants up to $500,000 are available when announced on a competitive basis. Both funds require a dollar-for-dollar match. In addition, there are other great opportunities available to pursue from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) brownfields funding that are open until Jan. 31.

If you would like more information on these programs or to see if your project qualifies, contact DEQ’s Vincent Maiden, brownfields program coordinator, at Vincent.Maiden@DEQ.Virginia.gov or 804-698-4064.

Resources:

Virginia DEQ Brownfields Program

https://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/LandProtectionRevitalization/RemediationProgram/Brownfields.aspx

EPA Region 3 Brownfields Assistance

https://www.epa.gov/brownfields/brownfields-and-land-revitalization-delaware-maryland-pennsylvania-virginia-west

Town of Big Stone Gap

http://www.bigstonegap.org/

Transform Ordinary Downtowns into Successful Destinations

Downtown Wytheville, Virginia

How do you feel about free assistance to generate new ideas for attracting visitors to downtown? How about an added layer of resources to complement your Main Street America membership services and make it just that much easier to improve downtown?

For 30 years, veteran Main Street partner Roger Brooks has helped thousands of people transform ordinary communities, downtowns, businesses and attractions into incredibly successful destinations.  Within the last few years, Brooks launched the Destination Development Association to bring together everyone with that same passion to share resources, ideas, expertise and to connect with one another in a single place.

The association gives local businesses, Main Street nonprofits and tourism organizations access to a wide range of information, how-tos and data that will help create an outstanding destination for residents, visitors and investors alike.  Go from drab to fab!

This is not a sales pitch! This is a note to inform you that Roger Brooks is offering a one-year FREE membership to the Destination Development Association with access to monthly webinars, discussion rooms and dozens of videos on everything from branding and marketing to wayfinding signage.  Registration for the first 2019 webinar is currently open, Increasing Retail Sales Part 2, which will take place on Jan. 23, at 11:30 a.m. EST.  Part 1 is available to watch now!

Check out the resources here and decide for yourself >>>

 

Update: VMS Idea Pitch! Winner – Blackstone

Guest blogger Zachary Whitlow, executive director of Downtown Blackstone Inc., provides an update on their Blackstone Town Square Revitalization Project that won the VMS Idea Pitch! Award at Downtown Intersections 2018.

We were incredibly excited and grateful to have been chosen as the winner of the first annual Main Street Idea Pitch! competition. The presentation process could not have been better organized, and, even though nerves were felt, all participants were made to feel heard and welcomed among dozens of peers and fellow Main Street colleagues. It was truly a great and fun opportunity for our small, rural Main Street community to receive help in funding a downtown revitalization project that demonstrated our value to key stakeholders and others.

The Blackstone Town Square Revitalization Project was inspired by Dar Williams, author of “What I Found in a Thousand Towns,” and her exploration of spaces and positive proximity. Through design efforts focused on place-making, our organization transformed Blackstone’s underutilized town square into a more people-centered space that stresses inclusiveness, allowing residents and visitors alike to socialize and build ongoing, permanent relationships.

Utilizing the $5,000 award, we reanimated the social utility of the green space by installing outdoor seating areas, planters and trash receptacles. Through use of our own funds and the VTC’s LOVEwork Reimbursement Program, a 17’ x 32’ destination mural and LOVEwork were created. They are meant to serve as two major lures for visitors and residents to interact with through the use of social media and other means in the heart of downtown Blackstone.

We’ve placed a real emphasis on downtown beautification over the past year and the Blackstone Town Square Revitalization Project has served as a much needed catalyst that has inspired neighboring property owners and others to begin making exterior improvements and other design-related changes to their buildings. Although our initial goals for the revitalization project have been met, there is still additions that we are planning to make in the future that will enhance the space even more. Our dreams are becoming a reality!

For the New Year, Practice an Attitude of Gratitude

Traditionally, when one year wraps up and a new one begins, we, as individuals, start thinking forward in resolutions.  It’s no different for Main Street nonprofits, as a new work plan provides the blueprint for the change the board of directors envisions for the district.  It is no doubt a great idea to start off inspired and motivated with a laid out path.  However, before moving on, take a moment to reflect on the past year and express gratitude to the nonprofit’s donors, especially important following year-end gifts.

“Thank you”—these two simple words can make or break the relationship between an organization and its donors.  Most nonprofits know how important it is to send acknowledgment letters after receiving gifts. But, to truly engage and retain donors, we need to practice an attitude of gratitude to ensure that our donors feel appreciated and our board members are excited about fundraising—a win-win for any nonprofit!

The experts at #networkforgood have you covered with 10 creative donor thank you ideas.  They say “periodic expressions of your gratitude can do so much to build the relationship between your organization and your donors; especially when they are thoughtful and unexpected. Use these 10 ideas to spark your creativity and generate new ways to say thank you to your donors.”

Check out the 10 ideas>>>

We hope you enjoyed your holidays, and happy new year!

Recognizing the Hard Work on Main Street: Gloucester’s Village Corridor Enhancement Project

Virginia Main Street Merit Awards recognize the hard work, dedication and success of Virginia’s Main Street communities and their achievements across the four points of the Main Street Approach®.  This is the fifth in a blog series to highlight each of the seven 2018 awards. Heads up, the 2019 Merit Awards nominations will be open early in the new year. Whether a DHCD Commercial District Affiliate or VMS Designated Community, start thinking about your program’s recent achievements.  We want to hear all about them!  

The “Best Downtown Public Improvement Project” award is given to the community that has implemented a design project in the public sphere.  A focus on quality design supports a community’s revitalization by enhancing the physical elements of downtown while capitalizing on the unique assets that set the commercial district apart.  Gloucester’s Main Street Preservation Trust Executive Director Jenny Crittenden accepted the award for their Village Corridor Enhancement Project.

The 2009 Gloucester Court House Village Plan plan recommended that the trust lead the charge to improve the two gateways leading to the Main Street commercial district.  The goal was to provide visual continuity between the gateways and to attract visitors to downtown shopping, dining, and historic sites.

The first phase of the project included the installation of 11 banner poles, the new Virginia Main Street sign, landscaping and brick pavers.  Additionally, the trust and environmental planning firm VHB Inc. worked with the county and local garden club to relocate existing public art to the sites and planted 8,000 daffodils, daylilies, roses and native ornamental grasses.

Where people may have driven by the understated gateways to Main Street in the past, they now look and turn to see what is beckoning them.  This project sends the message that the community invests in the downtown, much like its business and property owners do with their buildings.

Congratulations to Gloucester’s Main Street Preservation Trust and local partners!

Walking in a Main Street Wonderland: Celebrating the Holidays in Virginia

If you are looking for the holiday spirit, look no further than Virginia’s Main Streets.  Whether a holiday shopping promotion, a tree lighting, or a downtown evening carriage ride, there is a special experience just for you and your family.  Our partners at #VirginiaTourism make sure you can plan this season’s special moments with the greatest of ease through event listings and search engines. Here are a few highlights of what Virginia’s charming towns and cities have to offer throughout December:

Light Up the Tracks, Ashland – See downtown Ashland as a mile long holiday card all lit up for the season each weekend.

Christmas Parade, Blackstone – This annual family event, planned for December 14, is one part of a full calendar of weekend Santa visits, shopping specials, and the not-to-miss Bevell’s Hardware train display.

Festive Fridays, Cape Charles – Five nights of free, family-friendly festivities, including carriage rides, street performers, live local music, restaurant specials, and evening shopping.

Holiday Market, Abingdon – Support the local businesses by shopping at the Abingdon Farmers Markets’ Holiday Market with vendors selling produce, meats, baked goods, clothing accessories, jewelry, paintings, wine, confections, and canned goods.

Big Band Holidays, Lynchburg – The recently renovated historic Academy of Music Theater hosts the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, bringing out the magic of the holiday with soulful renditions of holiday classics.

When it snows, ain’t it thrilling; though your nose, gets a chilling; we’ll frolic and play, the Eskimo way; walking in a [Main Street] wonderland!

Find out more >>

Ashland’s Light Up the Tracks