Fixing Up Public Spaces On The Cheap

The renovation of large public spaces requires the investment of financial and human resources that may not be possible in all communities or justified for all public spaces. However, the “lighter, quicker and cheaper” approach advocated by the Project for Public Spaces (PPS) is an affordable way to start bringing life back to neglected public spaces, with a great example being “The Porch” outside of Philadelphia’s train station.

The strategic placement of some free, moveable seating, where people can gather to chat, play a game of cards, eat lunch or people watch, may be a good starting point.

This might not strike you as an intellectual bombshell,” William H. Whyte liked to say, “but people like to sit where there are places for them to sit.”

Buy a few affordable tables and chairs and maybe an umbrella or two at the local hardware store, and give some thought to the caveats listed by PPS in its “A Primer on Seating.” Locate seating within view of the action, but out of the way of the flow of pedestrian traffic; cluster it near amenities that attract people and activity; provide a choice of seating options; and know how to minimize vandalism. Do all of this with the goal of creating a socially comfortable space that facilitates spontaneous social interactions and activities.

Do you want to test this idea and bring some creativity to your Main Street at the same time? Sept. 21 is PARK(ing) Day, an annual worldwide event where artists, designers and everyday folks transform metered parking spots into temporary public spaces. “The mission of PARK(ing) Day is to call attention to the need for more urban open space, to generate critical debate around how public space is created and allocated and to improve the quality of urban human habitat, at least until the meter runs out! Check out the PARK(ing) Day website. It could be a fun event for your Main Street.

Tourism Benefits Virginia Main Streets

Festival in South Boston. Photo credit: David Hungate

Governor Bob McDonnell recently announced that visitors to Virginia generated $20.4 billion in revenue in 2011, an 8 percent increase from 2010. In 2011, tourism in Virginia supported 207,000 jobs, an increase of nearly 2 percent in employment, and provided more than $1.32 billion in state and local taxes. 

Virginia’s Main Streets are popular tourist destinations for their fabulous historic architecture, exceptional dining, locally-produced artisan crafted goods and great entertainment and celebrations. These communities are effectively incorporating a category of tourism called cultural heritage tourism, traveling that is done with the goal of experiencing places and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of a community, as an economic development strategy.

As demonstrated in the governor’s announcement, tourism is a powerful economic development tool. Tourism creates jobs, provides new business opportunities and strengthens local economies. When cultural heritage tourism development is done right, it helps to protect our nation’s natural and cultural treasures and improves the quality of life for residents and visitors alike.

 The National Trust for Historic Preservation suggests five guiding principles for sustainable cultural heritage tourism.

  1.  Collaborate – Successful cultural heritage tourism programs bring together partners who may not have worked together in the past.
  2. Find the fit – Successful programs are also realistic, based on the talents of specific people, as well as on specific attractions, accommodations and sources of support and enthusiasm.
  3. Make cultural heritage sites come alive – The human drama of history is what visitors want to discover, not just names and dates. Make the message creative and exciting. 
  4. Focus on quality and authenticity – The story of the authentic contributions previous generations have made to the history and culture of where you live is the one that will interest visitors because that is what distinguishes your area from every other place on earth. 
  5. Preserve and protect – When your historic and cultural assets are at the heart of your plans to develop tourism, it is essential to protect them for the long term. By protecting the buildings, landscape or special places and qualities that attract visitors, you safeguard the future.

More information on sustainable cultural heritage tourism is available here. Generate a report detailing the impact of tourism on your community here.

Winchester’s Main Street Agriculture – Save the Date!

On Saturday, Oct. 6, Winchester’s downtown walking mall will be filled with excitement for local farms.

Farm Bureau is partnering with the Winchester Old Town Development Board, Winchester Main Street Foundation and Virginia Main Street program to produce an extraordinary community event promoting Frederick County agriculture and a renaissance in community life!

The purpose of the event is to educate and promote the importance of agriculture to Winchester/Frederick County residents while building community relationships that produce quality community life and local prosperity for farmers, businesses and residents.

The day will highlight Frederick County agriculture with farmers and vendors providing local foods, educational displays and activities for children. Look for downtown restaurants to offer “local plates,” meals featuring fresh, local produce, meats and dairy products. There will be cooking demonstrations, advice for gardeners and live animals. The George Washington Hotel will host a wine garden, and of course, there will be lots of fun for all!

For more information, visit Winchester’s Main Street Agriculture’s Facebook page.