VMS recently awarded several Downtown Improvement Grants (DIG). These grants, of up to $25,000, help designated Main Street communities tackle special, one-time Main Street-related projects that need additional financial resources to become a reality. The awarded projects have specific economic restructuring outcomes and involve multiple community partners. This year, VMS received 14 competitive applications and awarded five grants, totaling $115,000. The awarded projects include the following:
- Blackstone –A $25,000 DIG will help Downtown Blackstone Inc. install a wayfinding system for the Blackstone’s historic commercial district. Grant funds will assist in the fabrication and installation of 10 trailblazing signs at strategic locations throughout town and the replacement of six gateway signs located at each entrance into town. DIG funds will be matched by $25,000 from a USDA grant, $9,000 from the town and $9,500 of in-kind donations. VMS provided design assistance for the wayfinding system via its design services consultant, Frazier Associates.
- Lynchburg – A $25,000 DIG will help Lynch’s Landing Foundation partner with the Lynchburg Office of Economic Development and the Region 2000 Small Business Development Center to develop and run a small business competition for businesses looking to start or expand in Lynchburg’s Central Business District. Three business competition winners will receive business start-up/expansion grants of up to $10,000 and marketing and media support.
- Marion –A $25,000 DIG will help Marion Downtown! develop a façade enhancement grant program that requires participation in the Marion Downtown!’s award-winning business boot camp as a way of strengthening the skill sets of downtown business owners while improving the physical appearance of the Main Street district.
- South Boston – A $20,000 DIG will help Destination Downtown South Boston develop a façade enhancement grant program that will provide matching grants of up to $5,000. In addition, the Main Street organization will develop a handbook to assist property owners in rehabilitating their properties and will host a forum that will allow property owners interested in rehabilitating their properties to meet one-on-one with design consultants for advice on their project.
- Winchester – A $20,000 DIG will allow Winchester’s Old Town Development Board to provide matching façade improvement grants of up to $5,000. If property owners lack the resources to meet the 1:1 match requirement for the façade grant, they will be eligible to apply for commercial façade loans from the Winchester Economic Development Authority (EDA). The loans offer favorable repayment terms and are a useful alternative to the cash-matching requirement.