Creating Safer Streets with Demonstration Projects

How do pedestrians experience your Main Street?

Main Street’s were made for walking, but some of our Virginia downtowns are still not pedestrian friendly.  The National Complete Streets Coalition’s mission to increase safe, comfortable and convenient access to community destinations and public places – whether walking, driving, bicycling or taking public transportation.  To test out creative approaches to safer street design, NCSC recently launched the Safe Streets Academy.

They worked with three cities around the country to build skills in safer street design, creative placemaking and community engagement, then helped the cities put these skills to work.  Through three demonstration projects, localities in Florida, Kentucky and Indiana transformed their streets, intersections and neighborhoods into slower, safer places for people.

In an inspired approach to planning, each locality collaborated with residents by leading peer-to-peer engagement efforts on the front end, versus coming up with solutions, then bringing them to the public.  The residents took the lead pinpointing problems at targeted intersections and guided solutions to address them.  Because of this, the localities were able to implement much more effective, relevant projects that earned stronger support from the public.

You can learn from the stories of these demonstration projects to test out low-cost ways to create safer streets.  Find out more here >>

To see these pedestrian safety initiatives in action in a Virginia community, look over Staunton’s recently approved Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan.

Also, click here to check out the new Main Street Approach Design Handbook, intended to help community leaders implement a people-centered design process.  

Starting a New Business: Where to Begin?

We hear from many communities that they have aspiring entrepreneurs who would like to explore their business ideas but don’t know where to begin. Here are a few great resources for start-ups:

Waynesboro used funding from a Building Entrepreneurial Economies (BEE) grant from DHCD to create an online tool and one-stop shop to help entrepreneurs through the process. Their “GroWaynesboro” site helps entrepreneurs “Dream It. Plan It. Be It.” They have even developed an interactive guide to starting a business in Waynesboro.

Small Business Development Centers are a helpful resource for new and experienced entrepreneurs. The Virginia SBDC network provides customized counseling and education for small businesses. They provide one-on-one assistance for businesses, as well as small-group training on management topics that are important to small business owners. There are centers located in every region of Virginia, and you can click here to find the location nearest you.

“We have a wealth of tools with which to help entrepreneurs start, fund, analyze and grow their businesses,” says Sheri McGuire of the Longwood SBDC in Farmville. “We have a great team of consultants and staff who share a common experience in business and as entrepreneurs and will work with clients confidentially, one on one, to help them reach their goals.”

Mentorship is also important for start-ups, as seasoned entrepreneurs can help newbies by sharing experiences and lessons learned in starting and growing their business. Some localities have mentorship networks, like the Community Investment Collaborative in Charlottesville. They also received funding through the BEE program to expand their reach. There are also chapters all over Virginia for SCORE, which is the largest network of volunteer, expert business members who help small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship.

If your community has an innovative program to assist budding entrepreneurs, we would like to hear about it! Email us at mainstreet@dhcd.virginia.gov to let us know what is happening in your community. You may also contact us if you have any questions about these resources or others that may be available to entrepreneurs in Virginia.

Bricks & Clicks Make Businesses Stronger Destinations

On May 2, during National Small Business Week, the city of Harrisonburg  awarded $36,700 in grants to small businesses in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. 

Grant awards range from $1,200 to $4,900 and are the final portion of a three-pronged small business assistance program called Bricks & Clicks, which was designed to help businesses become stronger bricks-and-mortar destinations complemented with stronger websites and digital marketing.

Bricks & Clicks was developed by the city of Harrisonburg, Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, Rockingham County, James Madison University and the Shenandoah Valley Small Business Development Center, and it was made possible by a $40,000 Building Entrepreneurial Economies grant through the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development.

The program offered businesses in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County an opportunity to learn about small business destination marketing from a national expert through a low-cost workshop, technical assistance from local marketing and visual design experts and grants of up to $5,000.  The grant awards are positioned to bring more than $70,000 worth of investment into making the selected businesses more competitive and profitable through e-commerce tools, improved websites, strategic marketing campaigns and on-site attractions.

Congratulations to the entrepreneurs and community partners!  Learn more about Bricks and Clicks here >>>

Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance will host Virginia Main Street’s Downtown Intersections on July 16-18, 2018. 

withSimplicity, a Bricks & Clicks grant recipient