Autonomous Transit Shuttle Service to Launch in Crozet

The Downtown Crozet Initiative, a DHCD Commercial District Affiliate community organization, is embracing cutting-edge technology to help make visiting downtown a convenient, zero-emission experience, shuttling customers from a parking area into the commercial core.  While it may sound more Jetsons than Main Street, this is the real deal.

Crozet’s Perrone Robotics, Inc., JAUNT, Inc. and Albemarle County just announced a partnership to develop, test and operate the autonomous transit shuttle service pilot. The pilot program will start March 2019 in Crozet with hopes to expand toward Charlottesville, allowing riders to embark and disembark along a fixed route.

Albemarle County Board of Supervisors Chair Ann Mallek shared, “Albemarle County has long supported vibrant communities, and an autonomous, zero-emission transit service brings the promise of reduced parking needs and greater use of green technologies in our urban centers – allowing our community to continue to flourish into the future.”

This is one customer-oriented innovation to watch.  Learn more >>>

Improve the Effectiveness of Your Nonprofit Board

Like grilled cheese and tomato soup, Main Street pairs well with BoardSource.  BoardSource.org exists to help nonprofit boards become a strategic asset for their organization and effective nonprofit boards ensure the Main Street revitalization effort is under way and succeeding.  Have I piqued your interest to learn more about a newly discovered resource or more so inspired a craving for a fall favorite?

For a primer on effective board leadership, and an indispensable addition to a board member orientation binder, check out the BoardSource Recommended Governance Practices.  This condensed gem reflects decades of experience working with tens of thousands of nonprofit board leaders and conducting extensive research on board practices.  It highlights essential, leading, and compliance practices, such as term limits, strategic planning, board evaluation, and personal giving.

A strong organizational foundation is key for an impactful Main Street program.  What governance upgrades could add up to meaningful change in your community? 

Recognizing the Hard Work on Main Street: Western Front Hotel

At the 2018 Downtown Intersections in Harrisonburg, we continued the tradition of acknowledging outstanding achievements in comprehensive downtown revitalization efforts through Merit Awards.  They 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 fourth in a blog series to highlight each of the seven awards.

The “Best Adaptive Reuse” award is granted to an individual or business that has completed an outstanding historic rehabilitation project. The project should involve a building that has outlived its former purpose and has been adapted for a new use that serves the current market. St. Paul Main Street Executive Director Kathy Stewart and Cornerstone Hospitality CEO Kimberly Christner accepted the 2018 Best Adaptive Reuse Project award for the Western Front Hotel in downtown St. Paul.

Formally used for apartments and retail spaces, the Western Front is now a 30-room boutique hotel, featuring a gift shop, two outdoor dining terraces, The Roost entertainment room with billiards and games and The Backyard, which features fire pits and hammocks, as well as Milton’s Restaurant, owned by celebrated chef Travis Milton.  All of these venues are housed within the historic 1914 Willis building, which was rehabbed using federal and state Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits and a DHCD Industrial Revitalization Fund grant.

The Western Front welcomed its first guests and diners in February 2018.  The new hotel, with its rustic retro accommodations, represents a great big welcome to visitors and is a key component in the redevelopment of a small town with a big vision: to make St. Paul the destination for outdoor recreation and a quality place to live.

The town, with 1,000 residents, straddles the line between Wise and Russell counties and sits on the Clinch River, the most biodiverse river in North America and abound with opportunities for fishing, kayaking, and hiking.  The $7.8-million project was a collaboration between the town, county and Creative Boutique Hotels, which includes partners MB Contractors, Cornerstone Hospitality and architect Hal Craddock.

Congratulations to everyone in St. Paul and the Western Front Hotel project partners!

Makerspaces: Coworking spaces with Cool Stuff

Makerspaces, much like coworking spaces, are on the rise in the United States. There are now over 500 such spaces across the country, and that number is expected to continue to grow. They can be located in schools, libraries, community centers or as their own for-profit or nonprofit organizations.

Makerspaces are basically shared working spaces that include tools for members or participants to use. These tools can range from letter presses, sewing machines and 3-D printers, to CNC machines and other high tech machinery such as laser cutters that allow people to design, prototype and manufacture products they wouldn’t otherwise be able to at home.

Many makerspaces provide training and education in the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) subjects. Most have classes for both youth and adults that provide a revenue stream for the business, and collaboration is at the heart of what most makerspaces are about.

Makerspaces also foster entrepreneurship as new businesses are locating in and doing work from makerspaces. An example of this is in Richmond, where Build, RVA has created a foundation that helps entrepreneurs understand the patent process, support intellectual property ownership and provide financial assistance for product-based business development.

Makerspaces require different planning and more extensive resources than simple coworking, as space and equipment specific to makers are more expensive and specialized. Fab Lab estimates the cost of the recommended equipment for a makerspace at $100,000-125,000. It is important to create a business model for any makerspace so you can determine if it is something viable for your organization and community. This article is a good resource for what you need to think about when creating a makerspace.

Want to see a makerspace in action in Virginia? Try:

Hacksburg – Blacksburg

HackCville – Charlottesville

FredWorks – Fredericksburg

Lexington Collaboratory – Lexington

Vector Space – Lynchburg

757 Makerspace – Norfolk

Nova Labs – Reston

FACTORY – Roanoke

Staunton Makerspace – Staunton