In 1969 the slogan “Virginia is for Lovers” became the state’s iconic tourism motto in one of the most successful ad campaigns in our nation’s history. That same year, Lovingston, Virginia, the seat of Nelson County, faced tragedy from floods caused by Hurricane Camille. Within a few short hours, the community suffered $100 million of damage with hundreds of buildings, bridges, and roadways washed away and over one hundred lives lost.
Lovingston moved forward and started again but that rebuilding shifted the vibrant town, with a variety of lodging, dining, and shopping options, into a sleepier bedroom community for larger nearby cities, Lynchburg and Charlottesville.
In 2020 COVID-19 swept in and caused the village to reflect again and rethink its potential and its future. In 2021 Nelson County received a Community Vitality Grant from Virginia Main Street to conduct a market study of its downtown along Route 29. This grant allowed the county to hire a consultant to conduct a data-driven analysis to inform strategies in order to grow, develop, and promote businesses in the Lovingston commercial district.
The main takeaways from the market study highlighted that the community was primed to grow its tourism economy as broader Nelson County had found a niche in agri-tourism, promoting attractions surrounding its agricultural businesses (primarily its breweries and distilleries) and outdoor recreation.
Lovingston has the potential to build on that momentum by expanding its arts-based tourism and opportunities for families. Local business owners responded enthusiastically to revitalizing the downtown district to attract new visitors. The market study also noted room for growth in attracting new residents. The boom of work-from-home opportunities has led to a dramatic influx of new residents in rural areas, and with a wealth of natural beauty and high speed bandwidth, Lovingston is a great option for someone looking for a quiet rural lifestyle. Paired with attracting new visitors an important thread throughout the market study was focused on increasing economic vitality for current residents. To do this, expanding affordable housing was pinpointed as a priority for the village’s strategic plan.
This market study will be a vital tool in revitalizing the downtown district and informing Lovingston’s future.
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