Active Listening in Petersburg

Main Street Petersburg is re-envisioning its Downtown. The unique beauty of working to re-envision and revitalize a place is the recognition of the roll of the people. Community lead community development starts with engaging and listening to the constituents who live, work, and gather in that community. While it may be simple in concept, the reality of undertaking this work can be overwhelming. It requires significant effort and thoughtful investment.

To approach this work in an effective, equitable, and meaningful way Main Street Petersburg applied for a Community Vitality Grant from Virginia Main Street in order to hire a consultant to guide the process. The grant award allowed for the hiring of Richmond-based strategic planning and community engagement firm, The Spark Mill, to conduct a community engagement project that organized a series of interviews that gauged interest, vision, and public perception. 

“Our children need to connect to our history. Our children have no idea of what Petersburg
is, has been, and can be.”

– Main Street Petersburg Community Engagement Survey Response

In total, 140 interviews were completed and were a combination of one-on-one interviews, intercept interviews, and two neighborhood focus groups. Residents and visitors were asked a range of questions, including questions such as “What is downtown Petersburg known for? What is your current opinion of Downtown Petersburg? What do you see in the future for Downtown Petersburg?”

Through this process, Main Street Petersburg found outcomes that resonated with the response from the community. The listening tour identified advocacy for local business, elevating the unique character of Petersburg, championing Petersburg’s full story, and strengthening relationships in the business community as “pathways” to move the downtown district forward.  

This initial step of engaging the community provides momentum to accelerate the progress downtown and will also help keep Main Street Petersburg aligned as they advance in this work.

Image Credit: Main Street Petersburg Facebook Page