Transform Ordinary Downtowns into Successful Destinations

Downtown Wytheville, Virginia

How do you feel about free assistance to generate new ideas for attracting visitors to downtown? How about an added layer of resources to complement your Main Street America membership services and make it just that much easier to improve downtown?

For 30 years, veteran Main Street partner Roger Brooks has helped thousands of people transform ordinary communities, downtowns, businesses and attractions into incredibly successful destinations.  Within the last few years, Brooks launched the Destination Development Association to bring together everyone with that same passion to share resources, ideas, expertise and to connect with one another in a single place.

The association gives local businesses, Main Street nonprofits and tourism organizations access to a wide range of information, how-tos and data that will help create an outstanding destination for residents, visitors and investors alike.  Go from drab to fab!

This is not a sales pitch! This is a note to inform you that Roger Brooks is offering a one-year FREE membership to the Destination Development Association with access to monthly webinars, discussion rooms and dozens of videos on everything from branding and marketing to wayfinding signage.  Registration for the first 2019 webinar is currently open, Increasing Retail Sales Part 2, which will take place on Jan. 23, at 11:30 a.m. EST.  Part 1 is available to watch now!

Check out the resources here and decide for yourself >>>

 

Update: VMS Idea Pitch! Winner – Blackstone

Guest blogger Zachary Whitlow, executive director of Downtown Blackstone Inc., provides an update on their Blackstone Town Square Revitalization Project that won the VMS Idea Pitch! Award at Downtown Intersections 2018.

We were incredibly excited and grateful to have been chosen as the winner of the first annual Main Street Idea Pitch! competition. The presentation process could not have been better organized, and, even though nerves were felt, all participants were made to feel heard and welcomed among dozens of peers and fellow Main Street colleagues. It was truly a great and fun opportunity for our small, rural Main Street community to receive help in funding a downtown revitalization project that demonstrated our value to key stakeholders and others.

The Blackstone Town Square Revitalization Project was inspired by Dar Williams, author of “What I Found in a Thousand Towns,” and her exploration of spaces and positive proximity. Through design efforts focused on place-making, our organization transformed Blackstone’s underutilized town square into a more people-centered space that stresses inclusiveness, allowing residents and visitors alike to socialize and build ongoing, permanent relationships.

Utilizing the $5,000 award, we reanimated the social utility of the green space by installing outdoor seating areas, planters and trash receptacles. Through use of our own funds and the VTC’s LOVEwork Reimbursement Program, a 17’ x 32’ destination mural and LOVEwork were created. They are meant to serve as two major lures for visitors and residents to interact with through the use of social media and other means in the heart of downtown Blackstone.

We’ve placed a real emphasis on downtown beautification over the past year and the Blackstone Town Square Revitalization Project has served as a much needed catalyst that has inspired neighboring property owners and others to begin making exterior improvements and other design-related changes to their buildings. Although our initial goals for the revitalization project have been met, there is still additions that we are planning to make in the future that will enhance the space even more. Our dreams are becoming a reality!

Recognizing the Hard Work on Main Street: Gloucester’s Village Corridor Enhancement Project

Virginia Main Street Merit Awards 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 fifth in a blog series to highlight each of the seven 2018 awards. Heads up, the 2019 Merit Awards nominations will be open early in the new year. Whether a DHCD Commercial District Affiliate or VMS Designated Community, start thinking about your program’s recent achievements.  We want to hear all about them!  

The “Best Downtown Public Improvement Project” award is given to the community that has implemented a design project in the public sphere.  A focus on quality design supports a community’s revitalization by enhancing the physical elements of downtown while capitalizing on the unique assets that set the commercial district apart.  Gloucester’s Main Street Preservation Trust Executive Director Jenny Crittenden accepted the award for their Village Corridor Enhancement Project.

The 2009 Gloucester Court House Village Plan plan recommended that the trust lead the charge to improve the two gateways leading to the Main Street commercial district.  The goal was to provide visual continuity between the gateways and to attract visitors to downtown shopping, dining, and historic sites.

The first phase of the project included the installation of 11 banner poles, the new Virginia Main Street sign, landscaping and brick pavers.  Additionally, the trust and environmental planning firm VHB Inc. worked with the county and local garden club to relocate existing public art to the sites and planted 8,000 daffodils, daylilies, roses and native ornamental grasses.

Where people may have driven by the understated gateways to Main Street in the past, they now look and turn to see what is beckoning them.  This project sends the message that the community invests in the downtown, much like its business and property owners do with their buildings.

Congratulations to Gloucester’s Main Street Preservation Trust and local partners!

Small Business Resource Guide now available

The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) has developed a Small Business Resource Guide that provides information on many of the items that new or expanding small businesses and entrepreneurs need. This includes financing programs, grant programs, business development resources and training opportunities, as well as university entrepreneurship programs that are available to the public.

The guide is a living document, so it will be updated often as new programs and resources become available or we are made aware of appropriate available resources. The guide can be found on the Resources and Reports page of the Virginia Main Street blog, or click here for a copy.

If you know of a great resource – federal, state, regional or local – that should be added, please let us know!

How To Apply Workshops coming in January!

The Department of Housing and Community Development’s (DHCD) Community Development Division will be holding how-to-apply workshops across the commonwealth in January as several grant programs will open for application submissions on January 2, 2019.

DHCD’s grant programs offer flexible resources that allows communities and local/regional organizations do more to create vibrant communities.

The workshops will discuss several programs offered by DHCD, including:

The workshops will feature discussions regarding the application process for each program, successful projects that have been implemented by these programs, changes for the coming year and how you can best position your effort as you prepare to apply for a grant.

The workshops will be held on the following dates and locations:

  • Jan. 8, 2019 – Richmond
  • Jan. 10, 2019 – Newport News
  • Jan. 15, 2019 – Staunton
  • Jan. 16, 2019 – Wytheville (will include a CDBG overview)
  • Jan. 17, 2019 – Danville

To register for one of the workshops, click on this link.

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 >>>

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!