Finding Main Street Toolkit Available

The full book club toolkit for Dar Williams’ What I Found in a Thousand Towns is now available! Use the toolkit to build “positive proximity,” and start local conversations around the key identity-building assets in your community–who knows what next steps you will take.

What I Found in a Thousand Towns emphasizes the role of projects and individuals in fostering strong community identity. Each chapter features a different group of assets ranging from local food to community spaces. The structure provides an opportunity for Main Street districts to convene and highlight a diverse group of partners, celebrating their work, strengthening alliances and inviting new participants.

Identify potential projects as a result and apply to pitch them for project funding in the 2019 Idea Pitch at Downtown Intersections.

fms tools

HOW TO GET INVOLVED: Invite a local book club, library or civic group to partner with your Main Street. Create some buzz reinforcing the value of the work you are doing. Using the Virginia videos and examples from the book, shine a celebratory light on your own local efforts and community partners. With the toolkit, you can pretty easily set up your own informal mini-conference.  Contact Doug Jackson at (804) 418-9878 or Douglas.Jackson@dhcd.virginia.gov for assistance and brainstorming support.

Afraid you do not have enough readers? Do not worry, you can use the videos to supplement and start the conversation. Launched throughout the fall of 2018 via Facebook Live conversations, the chapter videos have received more than 20,000 views on Facebook. In 2019, DHCD will promote the videos through a Finding Main Street social media campaign featuring quotes and images from the interviews conducted as part of the project with more than 80 Main Street leaders. This campaign will lead up to the 2019 Downtown Intersections and the Idea Pitch competition.

 

 

Webinar – Heart and Soul Field Guide: Fostering a Participatory Community

Do your residents and stakeholders feel engaged in their community?  Do they feel heard and included? And how does their engagement translate into stronger organizations and programming?

On Oct. 1, from noon-1 p.m., Virginia Main Street is offering a free webinar focused on a researched and field tested civic engagement method to build, stronger, healthier, and more economically vibrant small cities and towns – Community Heart & Soul.

The best way to build leaders and strengthen economies is to listen to and work closely with the people who live in the community.  The Orton Family Foundation has developed a step-by-step process that proactively includes your community in making decisions and taking action to improve the place where you all live, work, learn and play. This process focuses on getting everyone involved in finding ways to protect, restore, or enhance their community identity – its heart and soul – over the long term.

Speakers:

Caitlyn Davison, Senior Associate of Programs and Marketing, Orton Family Foundation

Leanne Tingay, Senior Associate of Programs, Orton Family Foundation

Autumn Vogel, Community Development Coordinator, My Meadville (Heart & Soul Program)

Register now for this event >>

Can’t join the live event? Register to receive the webinar recording.

“Through Heart & Soul we are finding common ground. Instead of being concerned about our differences, we are moving toward the things we meet on… The growth is going to be beautiful!”

~Annie Cooper, Community Volunteer, Essex, VT

 

Regional Rev Up: Opportunity Analysis – Effective Design

How can your downtown function better for residents, merchants, and visitors? And how do you identify opportunities in the physical environment to make your town a destination, drawing customers and revenue to the area?

On Oct. 11, 17, and 18 in Bristol, Blackstone and Gloucester, the fall edition of the Regional Rev Up promises to load you up with the tools you need to implement a people-centered downtown design process.

Effective downtown design supports a community’s transformation by enhancing the physical and visual elements of downtown while capitalizing on the unique assets that set the commercial district apart.  As a community, you need to bring together your stakeholders to plan what physical amenities will bring energy and dollars to the area. The type of design choices you make, and the variables that you weigh for making your decision, is the process known as opportunity analysis.

This workshop will explore a range of issues that impact the physical characteristics of downtown and provide you with a road map for navigating the opportunities involved in implementing holistic design principles to ensure they complement the overall strategy for your downtown.

Join us for this half-day workshop that will be educational, inspiring and fun!  Kathy Frazier, Principal of architecture and planning firm Frazier Associates, will lead the discussion and activities.

Registration is only $15 to cover lunch from a local eatery.  Registration for each Rev Up session closes one week prior to the event, register now to reserve your spot!

Register now! >>>

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.  

Collaborate for Impact

If you want to grow your volunteer and donor pipeline, you must reach out to your locals and create an opportunity for input.  Listen and find out what they love about where they live.  If they see their ideas implemented, they are more likely to contribute their time and money, making Main Street’s mission much easier to achieve.

Community engagement works best where it is an ongoing cumulative process enabling relationships and trust to build and strengthen over time.  There is a range of levels and techniques for participation. Resources are popping up to make it easier to navigate through it all.

From the Main Street America network, there is the new publication Community Engagement for Main Street Transformation, a guiding framework for understanding how to launch or strengthen the community engagement efforts.  Thankfully, it does not stop there.  Here are few worthwhile articles and resources:

What works for your community?

2018 VMS Training Opportunities

The people who make up the Virginia Main Street network are passionate advocates, dedicated volunteers, influential stakeholders, and community organizers who work every day to turn the tide in their communities – catalyzing reinvestment, creating jobs, and fostering pride of place.  In order to meet new Main Street challenges and foster an effective organization, Virginia Main Street is committed to providing opportunities to connect to like-minded leaders and best practices in commercial district revitalization.

Check out our 2018 Training Calendar.  Whether you need a deep dive on business attraction or a quick refresher on buy local campaigns, there is something to suit your needs.

Check it out and mark your calendar >>>        

 

An Evening on the Bridge: Luray’s Hometown Fundraiser

Our guest blogger is Luray Downtown Initiative (LDI) Executive Director Meredith Dees.  She is a Luray native and recently returned after a career experience in Denver, CO overseeing regional retail operations for a yoga brand. 

Any Main Street manager will tell you that as soon as they hear the words “road construction” or “street closures” they become uneasy. We have a large project that has loomed over downtown Luray for some time. The days are finally numbered when we will replace our distressed 70 year-old bridge (c. 1934) connecting East and West Main Street. The local economy is heavily impacted by tourism, so our small downtown needs to capitalize on every single car full of visitors and leave them with an uplifting, memorable experience.

How do we bring positive energy to the reality that we are closing down the streets for several months and host a successful, charitable fundraiser and bridge-honoring celebration all in one night?  The Evening on the Bridge idea was born.

This event was a cross between a farm-to-table soiree and a family-style community gathering. Two hundred tickets were sold out at $75 each; no small feat in a town this size (population 5,000). We hoped for 10 sponsors and ended up with 17, several had never sponsored us before and many from community members that just wanted to show support!

We seated 200 locals down the center of the 123 foot-long bridge. Luray-based caterers and bakeries provided dinner and desserts and all of the drinks were also local, including wine and beer, as well as a signature “1934” cocktail crafted by our own distillery. Big band music played in the background and lights were strung overhead to create the perfect setting.

We highlighted the new design and paid homage to the historic bridge with speakers and pictures. There was a live auction, including a donated original art piece of the bridge by a local artist that took top dollar. Overall, we raised more than $15,000 (net revenue!) for Main Street and proceeds will fund newly branded light pole banners.

The only question I have received since the event, “when can we do it again?” And I cannot wait!

See a video of the event here >>>

An Evening on the Bridge, Luray Downtown Initiative, November 5, 2017