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.

 

 

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 >>>

 

Recognizing the Hard Work on Main Street: Sandwich Sampler Competition

At the recent 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 point of the Main Street Approach®.  This is the third in a blog series to highlight each of the seven awards.

Promoting Main Street takes many forms, but the ultimate goal is to position the downtown as the hub of the community and economic activity, while creating a positive image that showcases a community’s unique characteristics.  This next award honors the best downtown restaurant promotion designed to generate foot-traffic to local eateries within the district.  Downtown Blackstone Inc. Executive Director Zachary Whitlow accepted the 2018 Best Downtown Restaurant Event award for the first annual Sandwich Sampler Competition.

This past spring, the first Sandwich Sampler Competition was held in downtown Blackstone’s Town Square.  The community was invited to sample signature sandwiches from participating local restaurants and take part in the voting for the best sandwich, crowning Blackstone’s Sandwich King or Queen.  The event was designed to showcase the quality of local cuisine and entice visitors to dine at the downtown eateries.  Downtown retail also gained exposure and amassed return customers through a cross-promotional campaign of special-offer coupons.

For the inaugural year, only 100 tickets were available for purchase, and it was a sell-out crowd! With a fine selection of local sandwich options, the competition was fierce, but the winner was quite clear. The Corner Kitchen won with a distinctive house-made strawberry ice cream sandwich.  While the inaugural event generated a small amount of revenue, it has the ability to become a profitable signature event. Given the vast amount of positive reviews, the competition will become a bigger and better annual event.

Congratulations Downtown Blackstone!

Visit downtown Blackstone for the upcoming Regional Rev Up: Opportunity Analysis – Effective Design, Oct. 17, 2018.

Recognizing the Hard Work on Main Street: The Friendly City Fortune

At the recent 2018 Downtown Intersections in Harrisonburg, we continued our 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 second in a blog series to highlight each of the seven awards. 

A strong organizational foundation is key for a sustainable revitalization effort.  The focus is on ensuring that all organizational resources – partners, funding and volunteers – are mobilized effectively.  Accordingly, the Outstanding Fundraising Effort award goes to the Main Street organization that has displayed the most creativity and success in securing funds for its downtown projects.  From an effort well-played, Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance (HDR) Director of Resources Lauren Huber and Executive Director Andrea Dono accepted the award for the Friendly City Fortune mega-raffle.

In 2017, HDR launched the new fundraiser where they sold $100 tickets and awarded $250,000 in prizes, which included cash, vacation packages, outdoor recreation vehicles, and several cars and SUVs.  Prizes were given away during Valley Fourth, Harrisonburg’s Fourth of July celebration hosted by HDR.  The Friendly City Fortune was their riskiest and most successful fundraiser to date. The goals were to earn unrestricted income, to find a new way to raise money from outside of the typical donor base and start being able to fund new and bigger Main Street projects.

Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance achieved all of these goals and raised nearly $200,000 on top of their other traditional revenue streams.  The success of the inaugural raffle allowed HDR to fund more grants, beautify downtown, support more businesses and build a more sustainable organization.  Through the process, HDR sharpened their marketing skills and learned new ways to reach new audiences. As a result, brand awareness for Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance and the Friendly City Fortune has hit an all-time high.

Congratulations Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance (and all the prize winners)!

To learn more>>>

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

 

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?