Now accepting nominations for the 2019 Virginia Main Street Merit Awards

VMS-downtown-logo-2019

NOW ACCEPTING AWARD NOMINATIONS

2019 Virginia Main Street Revitalization Merit Awards

Virginia Main Street invites you to submit nominations for outstanding achievements in comprehensive downtown revitalization efforts, recognizing best downtown business promotion, outstanding fundraising effort, and best public improvement project, to name a few. Awards will be presented during a special celebration at the Virginia Main Street Downtown Intersections summer conference on July 22-24 in Lynchburg, Virginia.   

ELIGIBILITY
  • All levels of participants in the Virginia Main Street network, including Virginia Main Street designated communities and DHCD commercial district affiliates, may submit applications.
  • To be eligible, all projects, activities, or events submitted for recognition must be completed between April 1, 2018 and March 31, 2019.

Award nominations must be received by 5 p.m. on April 19.

For more on this recognition opportunity >>>

For more information about the conference >>>

A Jewel Worth Saving: Re-imagining Danville’s North Union Street

Guest Blogger Diana Schwartz, executive director of Danville’s River District Association, is a native of Dickenson County, Virginia, and was previously director of business retention for the Ocala/Marion Chamber and Economic Partnership in Florida, as well as director of the Ocala Main Street Program.

Danville, Virginia may be best known for the railroad system, including the wreck of the “Old 97,“and a rich textile and tobacco history.  But there is a block in downtown Danville, North Union Street, that also has a story of its own.

Recognized as a historical African-American business “mecca” during the era of legal segregation, North Union Street has been home to bustling businesses such as doctors offices, restaurants, a bank currently celebrating its 100th anniversary, barbers and salons, art galleries, and much more since the 1880s. After the closing of Dan River Mills in 2006, the street (like much of downtown) began a rapid economic decline.

Fast Forward to 2018, and over $125 million has been invested in the re-imagining of the River District.  Locally, there is an ever-watchful eye on preservation of the history, the buildings and the stories of the people.  This ethos of preserving both property and personal history led to the recognition that North Union Street was a jewel worth not only saving, but sharing.  In the fall of 2018, the River District Association was invited to participate in the 2018 Partners in Preservation campaign to showcase this history on a national level while competing for a grant to help further the preservation of the properties.

Over the course of 30 days in Sept./Oct. 2018, Danville was charged to garner the most online votes against 20 historic properties throughout the United States in order to win grant funding.  The committee knew the key was not just talking about the buildings, but the history of the people that inhabited them.

Ultimately, Danville pulled out a win. and $150,000 will now be used towards preservation and restoration of two North Union properties. The city of Danville recently completed a streetscape project on North Union, and RDA is currently in the process of a Community Business Launch program with the goal of opening five new business in the summer/fall of 2019 with a focus on North Union Street.  It is by sharing our past that we can build for the future, and we look forward to watching new stories being added to the History of North Union in the coming years.

Learn more about the re-imagining of the Danville River District >>>

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!

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.

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.