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.

 

 

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: 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!

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: CenterFuse Co-working

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 first of a blog series to highlight each of the seven award winners. 

Historic Manassas Inc. Executive Director Debbie Haight accepted the Outstanding Business award for CenterFuse Coworking.  Years in the making and the first in historic downtown Manassas, CenterFuse is both an incubator and co-working space that provides new and emerging businesses with an environment that will support their start-up phase and increase the likelihood of success.  It functions as a for-profit business, but was created by and is under the auspice of Historic Manassas Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation and pioneer of the local Main Street program.

CenterFuse focuses on science and technology while cultivating other compatible businesses in the district.  The facility offers flexible leases, shared-use, and common office equipment, direct business assistance, mentoring, networking and access to capital.  The 3,800 square foot space includes a mix of offices, dedicated workstations, and open space for networking.  It also provides a roster of entrepreneurship education and mentorship programs, among others.

Since opening in May 2017, the incubator is seeing steady growth in the participating startup’s business development who will soon be ready to expand or move into vacancies downtown. While rising businesses are in the space, they contribute to an entrepreneurial culture in downtown and to the economic vitality of other local businesses and residential properties.

Congratulations Historic Manassas Inc. and CenterFuse Coworking!

To learn more >>>

Welcome to Downtown Harrisonburg!

Guest Blogger Andrea Dono, executive director of Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, has extensive experience in Main Street revitalization and community-based economic development, including 10 years at the National Main Street Center. 

Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance is thrilled to co-host the Virginia Main Street Downtown Intersections, July 16-18, 2018, and welcome you to our community in just a few short weeks! Hotel Madison is a brand new hotel that just opened at the southern gateway of downtown. Whew! We sure are glad there were no construction delays!

You can park in the garage next to the hotel and leave your car behind for a few days since it is a 10-minute walk down Main Street into the heart of downtown. If you want to skip the walk back to the hotel, hail our pedicab and cruise back without making any effort.

The Rooftop at Jimmy Madison’s Southern Kitchen and Whiskey Bar

Downtown Harrisonburg is Virginia’s first and only culinary district with over 30 restaurants and five breweries (three of which are award winning, two of which are new and hopefully future award-winning breweries), so scope out where you will eat and drink before you come.

Our happy hour on Monday will be at Jimmy Madison’s rooftop patio (don’t worry, there is plenty of shade). We’ll get some southern fare and refreshments while enjoying a view of Court Square. Some establishments are closed on Mondays, so if there is somewhere you want to go, check out their hours first.

Tuesday you are free to roam during lunchtime – only our authentic Indonesian café is closed since Boboko is open on Monday – but everywhere else will be open. Plus our farmers market will be open until 1 p.m. We’ll end the day with dinner and games at Ruby’s Arcade, where there are vintage duckpin bowling lanes, pool, shuffleboard and so much more. Stick around for bingo, which is unlike any bingo you’ve ever seen. Think “game show” instead of “retirement community.”

New Creation at Agora Downtown Market

Downtown is more than Main Street – slip down a side street and hop over to Liberty Street where you can continue wandering to find our beautifully restored train depot (that won an award last year), snap up a few human-grade dog biscuits (squirrel shapes are my…um…dog’s favorite) at Blue Ridge Dog, check out our old livery which is now Bella Luna – a fantastic wood-fired pizza spot – and yes, the gelato at their sister spot across the street is incredible.

We have tons of places to shop and a few galleries to enjoy. You can find original art from a few dozen artists in Oasis, check out several different shops all under one roof in Agora Downtown Market, watch jewelry makers use vintage tools and machines at Hugo Kohl’s boutique and museum, and so much more. All shops and attractions on our website, so get ready to explore!

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