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 >>>

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.

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 Series – Downtown Buildings: Tools for Revitalization

Virginia Main Street (VMS) is hosting a series of three webinars throughout June covering topics related to downtown buildings and tools for revitalization.  All webinars are FREE, however, registration for each one is required.


Virginia Rehabilitation Code
June 6, 2018, Noon-1 p.m.

Speaker: Jeff Brown, MCP, Director of State Building Codes, DHCD

The Rehabilitation Code can sometimes be daunting for downtown building owners to navigate when determining how to make property improvements.  How do you modernize an older building without breaking the bank to meet current requirements? This webinar will help you understand what code sections to reference and available tools to make discussing your planned improvement with your local official easier.


Virginia Main Street Financial Feasibility Studies
June 13, 2018, Noon-1 p.m.

Speaker: Kathleen O. Frazier, AIA, Principal, Frazier Associates

Do you have a large-scale downtown building that sits vacant or underutilized and you do not know what can be done with it? A financial feasibility study is one way to crack open new possibilities for the building and community.  This webinar will walk through the what, when, who and how of the feasibility study process.  With a completed study, your community and property owners will know what to expect and have the answers to attract potential developers, tenants or new owners.


Virginia Maintenance Code
June 27, 2018, Noon-1 p.m.

Speaker: Jeff Brown, MCP, Director of State Building Codes, DHCD

The Maintenance Code provides localities with the means to deal with, not only unsafe structures unfit for habitation, but also the means to reduce blight and maintain property values.  In this webinar, you will learn what the Maintenance Code is and is not, as well as how your locality can enforce it to insure a fair and measured approach is taken.  Topics will cover examples of blight related ordinances, roles of the local and state boards and technical support services available through DHCD.


FIND OUT MORE AND REGISTER FOR EACH WEBINAR HERE >>>

 

BEE Innovation Day 2017

The Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) will be holding a Building Entrepreneurial Economies (BEE) Innovation Day on Wednesday, December 6, in Charlottesville, VA. Community leaders and small business enthusiasts will discuss innovative ideas in entrepreneurship development, as well as offer inspiration and education to plan for and create a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem in their communities.

Our panel of experts and educational topics include:

  • Trends in Entrepreneurship – Mike Lenox, The Darden School, UVA
  • Building Partnerships for an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem – Annette Patterson, The Advancement Foundation
  • Thinking Entrepreneurially both Internally and Externally – Martin Kaszubowski, The Center for Enterprise Innovation, ODU
  • Resources for Entrepreneurs – David Touve, i.Lab at UVA
  • The Gig Economy: The Next Generation of Work – Larkin Garbee, 804RVA

Attendees will have the opportunity to discuss various aspects of DHCD’s Building Entrepreneurial Economies (BEE) and Community Business Launch (CBL) programs with some our past grantees, and to tour the i.Lab facility at UVA.

Register here for the event.

VMS Commercial District Affiliate Grants Now Available!

Virginia Main Street has opened the application process for our first ever Commercial District Affiliate Grants! Affiliate Grants are designed to assist organizations and communities in achieving their downtown revitalization goals and be used for projects or planning purposes.

The maximum grant amount is $7,000 and can be used for…

  • non-profit organizational development;
  • vision/mission development;
  • work plan and budget development;
  • market studies;
  • downtown organization website development;
  • design projects;
  • entrepreneur support projects;
  • wayfinding system development;
  • economic vitality projects; or
  • other consultant services that will contribute to the historic downtown and for which other funds are not available.

Affiliate grants are available to registered DHCD Commercial District Affiliates and Virginia Downtowns. DHCD invites projects that hold the potential for positive impact on the downtown neighborhood’s long-term goals.

Applications for Affiliate Grants will be due on December 1, 2017, and the projects associated with the applications should be completed in our CAMS system by June 1, 2018. Our grant manual is available here!