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>>>

Host a Finding Main Street book club

Finding Main Street Facebook Event
Singer-songwriter Dar Williams launched Virginia Main Street’s Finding Main Street book club at the 2018 Downtown Intersections with a performance and talk on “Thinking in Bridges.”

“We think we have so much divisiveness,” she said. “But the opposite of divisiveness is not unity. It is collaboration.”

Williams found plenty of collaboration in the successful communities profiled in her placemaking and community development book, What I Found in a Thousand Towns. These are towns she has seen rise and thrive over her nearly three decades of touring. Williams asserts that they created “positive proximity” by:

  • Creating spaces that foster loose forms of communication and connection across residents.
  • Undertaking collective identity building projects that override the differences of the individuals contributing to them.
  • Welcoming the contributions of all willing citizens.

Across Virginia, the Finding Main Street Book Club will explore the strategies at work in Main Street communities. A toolkit is available in a tab at the top of this page. It currently includes:

Beginning on September 4, videos will be added weekly to highlight chapter concepts at work in Virginia’s Main Street network. In spring 2019, follow-up videos will showcase community conversations resulting from the book clubs. For the 2019 Downtown Intersections Idea Pitch, communities will be invited to propose projects inspired by the book and compete for funding to support the projects.

If you’d like to talk about book club ideas or the benefits of hosting one, contact your Main Street representative or Doug Jackson at 804-418-9878 or douglas.jackson@dhcd.virginia.gov. Remember you’re never in this alone–reach out to your likely partners locally, including book stores and libraries, and see what you can get started.

The book club model was piloted in Roanoke in the fall of 2017, where chapter discussions highlighted local leaders and organizations undertaking strategies featured in the book. Find more information from the pilot, including press and session descriptions, at bookcityroanoke.com.

Finding Main Street is a project of the Virginia Main Street Program at the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development with support from Virginia Community Capital, Virginia Tourism Corporation, Virginia Humanities , and Book City ★ Roanoke.

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!

With Simplicity Natural and Organic Beauty and Skincare Products

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?

Virginia Main Street 2018 Merit Awards – Nominations are Open!

Downtown Intersections is just a few months away! Virginia Main Street staff have been working hard to craft an agenda, secure speakers, develop walking tours and create workshops that will educate, inspire and empower our communities.

Now, we need your help to recognize achievement, innovation and success in our Main Street communities. Nominations are now being accepted for the Virginia Main Street 2018 Merit Awards!

Download the form today, and nominate your best volunteer, your favorite new public space or your most successful retail promotion from July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018. Winners will be recognized at a special awards luncheon at Downtown Intersections on Wednesday, July 18 at Harrisonburg’s new Hotel Madison. You won’t want to miss it!

Complete a nomination and get recognized for your extraordinary achievements>>>

Want a Stronger, Vibrant Nonprofit Board of Directors?

How does your board keep itself strong and dynamic?  How does it deal with difficult challenges? 

A team is only as strong as its members, yet boards often lose sight of the needs of individual board volunteers.  Building a team is also a critical activity.  However, in a quest to plan, fund raise, organize and meet the expectations of the community, the management of human resources within a voluntary Main Street organization is often overlooked.

The Maine Association of Nonprofits has perfectly summed up the critical importance of regular self-assessments for boards:

A strong, vibrant board of directors is a clear indicator of a healthy organization.  Yet even the best organizations need a periodic check-up to ensure that they cannot just survive but will really thrive in today’s environment.  To check your board’s vital signs, or to put in place practices and strategies for a healthy and energized board, the best place to start is with a board self-assessment.

Self-assessments may feel threatening to some board members, and getting buy-in to devote time to the process take some time. In the end, an assessment brings to light the areas for improvement and makes it easier to celebrate mission achievements.
How can your board most effectively use the strengths of each person on your team? Find out here from the National Council of Nonprofits.

Historic Manassas Inc. Ribbon Cutting

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 >>>