Autonomous Transit Shuttle Service to Launch in Crozet

The Downtown Crozet Initiative, a DHCD Commercial District Affiliate community organization, is embracing cutting-edge technology to help make visiting downtown a convenient, zero-emission experience, shuttling customers from a parking area into the commercial core.  While it may sound more Jetsons than Main Street, this is the real deal.

Crozet’s Perrone Robotics, Inc., JAUNT, Inc. and Albemarle County just announced a partnership to develop, test and operate the autonomous transit shuttle service pilot. The pilot program will start March 2019 in Crozet with hopes to expand toward Charlottesville, allowing riders to embark and disembark along a fixed route.

Albemarle County Board of Supervisors Chair Ann Mallek shared, “Albemarle County has long supported vibrant communities, and an autonomous, zero-emission transit service brings the promise of reduced parking needs and greater use of green technologies in our urban centers – allowing our community to continue to flourish into the future.”

This is one customer-oriented innovation to watch.  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!

With Simplicity Natural and Organic Beauty and Skincare Products

New Report Shows Historic Tax Credits Boost Virginia’s Economy

During an annual legislative reception hosted last week, First Lady Pam Northam highlighted the findings of two just-completed studies showing the sustained and substantial contribution that historic preservation makes to Virginia’s economy, specifically through the state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credits (HRTCs)

One study, conducted by the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University, found that much of the $4.5 billion in private investment would have gone untapped without the incentive of the state’s tax credit being available to property owners, developers, and entrepreneurs. Preservation Virginia’s study examines the impact of the federal Historic Tax Credits (HTC) on Virginia’s economy, finding that the program resulted in $467 million in economic output, supported 9,960 jobs and generated $3.50 for every $1 invested through the first three years.

“These studies clearly demonstrate the sustained and substantial contribution that preservation makes to Virginia’s economy,” said First Lady Pamela Northam. “The Governor and I applaud the Department of Historic Resources and Preservation Virginia for caring for our rich past and preparing us for an amazing future.”

Conducted on behalf of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, the VCU study analyzed the overall impact of the state’s HRTC program from its inception in 1997 through 2017, its twentieth anniversary. During those two decades, according to VCU’s Wilder School, the HRTC program issued $1.2 billion in tax credits and leveraged $4.5 billion in private investment.

Virginia Main Street and Department of Housing and Community Development have always known that our historic resources are great investments!

Find an executive summary from the Wilder School study here.

Believe in Bristol

Vote for America’s Happiest Seaside Town

Downtown Cape Charles, Virginia

COASTAL LIVING magazine recently announced its seventh annual top 10 list of America’s Happiest Seaside Towns.  The unranked list includes top beach destinations across the United States, from Michigan to Florida and from Oregon to…Virginia’s Cape Charles!

Here’s your call to action!  You have until February 6 at 5 p.m. EST to vote for your favorite town to determine which will be named the No. 1 Happiest Seaside Town in America (hint: Cape Charles).  COASTAL LIVING will reveal the No. 1 Happiest Seaside Town on their website and social media June 12 and will feature the towns and their rankings in the July/August 2018 issue.

“All of these towns embody two things we love about the coast: access to beautiful beaches and vibrant communities”, said Sid Evans, Editor-in-Chief.

To choose the 2018 finalists, COASTAL LIVING editors called for nominations via social media.  They then collected each town’s rank on the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, percentage of sunny days, air quality, healthiness of beaches, commute times, crime ratings, walkability, standard of living and financial well-being of locals, geographic diversity, and the editors’ assessment of each town’s “coastal vibe”.  The ranking is determined by online voting between January 23 and February 6.

Follow the conversation and spread the word on social media with #CLHappyTown and vote online here>>>

Cape Charles “Love” Sign

Vacation Inspiration: I’m Never Not Working

I was recently going through the 8,952,423,065 pictures on my phone – saving some, posting some, even printing some, and deleting a lot. This exercise in photo curation is a great walk down memory lane from my past year. It is a reminder of all of the places I have been and interesting things that I have seen. And many were taken, I know, with the expressed purpose of sharing them with you.

Even when I am on vacation I am working. “Look at those awesome chairs! Did you see the sidewalks? Sculpture? Benches? Crosswalk? Bike rack?” Those who travel with me are used to this refrain.

Here are a few of the images of unique and fun ideas from public spaces that I saw this past year – I hope that some of them provide inspiration for your downtown!

 

Green Space

This vertical garden along the Greenway in Boston.

 

Or this Ivy Wall in Pittsburgh (FYI, those silvery trees are sculptures – amazing!).

 

Sidewalks

Also in Pittsburgh…a map etched into the sidewalk.

 

Meanwhile, in Woodstock, NY the sidewalks are made of stepping stones that look like leaves.

 

Community Culture and History on Display

Woodstock, NY also plays up its musical history with decorated guitars all through the downtown.

 

And in Belfast, Maine the fishing culture of the coastal town is incorporated into the public seating with these chairs made out of lobster traps.

 

What caught your eye on vacation this year? Did you find inspiration on your travels? or in your backyard? Share your snaps with us for a future blog!

The Destination Express: Enhancing the Visitor Experience with History

The Ashland Main Street Association and its local partners are dedicated to making downtown an amazing destination.  How?  By embracing their transportation history they are improving the visitor experience and creating memorable central gathering spaces. Executive Director Tom Wulf is our guest blogger with the details.    

Earlier in 2017, mural artist Ed Trask and his team finished a masterpiece on the side of the Caboose Wine & Cheese shop in downtown Ashland–a 250 foot long rendering of a locomotive that traveled Ashland’s tracks 50 years ago. The mural honors the late Art McKinney, former owner of the building and great steward of his historic properties, depicted at the train’s helm as the engineer. I captured the entire mural using a video drone.

The mural is one of several exhibits for the proposed Mid-Atlantic Railroad Park. The park will also include the installation of train-related artifacts as public art exhibits along the key corridor into downtown, England Street. This initiative will not only encourage walking tours along England Street, it will also strengthen Ashland’s brand as a railroad town.

The concept aligns with one of Ashland Main Street’s key strategic priorities, extend the Railroad Avenue [Ashland’s “Main Street”] experience to the England Street corridor.  A railroad park will spread the pedestrian-friendly feel of Railroad Avenue throughout the district and increase foot traffic to England Street restaurants and retailers.

The Ashland Main Street Association will host the upcoming Virginia Main Street Regional Rev-Up, Start with “Why”: Creating Purpose-driven Special Events, November 8, 10 AM – 2 PM.  Register today and experience Ashland up close!

Practical, Low-cost Ideas to Make Your Downtown A Destination

What can your Main Street program do to make downtown more of a destination for locals and visitors?

Would a punch list of key actions be helpful?  With today’s market, Main Street communities are happily positioned for a resurgence.  As a Main Street advocate, having a plan to ride that wave and make your downtown the best and brightest means nailing down the best strategy and the right activities. This can feel a little like trying to catch paper money in a cash booth.

There is no silver bullet, but there are lots of resources and experts that complement the Main Street Approach. Author Roger Brooks is one of them.  For more than 30 years Roger has helped transform ordinary places into extraordinary destinations. Currently, Roger is promoting a free series of webinars that focus on why downtowns are popular and more important than ever. He showcases low-cost activities that downtown advocates are doing to create vibrant, successful destinations for both locals AND visitors.

The recording of the first of the series is only available until July 28.  You can catch the rest of the series @RogerBrooksInternational.