Transform Ordinary Downtowns into Successful Destinations

Downtown Wytheville, Virginia

How do you feel about free assistance to generate new ideas for attracting visitors to downtown? How about an added layer of resources to complement your Main Street America membership services and make it just that much easier to improve downtown?

For 30 years, veteran Main Street partner Roger Brooks has helped thousands of people transform ordinary communities, downtowns, businesses and attractions into incredibly successful destinations.  Within the last few years, Brooks launched the Destination Development Association to bring together everyone with that same passion to share resources, ideas, expertise and to connect with one another in a single place.

The association gives local businesses, Main Street nonprofits and tourism organizations access to a wide range of information, how-tos and data that will help create an outstanding destination for residents, visitors and investors alike.  Go from drab to fab!

This is not a sales pitch! This is a note to inform you that Roger Brooks is offering a one-year FREE membership to the Destination Development Association with access to monthly webinars, discussion rooms and dozens of videos on everything from branding and marketing to wayfinding signage.  Registration for the first 2019 webinar is currently open, Increasing Retail Sales Part 2, which will take place on Jan. 23, at 11:30 a.m. EST.  Part 1 is available to watch now!

Check out the resources here and decide for yourself >>>

 

Walking in a Main Street Wonderland: Celebrating the Holidays in Virginia

If you are looking for the holiday spirit, look no further than Virginia’s Main Streets.  Whether a holiday shopping promotion, a tree lighting, or a downtown evening carriage ride, there is a special experience just for you and your family.  Our partners at #VirginiaTourism make sure you can plan this season’s special moments with the greatest of ease through event listings and search engines. Here are a few highlights of what Virginia’s charming towns and cities have to offer throughout December:

Light Up the Tracks, Ashland – See downtown Ashland as a mile long holiday card all lit up for the season each weekend.

Christmas Parade, Blackstone – This annual family event, planned for December 14, is one part of a full calendar of weekend Santa visits, shopping specials, and the not-to-miss Bevell’s Hardware train display.

Festive Fridays, Cape Charles – Five nights of free, family-friendly festivities, including carriage rides, street performers, live local music, restaurant specials, and evening shopping.

Holiday Market, Abingdon – Support the local businesses by shopping at the Abingdon Farmers Markets’ Holiday Market with vendors selling produce, meats, baked goods, clothing accessories, jewelry, paintings, wine, confections, and canned goods.

Big Band Holidays, Lynchburg – The recently renovated historic Academy of Music Theater hosts the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, bringing out the magic of the holiday with soulful renditions of holiday classics.

When it snows, ain’t it thrilling; though your nose, gets a chilling; we’ll frolic and play, the Eskimo way; walking in a [Main Street] wonderland!

Find out more >>

Ashland’s Light Up the Tracks

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

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.

Virginia’s Craft Beer Scene is Booming

Governor Terry McAuliffe recently announced that Virginia is now home to 206 licensed breweries, a 468% growth since 2012, when the tasting room bill, SB604, passed the General Assembly. A newly released economic impact study shows that Virginia’s booming beer industry contributes more than $9.34 billion annually to Virginia’s economy.

“In addition to the direct economic impacts of manufacturing, the industry generates increased tourism-related revenues, provides new production and sales opportunities for our agricultural producers, and enhances community revitalization and development efforts in both rural and urban areas of the Commonwealth”, said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Todd Haymore.

This success story is close to home on Virginia’s Main Streets. One of the latest brewery additions is Sugar Hill Brewing Company in St. Paul, opened fall 2016.  The brewery added a much needed restaurant that is now a local favorite, a tourist destination, and a big economic boost to the small town. It complements the economic development strategy as an ecological and commercial hub – connecting downtown to hiking trails, off-road recreation, and summertime tube floats and kayaking on the Clinch River.

A frothy wave is crashing into our Main Street communities; one that is having a favorable impact on local opportunity, character, and spirits.  Check out more Virginia craft brewery offerings here >>

Public Art: Making downtown a joyful, active, and social place

May 15-19, 2017 marked Art Week @StrongTowns and, while those days have come and gone,  public art catalyzes Main Street’s unique vitality throughout the year.

Old Town Winchester, host of the upcoming Virginia Main Street Downtown Intersections, creates an outdoor gallery experience through the Artscape program. An annual, juried art competition, Artscape  reproduces selected artwork on banners that hang throughout the downtown.  During the summer, young families are drawn to the downtown for a splash pad installation, which illuminates in the evening.

Public art can serve to make your downtown very memorable, motivating visitors to share their experience with others or surely to return. @StrongTowns author Marielle Brown emphasizes playful art to help visitors fall in love with your downtown:

We should look for opportunities to incorporate climbing, sitting, playing and general whimsy through public art, when appropriate. It may involve grappling with questions of liability and insurance at the municipal level, but the payoff will be more joyful, active and social places.

Whether you are planning a public art project, or not, you will find gale-force ideas to bring to your next Main Street committee brainstorm.

Check out more here >>>

 

Old Town Winchester Splash Pad and Public Restrooms