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 >>>

Measuring Your Organization’s Fundraising Effectiveness

Organizations don’t fundraise just to raise funds – they fundraise in order to implement programming that meets their mission. In the case of Main Street organizations, this includes having a measurable, positive and visible impact on their community and their district. This is why measuring the efficiency and effectiveness of fundraising efforts is so important.

BoardSource, along with their colleagues at the Association of Fundraising ProfessionalsBBB Wise Giving Alliance and GuideStar, developed a new framework for evaluating fundraising effectiveness — one that provides a balanced approach that emphasizes how important it is to invest in strong and sustainable fundraising programs.  It is grounded in the following principles:

  • A belief in the work of nonprofit organizations and the awareness that the most important measure of their effectiveness is the impact that it is having in communities and society as whole.
  • The knowledge that charitable support from donors and funders are what makes impact possible, which means fundraising is absolutely mission critical.
  • The expectation that it is reasonable for nonprofits to care about efficiency and return on investment in their fundraising efforts, but that it is not the only way of measuring fundraising effectiveness.

The organizations with the most strategic and sophisticated fundraising strategies work to build a robust program that balances the risks and rewards of different fundraising tactics through a blended portfolio or strategy. They acknowledge that different fundraising tactics have different strengths and work to build a cohesive strategy that matures and grows over time.

Find an overview of this new framework here, along with a free toolkit for boards and leadership teams to help calculate fundraising effectiveness.

Small Real Estate Developer Training and Capacity Building Program

The Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) has partnered with Incremental Development Alliance to provide the Small Real Estate Developer Training and Capacity Building Program, supported with funding from the Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA).
DHCD and VHDA want to cultivate new and grow the capacity of existing small-scale real estate developers throughout Virginia. Through incremental, small-scale development, we can revitalize neighborhoods, reinvigorate historic downtowns and commercial districts, and build value for property owners and communities around the commonwealth.
DHCD will host educational lectures by the Incremental Development Alliance around the commonwealth in March. These lectures will explain common development challenges and detail a series of finance, design and construction techniques specific for completing successful small building projects – both rehabilitation and new construction, as well as discussing the value of small buildings to the local tax base. The goal is to building interest in the upcoming workshop (Staunton – May 16 – details TBA) that takes a deeper dive into the “how” of small-scale development.
Please RSVP and join us:
  • Harrisonburg | Monday, March 18, 4-6 p.m.
  • Wytheville | Tuesday, March 19, 9-11 a.m.
  • Petersburg | Tuesday, March 19, 5-7 p.m.

Come learn and network with us!

Stay Current On Issues That Affect Traditional Commercial Districts

In order to meet new challenges and ensure an effective Main Street revitalization effort, program participants need ongoing training.  Those participants – both staff and local community leaders – need different skills in different phases of the revitalization process.  For that reason, the Virginia Main Street program offers a robust training calendar tackling basic revitalization start-up tactics to deeper-dive technical assistance applied through real community success stories and offered for remote participation and in a variety of classroom environments around Virginia.

Stay current on issues that affect traditional commercial districts and on new revitalization techniques and models.  The 2019 Virginia Main Street Training Calendar is available now, listing opportunities at the regional, state and national levels.  As each training approaches, registration and course details will be posted on this blog and the DHCD landing and program pages.

Upcoming trainings include:

January-February: Community Development Grants How-to-Apply Workshops

February-July:  Incremental Development Alliance Trainings in Small Scale Development

April: Regional Rev Up The Six Q’s of Marketing

May: Webinar What is Main Street?

July: Downtown Intersections, Lynchburg

Check out more details and mark your calendar so you don’t miss a thing!

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.

 

 

What is a “brownfield?”

Often, we think of brownfields as large industrial properties with environmental contamination and hazardous materials. However, a broader definition includes real property, the expansion, redevelopment or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant. This means that the Virginia Brownfield Restoration and Economic Development Assistance Fund (VBAF), administered by the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) in coordination with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), may be able to assist with funding to overcome environmental concerns for gateway or downtown commercial district properties.

Mutual Pharmacy, Big Stone Gap

The town of Big Stone Gap is utilizing these resources in the redevelopment of the Mutual Pharmacy that closed in 2013, with the VBAF funds going specifically to remove asbestos and lead-based paint. Along with DHCD funding from both the Industrial Revitalization Fund (IRF) and Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), as well as the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority, for construction, Big Stone Gap will transform the Mutual Pharmacy building into a restaurant and bar space with upper-story, short-term lodging in order to draw locals and visitors downtown for outdoor events and unique food, thereby increasing tourism to the area.

Mutual Pharmacy building(interior) after remediation

Once the revitalization is complete, approximately 25 jobs will be created and serve as a catalyst to bring additional business investment in downtown Big Stone Gap.

Funds from VBAF can be applied to site assessments and planning or remediation. For local government entities, planning and assessment grants are available up to $50,000 on a rolling basis as funding is available. Remediation grants up to $500,000 are available when announced on a competitive basis. Both funds require a dollar-for-dollar match. In addition, there are other great opportunities available to pursue from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) brownfields funding that are open until Jan. 31.

If you would like more information on these programs or to see if your project qualifies, contact DEQ’s Vincent Maiden, brownfields program coordinator, at Vincent.Maiden@DEQ.Virginia.gov or 804-698-4064.

Resources:

Virginia DEQ Brownfields Program

https://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/LandProtectionRevitalization/RemediationProgram/Brownfields.aspx

EPA Region 3 Brownfields Assistance

https://www.epa.gov/brownfields/brownfields-and-land-revitalization-delaware-maryland-pennsylvania-virginia-west

Town of Big Stone Gap

http://www.bigstonegap.org/

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 >>>