Regional Rev Up: Opportunity Analysis – Effective Design

How can your downtown function better for residents, merchants, and visitors? And how do you identify opportunities in the physical environment to make your town a destination, drawing customers and revenue to the area?

On Oct. 11, 17, and 18 in Bristol, Blackstone and Gloucester, the fall edition of the Regional Rev Up promises to load you up with the tools you need to implement a people-centered downtown design process.

Effective downtown design supports a community’s transformation by enhancing the physical and visual elements of downtown while capitalizing on the unique assets that set the commercial district apart.  As a community, you need to bring together your stakeholders to plan what physical amenities will bring energy and dollars to the area. The type of design choices you make, and the variables that you weigh for making your decision, is the process known as opportunity analysis.

This workshop will explore a range of issues that impact the physical characteristics of downtown and provide you with a road map for navigating the opportunities involved in implementing holistic design principles to ensure they complement the overall strategy for your downtown.

Join us for this half-day workshop that will be educational, inspiring and fun!  Kathy Frazier, Principal of architecture and planning firm Frazier Associates, will lead the discussion and activities.

Registration is only $15 to cover lunch from a local eatery.  Registration for each Rev Up session closes one week prior to the event, register now to reserve your spot!

Register now! >>>

Seek the Unique and shop Downtown Bristol!

Bristol-Who knew you could support your local businesses from the luxury of your own couch? Don’t let that stop you from shopping in person in one of America’s most charming towns.

Bristol, Tennessee/Virginia has been named ShopOnMain’s most “Charming Town” in America and will now be featured in an upcoming episode of the TV series “Small Town, Big Deal.”  More than 100 cities were part of the competition with more than 20,000 votes cast.

Believe in Bristol Executive Director Christina Blevins is thrilled that Bristol is being recognized nationally.

“Shopping in downtown Bristol is truly blossoming, from antiques to clothing stores and art galleries and so much more, Bristol really has it going on.  Seek the unique!  Believe in Bristol thanks everyone for their support downtown, and we hope to continue with this type of success!  Congratulations downtown Bristol!”

Along with being featured on “Small Town, Big Deal,” Bristol also is featured prominently on ShopOnMain’s website, a new online shopping experience where you can discover local shops all over the country and support local communities.

Congratulate Bristol!

 

Local Main Street Communities coordinate for regional benefit

 ** Guest blogger Susan Howard, Executive Director, Abingdon Main Street

As the director of Abingdon Main Street, I am very fortunate to have three other designated Virginia Main Street communities, Bristol, Marion and St. Paul, each less than an hour’s drive from Abingdon.

The proximity of our communities and their cultural similarities have allowed us to explore ways to work together in a regional partnership.  During the holiday season of 2013, we promoted a buy local theme using a common slogan—“Spread holiday cheer when you spend it here.”  Recently, Christina Blevins of Believe in Bristol arranged a meeting with Anthony Flaccavento, a local Abingdon organic farmer and consultant for sustainable economic development, along with Olivia Hall from Marion Downtown, Teresa Harless from St. Paul Main Street, Joy Rumley from Virginia Main Street, and yours truly. Flaccevento discussed the organization called BALLE, the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies.

BALLE is like a chamber of commerce for locally-owned, independent businesses, the kind of businesses that are the heart and soul of any Main Street community.  BALLE also focuses on the triple bottom line of success for businesses:  financial, social and environmental.  We talked about the potential for a loosely-formed BALLE-like organization, as as well what it would require to form an actual BALLE chapter. And of course, we discussed the need for funding and grant opportunities available.

The next step is for the four Main Street directors in our region to meet with our respective economic restructuring committees to discuss the feasibility of a partnership between our communities using the BALLE principles.  We recognize the advantages, in terms of business networking, education and promotion, of buy-local principles, but we must decide if BALLE is a good fit for us in terms of a regional partnership.  Whatever we decide, we will be working together, and that is a good thing.

Entire block of Bristol’s Main Street district to become boutique hotel

Over the next 18 months, an entire block of Bristol’s Main Street district will be transformed into a destination hospitality complex centered around a new 70-room luxury boutique hotel called the Sessions Hotel.

The project by Creative Boutique Hotels (CBH), which includes Hal Craddock, Cornerstone Hospitality and MB Contractors, will span nearly the entire 800 block of State Street and 15 Commonwealth Avenue, encompassing the properties that currently include the Owen Equipment building and adjacent parking lot, KSS, Jobbers Candy and the Mill.

The Sessions Hotel will feature 70 upscale hotel rooms, a spa and a restaurant. The hotel will also boast a music stage and green space venues, a roof top garden café, and roof top bar. The project will blend historic architecture with new construction, similar to Craddock’s approach developing the acclaimed Craddock Terry Hotel and Event Center in Lynchburg’s Main Street district, which consistently maintains an 80 percent occupancy rate year round and has won numerous awards.

Construction will begin on the Sessions Hotel by March, with a projected opening date of Spring 2015.

CBH will be investing $20 million in capital expenditures to the property. In keeping with the local theme of the project, much of the skilled detail work will be done at the hands of local artists and trades people. Sessions Hotel will ultimately employ 70 FTEs, and guarantees a return of $1.2 million over the next five years in sales taxes alone.” – Andrew Trivette Bristol, Virginia Assistant City Manager

Creative Boutique Hotels is a Virginia-based partnership focused on the development of boutique hotels in small markets and on the repurposing of historic buildings, as well as new construction. The partnership combines the talents of three industry leaders. Cornerstone Hospitality conducts market analyses, determines viability and makes recommendations for property size, styling and operations management. Hal Craddock of Craddock Cunningham Architectural Partners specializes in the vision, design and repurposing of historic structures. MB Contractors provides a solid foundation of construction costs and craftsmanship.

In addition to the Sessions Hotel, other current boutique hotel projects include the expansion of their existing Craddock Terry Hotel in Lynchburg, the revitalization and expansion of the John Randolph Hotel in South Boston, the adaptive reuse of One Mill Place in Farmville and the feasibility, design and construction of a ground up boutique hotel called the Rutherfoord Hotel in Crozet.

Major construction projects in Virginia’s Main Street districts

Designated Virginia Main Street communities have seen more than $741 millions of private investment since 1985. Private investment on Main Street ranges from the replacement of awnings or a new door to multi-million dollar rehabilitation or construction projects. In 2013, major construction projects added or will soon add new commercial, residential, educational and entertainment venues to Virginia’s Main Street districts. Here are some of the exciting construction projects that got underway or were wrapping up in 2013 in Virginia’s Main Street communities.

Once completed in 2014, the $3.6 million renovation of the Taylor Hotel, built in 1848, will add 7,500 sq. feet of new retail and restaurant space and five two-bedroom luxury apartments to Winchester’s Main Street district.  In addition, the area in front of the building on the Loudoun Street Mall will become an outdoor amphitheatre, pocket park, and farmers’ market pavilion.

The completion in 2013 of the $9.3 million historic rehabilitation of the Art Deco State Theatre in Culpeper replaced a blighting, vacant building with a 560-seat, state-of-the-art entertainment venue in the heart of the town’s bustling Main Street district.

The finishing touches are going into the restoration of the historic Beacon Theatre in Hopewell, which will open in January 2014. The completion of the $4.2 million project will re-open a 650-seat, state-of-the-art entertainment venue in the center of the Main Street district that has been closed and abandoned since 1981.

New College Institute’s new building in Martinsville’s Main Street district is approximately a third complete. When it opens in the summer of 2014, the new 52,000-square-foot, $18.7-million building, with state-of-the-art technology throughout and a variety of classroom and collaborative workspaces, will bring hundreds of students, faculty and staff to Martinsville’s Main Street district. The building will include shared office space for both the New College Institute and the Martinsville Henry County Economic Development Corporation and will house programs from NCI’s partner universities, Patrick Henry Community College and the Piedmont Governor’s School.

In South Boston, Destination Downtown South Boston helped to facilitate the development of the New Brick Historic Lofts, which will open in January 2014. The $2.5 million project by Rehab Development of Winston-Salem, N.C., converted the town’s last historic tobacco warehouse into 22 market-rate apartments in the town’s Main Street district.

Construction is underway on the $10.5 million renovation of Bristol’s former Goodpasture Motors Company building, built in the 1920s, which will soon be the home of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. When the museum opens in August 2014, it will serve as a major tourist destination, drawing at least 75,000 visitors per year to Bristol’s Main Street district.

The final phase of construction is underway in Waynesboro’s Wayne Theatre, with completion set for December 2014. The $10-11 million renovation project will reopen a 375-seat entertainment venue in the center of the city’s Main Street district that had sat empty since 2000.

Bedford’s new Jackson Street Tobacco Warehouse Loft Apartment project will convert the abandoned, four-story former Frank Chervan Furniture Company building into the town’s newest downtown residential building. The $3 million project by Waukeshaw Development Inc. will add 32 new apartments to Bedford’s Main Street district when it opens in 2014.

In Marion, construction is underway to convert a 1908 school building into the Wayne C. Henderson School of Appalachian Arts. When completed the $2 million project will bring hundreds of music students and fans to the town’s Main Street district.

Bristol, Abingdon and Marion Main Street Programs partner for a regional shop local campaign

regional_shoppingBelieve in Bristol is partnering up with the Main Street programs in Abingdon and Marion for a shop local campaign that will be launched over the holidays and last throughout the next year. It is a campaign that focuses on the importance of buying local and supporting the small businesses in our communities.

Kenneth Heath, executive director of Marion’s Main Street Program, stated, “We are so proud to be partnering with our sister Main Street communities of Bristol and Abingdon. This is a great opportunity for us all to band together to remind our citizens of the importance of shopping local, supporting our neighbors and keeping our historic downtowns vibrant and alive.”

With campaigns like the 3/50 project highlighting the benefits a community gains from shopping local, it is time to jump on board and support our local community. Some facts about shopping local:

  • If half the employed population in the United States spent $50 each month in locally-owned, independent businesses, it would generate more than $42.6 billion in revenue.
  • For every $100 spent in locally-owned, independent stores, $68 returns to the local community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures.
  • For every $100 spent in chain stores, $43 comes back into the local community.

Susan Howard, executive director of Abingdon Main Street, said“Supporting our independent business is a priority for us. We are very excited to partner with Believe in Bristol and downtown Marion in this buy local promotion. It will allow us to make a bigger impact, and that is just good for all of our communities”.

“We want to challenge our communities to support local this holiday season and year around. Mom and Pop stores are the backbone of this country.  I am looking forward to working on future alliances together,” stated Christina Blevins, executive director for Believe in Bristol.

For more information, visit www.marionva.org/marion-downtown, www.abingdonva.us/main-street-program or www.believeinbristol.org.

Historic Preservation on Main Street

Building being demolished in Culpeper due to earthquake damage in 2011. Photo source: http://culpeper-virginia.blogspot.com/2011/08/culpeper-earthquake-levy-building.html

Historic building being demolished in Culpeper after 2011 earthquake. Photo source: http://culpeper-virginia.blogspot.com/2011/08/culpeper-earthquake-levy-building.html

Last fall a 9,000-square-foot commercial building was demolished in the heart of a Main Street district in Virginia to create more parking. The loss of the building permanently erased a piece of the architectural history and character of the historic downtown. It also opened up a 35-foot-long hole in the urban fabric of the historic district and may have increased the cost of creating future commercial and residential uses on the parcel, uses that are critical to the vitality of every downtown.  The demolition sent an estimated 800 tons of debris to the local landfill, reduced the property taxes contributed by the parcel to the local government by two-thirds, created no new businesses or jobs and added no new residents or employees to the downtown. In short, the demolition permanently removed a valuable asset from the Main Street district, and the hole in the street front will likely prove to be a long-term drag to the economic revitalization of the downtown.

Historic preservation is a cornerstone of the Main Street approach to downtown revitalization. Virginia’s historic downtowns were never islands unto themselves, but were, rather, once the hubs of economic and cultural activity in their regions. As such, they were the focus of a tremendous amount of financial investment and cultural expression by the residents of the regions surrounding the downtowns. The result is the unique historic architecture and pedestrian-friendly commercial districts that characterize Virginia’s Main Street communities.

The preservation of these unique built environments maintains the cultural and economic hearts of Virginia’s Main Street districts and provides substantial economic benefits to local communities. Despite some losses, Virginia’s Main Street organizations are working with property owners to preserve, rehabilitate and reuse the historic built assets in their downtowns.

Example of facade design assistance provided by Frazier Associates.

Example of facade design assistance provided by Frazier Associates.

Walk through any Main Street community and you will see refurbished facades with new paint, re-exposed store windows, repaired brickwork and new awnings. Local Main Street organizations facilitated many of these improvement projects with design assistance funded by VMS and provided to private property owners by Frazier Associates. Many property owners just need design assistance and are able to fund the façade improvements themselves while others take advantage of façade improvement grant and loan programs like those in Hopewell, South Boston and Fredericksburg.

With funding from VMS, Bedford, Bristol, Luray, Lynchburg, Marion, Martinsville, South Boston, St. Paul, and Waynesboro have developed financial feasibility studies for major historic, vacant or underused buildings in their Main Street districts. These organizations worked with owners of large “white elephant” buildings in the Main Street district to develop preliminary engineering and architecture reports, market demand studies for proposed reuses of the buildings and financial assistance packages. Prepared with this valuable information, the Main Street organizations are working to find potential property developers who can return these buildings to their status as major downtown assets.

Some Main Street organizations have even taken on ownership of historic buildings in order to save them from demolition until the right property developer could be located. Three years ago, after one of South Boston’s final three remaining tobacco warehouses burned and a second was demolished and sold off for the value of its bricks, the New Brick Warehouse, built in 1900, the last standing tobacco warehouse in South Boston, was also slated to be sold off for bricks.

Saving the historic warehouse from demolition was a high priority for Destination Downtown South Boston (DDSB), South Boston’s Main Street organization. DDSB convinced the building’s owner that there was more financial gain in donating the building to DDSB, a 501-C-3 non-profit organization, for a charitable donation tax deduction than there was in demolishing and selling off the bricks. Working with Preservation Virginia and the town government, the Main Street organization found a developer who was able to preserve the building and rehabilitate it for market rate downtown housing, which is in short supply in South Boston. The $2.6 million New Brick Historic Lofts will open January 2014, adding more than 20 new, market-rate housing units to downtown South Boston and preserving a piece of architectural tobacco heritage that is unique and authentic to South Boston.

We took on ownership of the New Brick Warehouse in order to save the last standing tobacco warehouse from being demolished, and we’ve been very picky in making sure that anyone we sell the building to has to adhere to the Secretary of the Interior’s Rehabilitative Standards because that was our main goal – to preserve its historic character. We ended up with the ideal project — our developers will be utilizing tax credits, which require historic standards, so we get to preserve the building as well as get 22 market-rate apartments in downtown.” – Tamyra Vest, Executive Director of Destination Downtown South Boston