Virginia Main Street Grant Opportunities

VMS-logo-colorVirginia Main Street is currently accepting grant applications for FY 2017. Grants are available only to designated VMS communities and must be administered through the designated local VMS organization.

Downtown Investment Grants (DIGs) allow Main Street organizations to take on unique, one-time projects that measurably, creatively and sustainably advance the organization’s goals and strategies.

FY 2017 DIGs are available in two categories:

Design: Projects that will visually enhance the Main Street District. These may include wayfinding systems, street furnishings, façade improvements or other unique aesthetic enhancement projects.

Economic Vitality: Projects that will contribute to the revitalization activity in or near your Main Street District. These projects may include an innovative economic revitalization idea with implementation plan, new independent businesses that create new full time jobs in your Main Street district or other exciting projects that result in positive job creation and fulfills an economic vitality goal from your organization’s current work plan.

The last day DIG applications will be accepted is May 2, 2016. For more information about DIG, click here.

Financial Feasibility grants allow Main Street organizations to work with owners of significant “white elephant” buildings or those with non-productive upper floor space. The purpose is to identify the highest and best use of such properties and to develop sufficient information to allow the owner or Main Street organization to “shop” the rehabilitation and reuse of the property to private developers and investors.

Financial feasibility grants are being accepted on an ongoing basis until funding is exhausted. You can get more information about the grants here.

Virginia Main Street Awards Downtown Improvement Grants

VMS logoVMS recently awarded several Downtown Improvement Grants (DIG). These grants, of up to $25,000, help designated Main Street communities tackle special, one-time Main Street-related projects that need additional financial resources to become a reality. The awarded projects have specific economic restructuring outcomes and involve multiple community partners. This year, VMS received 14 competitive applications and awarded five grants, totaling $115,000. The awarded projects include the following:

  • Blackstone –A $25,000 DIG will help Downtown Blackstone Inc. install a wayfinding system for the Blackstone’s historic commercial district. Grant funds will assist in the fabrication and installation of 10 trailblazing signs at strategic locations throughout town and the replacement of six gateway signs located at each entrance into town. DIG funds will be matched by $25,000 from a USDA grant, $9,000 from the town and $9,500 of in-kind donations. VMS provided design assistance for the wayfinding system via its design services consultant, Frazier Associates.
  • Lynchburg – A $25,000 DIG will help Lynch’s Landing Foundation partner with the Lynchburg Office of Economic Development and the Region 2000 Small Business Development Center to develop and run a small business competition for businesses looking to start or expand in Lynchburg’s Central Business District. Three business competition winners will receive business start-up/expansion grants of up to $10,000 and marketing and media support.
  • Marion –A $25,000 DIG will help Marion Downtown! develop a façade enhancement grant program that requires participation in the Marion Downtown!’s award-winning business boot camp as a way of strengthening the skill sets of downtown business owners while improving the physical appearance of the Main Street district.
  • South Boston – A $20,000 DIG will help Destination Downtown South Boston develop a façade enhancement grant program that will provide matching grants of up to $5,000. In addition, the Main Street organization will develop a handbook to assist property owners in rehabilitating their properties and will host a forum that will allow property owners interested in rehabilitating their properties to meet one-on-one with design consultants for advice on their project.
  • Winchester – A $20,000 DIG will allow Winchester’s Old Town Development Board to provide matching façade improvement grants of up to $5,000. If property owners lack the resources to meet the 1:1 match requirement for the façade grant, they will be eligible to apply for commercial façade loans from the Winchester Economic Development Authority (EDA). The loans offer favorable repayment terms and are a useful alternative to the cash-matching requirement.

2012 Downtown Improvement Grants Awarded

This past February, Virginia Main Street awarded seven Downtown Improvement Grants ranging from $6,000 to $25,000. The grants are intended to help local Main Street organizations implement economic restructuring strategies that will have measureable local and regional economic benefits, establish and strengthen partnerships in the community and increase the capacity and involvement of local Main Street committees and volunteers. The funded organizations included:

  • Advance Abingdon, which will improve a public park to help anchor the western end of the Main Street district and encourage private investment in this part of the district.
  • Altavista on Track, which will renovate the upper stories of the building currently housing the Altavista Arts and Antiques incubator to allow for additional vendors.
  • Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, which will complete façade improvements on the former McCory’s Department Store as part of a larger restoration project that will establish a Main Street “mini-mall” for small retail, food and professional tenants.
  • Luray Downtown Initiative, Inc., which will complete permanent gateway improvements at the Main Street district’s most heavily-trafficked entrance.   
  • Marion Downtown Revitalization Association, which will launch the Virginia Main Street community’s first pop-up program by providing three new small businesses in the Main Street district with business training and grant funding to help defray start-up costs.
  • Staunton Downtown Development Association, which will upgrade outdoor lighting fixtures to help better connect the thriving downtown commercial district to the “Wharf District.”
  • Waynesboro Downtown Development, Inc., which will construct the Center for Coldwater Restoration demonstration hatchery and information center in the Main Street district to help develop the community’s potential as an outdoor recreation and tourism destination.

Downtown Improvement Grants are just one of the many forms of support that Virginia Main Street offers the state’s 25 designated Main Street communities.

Downtown Improvement Grants Awarded

Five Designated Virginia Main Street (VMS) Communities have been awarded 2011 Downtown Improvment Grants.  This year, VMS communities served by CSX Transportation rail lines were eligible for a match of up to $5,000 from the corporation, pushing the awards from $2,500 to a total of $7,500. 

Waynesboro and Winchester will receive CSX Transportation VMS Downtown Improvement Grants. Communities receiving VMS Downtown Improvement Grants are Berryville, Blackstone and Marion. The discrete projects must be completed by December of this year and were selected due to their capacity for impact, the level of volunteer involvement and the degree to which they leverage additional resources.  The following projects were selected from among the 17 submitted:

Waynesboro:  A downtown riverside observation deck along a key section of the South River will strengthen the connection between the community, the district, regional outdoor recreation and quality of life strategies. Several river access facilities and greenway trail resources intersect at the site.  ($7,500)

Winchester:  A flexible staging platform will be developed and purchased as part of a coordinated events strategy for Old Town Winchester. The professional staging system will create an enhanced audience experience at community events and performances.  ($7,500)

Berryville:  A downtown design improvements project furthers recommendations by the Virginia Main Street architect to engage property owners in simple district improvements. Grant products will include planters, a door improvement contest and a wayfinding kiosk. ($2,500)

Blackstone:  A historical markers project engages property owners, local historians and the Town in identifying and communicating the stories of the historical assets that shape this historic commercial district. ($2,500)

Marion:  A largely volunteer based “Big Surprise” façade improvement program will dramatically improve the appearances of three buildings, two of which are owned by local nonprofits. In a quick burst of activity, old facades will be removed, with basic improvements begun over the weekend.  ($2,500)

Staunton completes banner project

In 2010, the Staunton Downtown Development Association (SDDA)  received one of two community projects that took advantage of Virginia Main Street’s recent Downtown Improvement Grants to fund identity banners. (We took a look at the Culpeper’s banner project in the January 13 blog post.)

Before the grant, Staunton had a priority-based budget and the funds to only place the banners in part of their district. SDDA Board leaders saw the grant as an opportunity to expedite the second phase of the project, completing banners for the Churchville Avenue Corridor. In their press release and the subsequent press earned by the project, the organization was very clear about the motives and desired outcomes of the project. Articles ran in the Augusta Free Press and WHSV Channel 3.

Julie Markowitz, executive director of the SDDA, said that, “Installing new, colorful banners in those areas will show SDDA support for businesses and property owners in that part of the district.”  This very visible investment can go a long way in demonstrating commitment to part of the footprint that doesn’t alway get as much attention.  Additionally, the banners will visually connect the central district to the public spaces and arts and cultural amenities of Gypsy Hill.

Staunton was one of seven communities to receive a 2010 Downtown Improvement Grant.

Virginia Main Street Downtown Improvement Grants awarded

Seven designated Virginia Main Street (VMS) communities have been awarded VMS Downtown Improvement Grants in a special initiative marking the program’s 25th anniversary.

Successful proposals in the competitive process demonstrated: 

  • Measurable impacts or deliverables;
  • Committee or volunteer project leadership/involvement;
  • Partnerships and resource leveraging;
  • Local government involvement or support;
  • Up-to-date program reporting; and
  • The ability to complete the project using the $2,500 (plus leverage) by Dec. 2010.

The funded projects in alphabetical order are:

CulpeperA downtown banner project will carry forward the VMS-supported identity campaign and leverage donated design time, community volunteer hours, and an in-kind local government contribution. 

HarrisonburgA pilot tourism project will engage a collaborative team in the development, trial, and measurement of a concierge and resort-based educational and promotional campaign.

Martinsville:  A print and Web marketing campaign will promote Uptown Martinsville as a destination and include the development and production of a brochure and loyalty cards that shoppers will use to receive special discounts and offers at participating Uptown businesses.

OrangeA landscaping project will expand a recently successful collaboration between the Orange Downtown Alliance, local garden clubs, and the Town of Orange into a district-wide effort, leveraging volunteer hours and contributions.

South Boston:  A participatory art and history project will engage a collaborative team in painting fire hydrants as part of the community’s strategic arts and heritage economic repositioning.

StauntonA downtown banner project will extend an existing effort into a transitional, gateway portion of the district, leveraging an existing investment and increasing the engagement of a stakeholder group at the margins.

Winchester: A pedestrian oriented kiosk and signage will implement recommendations from an ongoing wayfinding planning process.

Congratulations to the successful communties, and good luck on the projects.