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

Innovative Models for Main Street Businesses


Airstream Beauty Boutique, Harrisonburg, VA

In August of 2016 a local beauty boutique opened in Harrisonburg’s Main Street district in an unusual and fantastic location, a 1975 Airstream Land Yacht.  Airstream Beauty Boutique owner Irina Dovganetskiy needed a small space that would allow her to test the market and grow her business – handmade beauty products using natural and toxic-free ingredients.  She wished to belong to a community of small businesses on Main Street but, without an available downtown storefront, Irina had to dream up a new way of doing business.

Clever entrepreneurs have an opportunity to think outside the box and inside a truck, trailer, or any space with a critical mass of customers and a growing market.  Recently on the Orton Family Foundation’s Cornerstones blog, rural economy expert Becky McCray shared six ways for small businesses to consider doing business in small towns:

  1. Pop-ups – temporary businesses that may last from just one day to several months.
  2. Trucks and trailers – not just for food businesses any longer, service and retail businesses are catching on.
  3. Business-in-a-business – sharing space with several different businesses under one roof.
  4. Tiny business villages – extra-small businesses in tiny buildings located together as a temporary village in an empty lot or green space.
  5. Rural-sourcing – an online marketplace offers business owners to live in rural communities, but reach a global market.
  6. Omni-local – local bricks-and-mortar shops can use e-commerce to take orders online and on-the-go mobile sites, and even monthly subscription boxes.

Could a mobile business set up shop in your downtown district without delays?  What trends can your Main Street program embrace now to nurture a thriving market place?

Preservation Virginia Releases Economic Impact Study of Virginia Main Street Program

Preservation Virginia LogoOn Wednesday, Preservation Virginia released a study measuring the economic impact of 30 years of the
Virginia Main Street program. The report documents the Virginia Main Street program throughout the last 30 years. The report has documented the direct economic effects across Virginia Main Streets since 1985, when the program was adopted in Virginia to revitalize its historic downtowns.

“Preservation Virginia’s study highlights the impressive work the Virginia Main Street program is doing to help our communities across the commonwealth stay healthy, create jobs, grow entrepreneurs and attract visitors,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones. “These communities are one of the many vital assets that will help Virginia prosper in the 21st century.”

Some notable statistics from the impact study range from the number of businesses and jobs created to the amount of private investment and volunteer time. In the last 30 years, 11,908 net new jobs have been created by Virginia Main Street businesses. More than 3,365 net new businesses have been created in our Main Street districts, and these entrepreneurs are a key component to Virginia’s economic strategy. Virginia’s Main Street districts have been able to weather business cycle downturns better than the overall economy. More than $1.2 billion has been invested in Main Street districts, with 71 percent being from the private sector. Almost $2 billion in total economic impact has been generated from the Virginia Main Street districts.

“Beyond the notable numbers, the Virginia Main Street program has helped these communities embrace the cultural history, a sense of community and a wonderful quality of life that attracts visitors, residents and businesses alike,” said Bill Shelton, director of the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development.

Preservation Virginia commissioned the report with funding assistance from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. The report details the economic impacts of the Virginia Main Street Program, an approach to downtown revitalization that purses economic development within the context of historic preservation. The study and research includes case studies on three of the 25 Virginia Main Street communities: Culpeper, Harrisonburg and South Boston.

“In 2014, Preservation Virginia commemorated its 125th anniversary. We used this anniversary as a way to celebrate and highlight the many historic preservation efforts and accomplishments in communities across the commonwealth. We commissioned a three-part economic study by the Center Urban and Regional Analysis at Virginia Commonwealth University to measure the impact historic preservation is having in communities across Virginia.” said Elizabeth Kostelny, chief executive officer of Preservation Virginia. “The second phase of the project demonstrates the value of the Virginia Main Street program regionally and on Virginia’s overall economy.”

To view the entire report, visit http://preservationvirginia.org/preserve/economicimpact.

Downtown South Boston Logo Image

Destination Downtown South Boston

Harrisonburg GAMSA Video

Check out this great video, and learn more about why Harrisonburg is a 2014 Great American Main Street Award winner.

Harrisonburg – 2014 Great American Main Street Award Winner

harrisonburgCongratulations to the city of Harrisonburg and Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance (HDR), a 2014 Great American Main Street Awards® (GAMSA) winner.  Recognized as a leader in implementing the Main Street Four-Point Approach®, embracing sound historic preservation practices and building strategic partnerships, HDR was honored at the Main Street Awards Ceremony at the 2014 National Main Streets Conference in Detroit.

The National Main Street Center’s annual GAMSA awards recognize exceptional accomplishments in revitalizing the nation’s historic Main Street commercial districts. Thanks to HDR’s efforts througout the past 10 years, Harrisonburg has become a cultural destination renowned for its farm-to-table cuisine and beautifully-preserved buildings, dating to the city’s past as an agricultural powerhouse and county seat. Former commercial buildings have been converted into housing for young professionals, while new tax incentives are luring tech startups downtown and creating jobs.

We are very proud to have a Virginia Main Street Community recognized as a 2014 Great American Main Street. Harrisonburg has utilized strong partnerships, creativity and all available resources to create a business-friendly downtown district that has made it a great place to work, live and play,” said Bill Shelton, director of the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development.

Since HDR was formed in 2004, nearly 800 new jobs have been created, tax revenues have increased $2 million and real estate value has risen to more than half a billion dollars. Much of the economic growth can be credited to partnerships between the city and HDR’s economic development committee, which formed several programs to attract new businesses. Local developers have used tax credits to transform historic buildings into modern, mixed-use developments that have boosted retail and added downtown housing. Learn more.

Harrisonburg is the fifth Virginia Main Street community to be awarded a Great American Main Street Award. Previous Virginia GAMSA winners include Culpeper (2012), Lynchburg (2006), Manassas (2003) and Staunton (2002).

Harrisonburg is named 2014 Great American Main Street semifinalist

gamsaCongratulations to the city of Harrisonburg, which was recently named by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of the top 10 semifinalists for the 2014 Great American Main Street Awards (GAMSA). The semifinalists have demonstrated their ability to preserve their unique history while creating and maintaining vibrant, successful commercial districts that serve as the heart of their communities.

Each year, the National Trust Main Street Center recognizes exceptional Main Street communities whose successes serve as a model for comprehensive commercial district revitalization. These award-winning communities have demonstrated proven success in using the Main Street Four Point Approach® to create economic vitality, a unique sense of place and a strong commitment to the community by all stakeholders.

According to the GAMSA website, downtown Harrisonburg is a dramatically different place today than it was a decade ago, and much of that transformation can be attributed to Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance’s (HDR) impressive work in the community. For the last four years, readers of the local newspaper have named Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance “The Best Use of Taxpayer Money.” The reason is clear. In their 11-year history, HDR has logged more than 85,000 volunteer hours while generating $55 million in private investment, and they have no plans of slowing down. In coming years, watch out for a new hotel and conference center, an urban park and an updated brand for the organization. As local developer Barry Kelly stated, “The heart of our city is beating vibrantly again.”

Four other communities in Virginia have been named Great American Main Streets: Culpeper (2012), Lynchburg (2006), Manassas (2003) and Staunton (2002).

The winners of the 2014 Great American Main Street Awards will be announced at the opening plenary of the 2014 National Main Streets Conference in Detroit on May 18.

Good luck, Harrisonburg. We are rooting for you!

Downtown Harrisonburg Named Virginia’s First Culinary District

As of Jan. 28, 2014, with approval of the city council of the city of Harrisonburg, Downtown Harrisonburg has adopted the designation of a Downtown Culinary District. Harrisonburg is the first city in Virginia to receive this designation.

Several factors contributed to the recognition of Harrisonburg’s Downtown Culinary District. Many large, food-related businesses, including City Exchange, Wetsel Seed, Cassco Ice, Rocco Feeds and Shenandoah’s Pride, started in Harrisonburg and made a national impact on the food industry. Additionally, with a wealth of farms and agricultural-related businesses in the city and surrounding Rockingham County, Harrisonburg quickly became a leader in adopting the farm-to-table trend in all aspects of its food-related heritage, culture and economy.

Today, Harrisonburg has grown into a destination for culinary enthusiasts. Downtown Harrisonburg boasts more than 30 unique and locally-owned restaurants and eateries, ranging from mainstream to ethnic, fine dining to casual, locally sourced to international ingredients and beyond. Complementing these popular eateries are more than 15 food-related businesses, including a year-round farmers market, specialty wine and beer shops, food tours, cooking classes and bed and breakfasts.

The city also celebrates the area’s vibrant food culture and welcomes visitors to experience it through annual events, including the bi-annual Taste of Downtown Week, Rocktown Beer Music Festival, Valley Fourth’s Grillin’ at the Pavilion Cook-off, National Food Day Farm-to-Table Breakfast, Vegan Night Out, Chocolate Walk and the Rocktown Fall Beer Festival. These events allow local restaurateurs, local businesses, and food-lovers to collaborate, create and share unique dining experiences.

The new Downtown Culinary District designation adds to an impressive list of accolades for Harrisonburg’s foodie scene. In 2013 alone, Harrisonburg and its food-related businesses received notable mentions or awards in the Washingtonian, Blue Ridge Outdoors, Wine Enthusiast, Travel+Leisure, Huffington Post, USA Today, Blue Ridge Country, The Daily Meal, Virginia Living, Southern Living, The Local Palate and many other local, regional and national publications.

For more information, contact Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance and Harrisonburg Tourism and Visitors Services.