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.

Hopewell, Martinsville and St. Paul receive funds to revitalize derelict downtown buildings

On Dec. 10, Governor Bob McDonnell announced more than $2 million in Industrial Revitalization Fund (IRF) grants, including grants for the designated VMS communities of Hopewell, Martinsville and St. Paul. The funds leverage local and private resources to achieve market-driven redevelopment of derelict structures, creating catalysts for long-term employment opportunities and on-going physical and economic revitalization.

“This program focuses on bringing derelict structures back to life. By revitalizing vacant structures, we are encouraging economic growth in communities that want new investments and creating new vitality for vacant buildings.” — Governor Bob McDonnell

Hopewell

Hopewell and its partner, the nonprofit group Capital Area Partnership Uplifting People, plan to redevelop the historic, but dilapidated and vacant storefront located at 238 East Broadway, in the heart of downtown Hopewell.  The mixed-use redevelopment will provide the Main Street district with a high quality coffee shop, commercial art studios, an art gallery/event space, an employment training program and a possible retail incubator and art education spaces. The project will also convert a vacant city lot located adjacent to the property into an outdoor patio/art terrace space. The project will invest more than $900,000 in public and private funds to take some of downtown Hopewell’s worst properties and make them its best.

Martinsville

The Henry Hotel, designed by the same architect who designed its twin, the Beverley Hotel in Staunton, Virginia, was built in 1925. It is in the heart of Martinsville’s Main Street district, blocks from the New College Institute’s new facility and is a contributing building in the Martinsville National Historic District and the city’s local historic district. In recent decades, the building fell into disrepair and became a 33-room efficiency apartment building for low-income residents.

The city purchased the Henry Hotel in 2009 and is now partnering with Waukeshaw Development Inc. to convert the building into a mixed-use development featuring 25 residential apartments and four commercial spaces. The new apartments will be a mixture of studio and one-bedroom market-rate units that will help meet demand for high quality, new housing in the Martinsville’s Main Street district. The project will invest more than $3 million in public and private funds to convert one of the Main Street district’s largest white elephants into one of the community’s newest assets.

St. Paul

Willis Building in St. Paul

Willis Building in St. Paul

The Willis Building, built around 1922, is the largest vacant structure in St. Paul’s Main Street district. After years of neglect, the town purchased the property to stabilize the structure and secure it for redevelopment. The renovation and reuse of the Willis Building will allow St. Paul to maximize the benefits of the outdoor-tourism-based regional economic development initiative known as Appalachian Spring. The Appalachian Spring initiative recognizes St. Paul as a gateway to the Clinch River, the Breaks Interstate Park and the Spearhead Trails, all major regional outdoor tourism destinations.  The Willis Building will provide space for outdoor-tourism-related entrepreneurial endeavors by providing affordable and accessible retail and commercial space. This project will invest more than $1 million to convert a massive, vacant and blighting space in St.Paul’s Main Street district into an outdoor tourism entrepreneur destination.

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

Hopewell Celebrates VMS/CSX Grant

Check Presentation. From left to right: Hopewell Mayor Christina Luman-Bailey, Quintin C. Kendall, CSX regional vise-president for state affairs, Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling, HDP Board President Jim Poe, and Lisa Atkinson, Deputy Director of Community Development for DHCD.

Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling presented Hopewell Downtown Partnership (HDP) with a ceremonial check for $7,500 as part of a Downtown Improvement Grant awards ceremony held Wednesday, Aug. 15 at the Beacon Theater in downtown Hopewell.

The grant funding is the result of a unique public/private partnership that matches $2,500 in VMS funds with $5,000 from CSX Corporation. This is the second year that CSX has collaborated with VMS to provide $7,500 Downtown Improvement Grants to designated VMS communities served by CSX Corporation rail lines. Grantees provide a local match of at least $2,500. 

In partnership with the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation and Department of Planning, HDP plans to use the VMS/CSX grant funds to build a recreation and family-friendly environment on a park site along the Appomattox River.

The proximity of the Appomattox River is one of downtown Hopewell’s greatest assets. HDP is focusing on the river as a key economic restructuring element by encouraging more access to the river, eco-tourism, outdoor recreation activities and the creation of a business-friendly environment near the river that will help attract Hopewell residents and tourists to the downtown area.

The Hopewell Downtown Partnership has come a long way,” stated HDP Board President Jim Poe. “We are now really starting to build momentum in the downtown, and with the recent grants from CSX and Virginia Main Street, we will be able to make some noticeable differences.”

A check presentation ceremony in the Town of St. Paul was held on Aug. 9 to celebrate that community’s VMS/CSX grant award. St. Paul Tomorrow will use its grant funds and local matching funds to provide permanent signage in and around Market Square, which includes the recently completed Clinch River Farmers Market.

Hopewell Celebrates Virginia Main Street Designation

A kickoff event celebrating Hopewell’s designation as an official Virginia Main Street (VMS) community was held Thursday, January 12 at the Beacon Theater in downtown Hopewell.

At the event, the VMS staff presented the town with road signs signifying its designation as a Main Street Community and joined with local officials in remarking on the community’s past and future revitalization efforts.  Food and beverages were sponsored by the John Randolph Medical Center and local restaurants, Lucky Start (formerly Pearl River) and Stone’s Diner.

In attendance at the event were Mayor Moore of Petersburg and Patrice Lewis, a representative for Senator Warner, who each read letters expressing support and enthusiasm for Hopewell’s designation.  Hopewell Mayor Christina Luman-Bailey recognized attending business and industry leaders and representatives from Ft. Lee, Colonial Heights, Prince George and Chester for their commitment and regional support.

“This is not only about Hopewell, but about the entire region, and we look forward to seeing the ‘Wonder City,’ Hopewell’s historic nickname, take on a rejuvenated role in the region,” stated Mayor Luman-Bailey.

Thursday’s kickoff event followed several prior trainings for volunteers and partners of the Hopewell Downtown Partnership (HDP), the organization who spearheaded the application process for designation and will lead the local Main Street program.  This training will be the first of many intensive services the organization will receive as a newly designated VMS community.

“We have come a long way,” commented HDP Board President Jim Poe, “but we still have a lot of work ahead of us to realize our vision for a fully revitalized downtown.  That said, together with the town, the state, local businesses and citizens, our volunteers and future staff will help make Hopewell an even more pleasant place to work, live and visit.”

For more information about Hopewell’s revitalization efforts, contact Jim Poe at (804) 400-3200 or etpoe@aol.com.

Virginia Main Street designates four new communities

Governor McDonnell announced yesterday that four new communities can now tout their distinction as Designated Virginia Main Street Communities.  The new communities are the cities of Hopewell and Bristol and the towns of Farmville and St. Paul.  They were chosen based on a combination of factors that included need, readiness, community support and appropriateness of their district.  With the addition of these four communities, the number of Designated Virginia Main Street Communities grows to 25.

Said Governor McDonnell,

“With public and private investment in our traditional commercial districts, we can spark entrepreneurship and job creation downtown in rural and distressed regions of our commonwealth. Main Street is a proven model that uses limited state resources to support local strategies and leverage local resources.”

Each community brings a unique set of historic assets and strategic focus to its revitalization work. Bristol and St. Paul, in Southwest Virginia, are aligned with a 19-county strategy that promotes the region’s cultural heritage and natural assets. Downtown Hopewell’s placement on the James River is the centerpiece of a local quality of life strategy, and Farmville is strengthening ties with local universities and the emerging regional cultural heritage strategies in Southern Virginia. Virginia Main Street will provide technical assistance, training, and expert resources to assist the communities with aligning resources and achieving these goals.

We are pleased to have these folks on board and ask that you help us welcome them.