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 >>>

Makerspaces: Coworking spaces with Cool Stuff

Makerspaces, much like coworking spaces, are on the rise in the United States. There are now over 500 such spaces across the country, and that number is expected to continue to grow. They can be located in schools, libraries, community centers or as their own for-profit or nonprofit organizations.

Makerspaces are basically shared working spaces that include tools for members or participants to use. These tools can range from letter presses, sewing machines and 3-D printers, to CNC machines and other high tech machinery such as laser cutters that allow people to design, prototype and manufacture products they wouldn’t otherwise be able to at home.

Many makerspaces provide training and education in the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) subjects. Most have classes for both youth and adults that provide a revenue stream for the business, and collaboration is at the heart of what most makerspaces are about.

Makerspaces also foster entrepreneurship as new businesses are locating in and doing work from makerspaces. An example of this is in Richmond, where Build, RVA has created a foundation that helps entrepreneurs understand the patent process, support intellectual property ownership and provide financial assistance for product-based business development.

Makerspaces require different planning and more extensive resources than simple coworking, as space and equipment specific to makers are more expensive and specialized. Fab Lab estimates the cost of the recommended equipment for a makerspace at $100,000-125,000. It is important to create a business model for any makerspace so you can determine if it is something viable for your organization and community. This article is a good resource for what you need to think about when creating a makerspace.

Want to see a makerspace in action in Virginia? Try:

Hacksburg – Blacksburg

HackCville – Charlottesville

FredWorks – Fredericksburg

Lexington Collaboratory – Lexington

Vector Space – Lynchburg

757 Makerspace – Norfolk

Nova Labs – Reston

FACTORY – Roanoke

Staunton Makerspace – Staunton

 

 

Webinar – Heart and Soul Field Guide: Fostering a Participatory Community

Do your residents and stakeholders feel engaged in their community?  Do they feel heard and included? And how does their engagement translate into stronger organizations and programming?

On Oct. 1, from noon-1 p.m., Virginia Main Street is offering a free webinar focused on a researched and field tested civic engagement method to build, stronger, healthier, and more economically vibrant small cities and towns – Community Heart & Soul.

The best way to build leaders and strengthen economies is to listen to and work closely with the people who live in the community.  The Orton Family Foundation has developed a step-by-step process that proactively includes your community in making decisions and taking action to improve the place where you all live, work, learn and play. This process focuses on getting everyone involved in finding ways to protect, restore, or enhance their community identity – its heart and soul – over the long term.

Speakers:

Caitlyn Davison, Senior Associate of Programs and Marketing, Orton Family Foundation

Leanne Tingay, Senior Associate of Programs, Orton Family Foundation

Autumn Vogel, Community Development Coordinator, My Meadville (Heart & Soul Program)

Register now for this event >>

Can’t join the live event? Register to receive the webinar recording.

“Through Heart & Soul we are finding common ground. Instead of being concerned about our differences, we are moving toward the things we meet on… The growth is going to be beautiful!”

~Annie Cooper, Community Volunteer, Essex, VT

 

Virginia Main Street 2018 Merit Awards – Nominations are Open!

Downtown Intersections is just a few months away! Virginia Main Street staff have been working hard to craft an agenda, secure speakers, develop walking tours and create workshops that will educate, inspire and empower our communities.

Now, we need your help to recognize achievement, innovation and success in our Main Street communities. Nominations are now being accepted for the Virginia Main Street 2018 Merit Awards!

Download the form today, and nominate your best volunteer, your favorite new public space or your most successful retail promotion from July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018. Winners will be recognized at a special awards luncheon at Downtown Intersections on Wednesday, July 18 at Harrisonburg’s new Hotel Madison. You won’t want to miss it!

Complete a nomination and get recognized for your extraordinary achievements>>>

Main Street Idea Pitch! Making Ideas Happen

Do you have an idea for a new Main Street revitalization project idea you would like to start?  Are you positive it’s something that will be a slam-dunk success? Then you won’t want to miss Virginia Main Street’s first annual Main Street Idea Pitch! competition.

Main Street Idea Pitch! is a downtown revitalization idea competition during Virginia Main Street’s Downtown Intersections multi-day training, July 16-18, 2018, Harrisonburg (registration open soon). It is an opportunity to win a $5,000 grant award to implement the idea. Presenter applications are due May 7, 2018.  The competition will begin the morning of Wednesday, July 18, and culminate with the winner announcement during the Virginia Main Street Merit Awards Luncheon.

The Main Street Idea Pitch! competition is geared towards stimulating the Virginia Main Street network of communities and professionals to craft imaginative Main Street project ideas.  Projects should:

  1. Connect to the community’s vision to create vibrant, people-centered places to live, work, and invest.
  2. Support the four key areas Main Street programs have been using as a guiding framework for over 35 years: Economic Vitality, effective Promotion, quality Design, and sustainable Organization.
  3. Focus on highly visible changes, measuring progress, and results that demonstrate the revitalization effort is under way and succeeding.

Potential project ideas can include, but are not limited to:

  • Non-profit organizational development
  • Market studies and strategy development
  • Downtown organization website development
  • Design and place-making
  • Destination development
  • Entrepreneur support programs
  • Buy local and extended store hours programs

Find out more to become a pitch presenter and make your idea happen >>>

VMS Idea Pitch Presenter Application>>>

 

BEE Innovation Day 2017

The Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) will be holding a Building Entrepreneurial Economies (BEE) Innovation Day on Wednesday, December 6, in Charlottesville, VA. Community leaders and small business enthusiasts will discuss innovative ideas in entrepreneurship development, as well as offer inspiration and education to plan for and create a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem in their communities.

Our panel of experts and educational topics include:

  • Trends in Entrepreneurship – Mike Lenox, The Darden School, UVA
  • Building Partnerships for an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem – Annette Patterson, The Advancement Foundation
  • Thinking Entrepreneurially both Internally and Externally – Martin Kaszubowski, The Center for Enterprise Innovation, ODU
  • Resources for Entrepreneurs – David Touve, i.Lab at UVA
  • The Gig Economy: The Next Generation of Work – Larkin Garbee, 804RVA

Attendees will have the opportunity to discuss various aspects of DHCD’s Building Entrepreneurial Economies (BEE) and Community Business Launch (CBL) programs with some our past grantees, and to tour the i.Lab facility at UVA.

Register here for the event.

Downtown Lynchburg: Where the Makers Are

The Downtown Lynchburg Association (DLA) knows how to lift up their community. Right now they’re raising awareness of the hardworking entrepreneurs who, with their own hands, are making downtown the destination for local shopping.  Our guest blogger, DLA Executive Director Ashley Kershner, gives us the goods.   

As part of our overall marketing strategy this year, Downtown Lynchburg Association wanted a campaign that would do three things: feature the fabulous businesses that make our downtown unique, position downtown as the local choice for shopping, and most importantly, attract new visitors. With a multi-year downtown construction project looming, we knew that a strong marketing effort would be needed to get our businesses through the holiday season.

The concept of “makers” is a world-wide movement – artisan crafters, handmade goods, chefs sourcing from local ingredients, and makerspaces.  We set out to develop a concept that would align Downtown Lynchburg with the movement, and that would promote it as a place to where quality, originality, and art are valued.

“Where the Makers Are,” is a series of six videos featuring diverse downtown businesses – a skate shop that makes gifts from recycled boards; a pottery shop with handmade items; a bakery that starts baking at 4am; an 85-year old jewelry shop; a specialty chocolatier; and a children’s museum that creates its own exhibits. In each of these videos, we see close-up footage of these makers creating. We hear them talk about why they do what they do, and equally important, why they choose to do it in Downtown Lynchburg.

We have only released two videos thus far, but the response has been overwhelming. The first video alone was viewed over 34,000 times, and we received almost 2,000 video reactions, every single one of them positive. With negativity reigning in social media, this campaign has proven that people are looking for a way to express pride in their community.

With four more videos to go, we look forward to the potential impact this campaign will have on Downtown Lynchburg this year and into the future.

View the “Where the Makers Are campaign here >>>