Recognizing the Hard Work on Main Street: CenterFuse Co-working

At the recent 2018 Downtown Intersections in Harrisonburg, we continued our tradition of acknowledging outstanding achievements in comprehensive downtown revitalization efforts through Merit Awards. They recognize the hard work, dedication and success of Virginia’s Main Street communities and their achievements across the four points of the Main Street Approach®.  This is the first of a blog series to highlight each of the seven award winners. 

Historic Manassas Inc. Executive Director Debbie Haight accepted the Outstanding Business award for CenterFuse Coworking.  Years in the making and the first in historic downtown Manassas, CenterFuse is both an incubator and co-working space that provides new and emerging businesses with an environment that will support their start-up phase and increase the likelihood of success.  It functions as a for-profit business, but was created by and is under the auspice of Historic Manassas Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation and pioneer of the local Main Street program.

CenterFuse focuses on science and technology while cultivating other compatible businesses in the district.  The facility offers flexible leases, shared-use, and common office equipment, direct business assistance, mentoring, networking and access to capital.  The 3,800 square foot space includes a mix of offices, dedicated workstations, and open space for networking.  It also provides a roster of entrepreneurship education and mentorship programs, among others.

Since opening in May 2017, the incubator is seeing steady growth in the participating startup’s business development who will soon be ready to expand or move into vacancies downtown. While rising businesses are in the space, they contribute to an entrepreneurial culture in downtown and to the economic vitality of other local businesses and residential properties.

Congratulations Historic Manassas Inc. and CenterFuse Coworking!

To learn more >>>

Local Incentives Drive Community Development


Manassas Ribbon Cutting

One of the most important ways that a municipality can support it’s small business community is through targeted financial incentives. A recent Potomac Local article touted the expansion of the city of Manassas’ business incentive programs, including Façade Improvement Grants and Landscape Improvement Grants. These incentives will assist with the exterior renovations and landscaping of existing commercial or industrial properties.  The new initiatives are designed to encourage business owners to reinvest in properties throughout the City and serve as a redevelopment tool intended to bring new life to older structures.  Each pilot program has been allocated $50,000 and property owners must agree to invest $2 for every $1 the City invests.

Incentives like these are used alone or as part of a package to retain and attract business to a Main Street district or generally catalyze projects.  They are often in the form of a grant or a zero- to low-interest loan to promote improvements and appropriate design.  Seed funding sources can come from Tax Increment Financing (TIF), bank partnerships, Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), municipal/county targeted funds, or private loans and grants.  Incentives can mean the difference between vacant storefronts and a vibrant downtown neighborhood.

Congratulations to Manassas!

Learn more >>


Abingdon, Ashland and Manassas Main Street programs receive matching tourism grants

Governor Bob McDonnell recently announced that three Main Street organizations would receive matching tourism grants as part of Virginia Tourism Corporation’s (VTC) Marketing Leverage Grant program. Abingdon Main Street will receive $5,000 for its “Shop, Dine, Play and Stay in Downtown” campaign; Historic Manassas, Inc. will receive $4,250 for a website makeover; and the Ashland Main Street Association will receive $5,000 for its “Find Your Passion in Ashland: The center of the universe” initiative.

The grants are designed to help local and regional tourism entities attract more visitors by leveraging local marketing dollars. The local organizations match the state grant funds by a minimum of 2:1 in order to support marketing projects.

These grants enable local tourism partners to pursue projects that might otherwise be beyond their budget. The Marketing Leverage Grants program is a powerful tool in helping to support and grow a robust economy in Virginia. Our local partners are working on amazing projects and campaigns that will help to beautify communities, bring more visitors to Virginia and create even more outstanding tourism products that visitors will continue to fall in love with year after year.” – Rita McClenny, president and CEO of Virginia Tourism Corporation

Tourism is an instant revenue generator for Virginia. In 2012 tourism generated $21.2 billion in revenue, supported 210,000 jobs and provided $1.36 billion in state and local taxes. Dollars invested in tourism are proven to provide a 5:1 return in tax revenue for Virginia, and the grant awards and matching funds provide a stimulus to localities seeking to increase tourism visitation and revenue.

The next round of VTC Marketing Leverage Program grants will open in spring 2014. Localities interested in applying may visit for more information.

Culpeper – 2012 Great American Main Street Award Winner

Congratulations to Culpeper Renaissance, Inc., a 2012 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, Culpeper Renaissance, Inc. (CRI) was honored at the Main Street Awards Ceremony at the 2012 National Main Streets Conference in Baltimore, Md.

The National Trust Main Street Center’s annual GAMSA awards recognize exceptional accomplishments in revitalizing the nation’s historic Main Street commercial districts. CRI is credited with leading the once-thriving downtown district back to vitality after steady decline that began in the 1970s. The demolition threat to a once-bustling train depot was the spark that ignited citizen action. CRI was formed in 1987, became a Main Street program in 1988 and joined public and private entities in redeveloping the depot, making streetscape and infrastructure improvements and restoring badly damaged storefronts. Vacancies are now down to 6 percent from 86, thanks to a mix of banks, boutiques and coffee shops. Upper floor apartments along Culpeper’s Davis Street are occupied, and the downtown is again thriving.

Culpeper demonstrates what can be achieved with a strong commitment to historic preservation and a broad base of supporters,” says Doug Loescher, director of the National Trust Main Street Center. “This combination enabled its swift but thoughtful recovery from the 2011 earthquake and promises a bright future for Culpeper as a growing regional cultural and entertainment destination.

A great two-minute video summarizing the town’s accomplishments was shown at the awards presentation ceremony and can be viewed on the Culpeper Renaissance, Inc. 2012 GAMSA page.

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

Virginia Main Street foodies pick their favorites

Virginia Main Street blog readers logged on in record number to select their favorite Main Street eateries. In just over a month nearly 59,000 votes were cast for one of 25 restaurants.

Nearly half of the votes were for South Boston’s BISTRO 1888. And it’s a worthy top choice. The Bistro demonstrates what first-class food and downtown reinvestment can do for a community. Since executive  chef and co-owner Margaret Moorefield moved back east from Portland, Oregon and established the eatery with co-owner Barbara Cage, South Boston has been a dining destination. Read reviews of the American Automobile Association three-diamond rated  BISTRO 1888 here

According to Destination Dowtown South Boston director Tamyra Vest, the restaurant played an important role in stepping revitalization up to the next level when it opened in 2003. “We feel very fortunate. Really good restaurants are critical to an arts and culture based revitalization strategy. When visitors or residents come into town to see a show or an exhibit, they want to pair it with a memorable meal in a welcoming setting.  Bistro 1888 offers that.” 

The second top vote getter is centered in the arts and cultural district in Old Town Manassas. Okra’s Louisiana Bistro owner Charles Gilliam has witnessed a lot of changes to the area since he founded the restaurant in 1998. While the district keeps getting livelier, the food and service at Okra’s remains consistently good. The creamy stone ground grits are good enough to eat on their own.

Other top vote getters:

The Daily Grind, Martinsville
The Black Rooster, Marion
Iron Bridge Wine Company, Warrenton
Stone Soup Books & Cafe, Waynesboro
Dave’s Downtown Taverna, Harrisonburg
Union Jack Pub, Winchester

Thanks for voting. Thanks for dining downtown.

Five places to beat the heat on Main Street

A fountain and gingko trees cool off this Harrisonburg pocket park.

It’s going to be a real scorcher.  While not everyone can spend the day on a shady river bank to wait out the record highs this week, you can seek out your own cool spot in your downtown district.

1. The historic theater.  Summertime is a great time for an old-fashioned movie matinée. The daytime prices are cheaper, and those well-insulated theaters stay cool even in summer. Try Staunton’s Visulite, or the Radford Theater.

2. The ice cream stand. Linger with a cone or cup at your local ice cream stand or shop. In Harrisonburg cool off at Kline’s Dairy Bar, established in 1943.

3. The town breezy spot.   Each community has a place where you can catch the breeze. In some towns, it’s an alley or street between buildings through which the wind funnels. In Martinsville, it’s the farmer’s market, where the currents crossing Baldwin Block are pretty reliable.

4. The shade of a street tree. Thank goodness for foresight, investment, and care that went into planting and maintaining shade trees along our streets. Find a bench in the shade, sit still for a bit, and wave at passersby. Old Town Manassas has created a great spot for this with last year’s streetscape improvements.

5. Local shops and restaurants. Merchants have their own ways of beating the heat–whether it’s frosty air conditioning or effective ceiling fans hung from tin-covered ceilings.  Stop in and say hello. Lynchburg’s Market at Main combines the traditional lunch counter with well-selected goods in an inviting space.

No matter where you are though, don’t over do it, drink lots of water, and check in on your elderly neighbors who may not fare as well in the heat.  Send your recommendations for cool spots downtown to Doug.

Putting events to work for your downtown district

Why do you do it?

That festival takes months of planning. The parade risks being rained out. There are suddenly four previously un-calendared community events on the same weekend as the chili cook-off; the band shows up late; and the vendors haven’t brought enough change.

Events can be a real headache. But you still put them on. Why? In the Summer 2010 edition of the Virginia Main Street Monitor, we dare you to ask yourself that question.  Why?  We’ll also help you answer it.

The technical brief features tips, strategies, and examples from Virginia Main Street communities.  Download it today and share it with your board and promotions committee members.