Give your local artists the business tools for success

When we talk about entrepreneurship, so often artists can be left out of the conversation. The Staunton Creative Community Fund (Staunton Fund) has been examining entrepreneurship through the lens of artists. Wrapping up the spring with a Bach n’ Roll Roundtable, the Staunton Fund brought together stakeholders to talk about needs and ideas for growing the local artist community.

As a result, this summer, the Staunton Fund is expanding their offerings for artist entrepreneurs by partnering with the 2nd Annual Virginia Street Art Festival to offer a smART Marketing Workshop on Aug. 27 in Waynesboro. This workshop will cover topics such as developing a digital presence, defining your target market, developing partnerships and community resources in the area. This class will allow the Staunton Fund to gain some perspective on how to support artists and creatives in the community. Following the workshop, the 2nd Annual Virginia Street Arts Festival will be in full swing for the entire afternoon and evening, featuring live music from local musicians, painters creating their vision on a 100-foot by 20-foot wall, food trucks, children activities and more.

Share this opportunity with your local artisans!

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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.

Mountains 2 Main Streets

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** Guest blogger Katey Warren, Tourism PR specialist, Harrisonburg Tourism and Visitor Services 

The tourism offices and downtown Main Street partners of Harrisonburg, Luray and Waynesboro, along with Massanutten Resort and Shenandoah National Park, have banded together to create the Mountains 2 Main Streets Passport Program, a regional initiative that engages and rewards Shenandoah Valley visitors.

The goal of the Mountains 2 Main Streets Passport Program is to entice visitors to “take the roads less traveled” and explore the many attractions that this area of the Shenandoah Valley, and particularly, its Main Streets, has to offer. To do this, the passport program rewards visitors for dining, shopping and staying in participating businesses within Harrisonburg, Luray, Waynesboro, and Massanutten Resort.

Here’s how it works:

Step 1: Get your passport. Request one online at mountains2mainstreets.com or grab one at participating visitor centers.

Step 2: Plan your stay. Use the Mountains 2 Main Streets website to explore lodging, dining, shopping and activities available in the participating areas. These businesses are also marked with a Mountains 2 Main Streets window decal and are ready to stamp your passport upon your arrival.

Step 3: Explore and Get Stamped. From the beauty and splendor of Skyline Drive and Shenandoah National Park, to the endless activities at Massanutten Resort, to the charming downtown districts of Harrisonburg, Luray and Waynesboro, you will find endless opportunities to get your passport stamped while enjoying the area.

Step 4: Send in Your Passport. Once you have received four stamps from at least two different localities on your passport, send it in for your chance to win one of four quarterly getaway packages back to the Shenandoah Valley.

To learn more about the Mountains 2 Main Streets Passport Program and to request a passport online, visit www.mountains2mainstreets.com.

 

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

Bringing New Businesses to Main Street

Business opening in Marion's Main Street District.

Business opening in Marion’s Main Street District.

Retaining and growing existing businesses and encouraging the development of new businesses are primary goals of every Main Street organization. Here is how some of Virginia’s Main Street communities are working to strengthen and diversify their downtown business communities.

Marion Downtown Revitalization Association (MDRA) is wrapping up the third round of its “Pop-Up Marion” Small Business Boot Camp. Partnering with Wells Fargo, People Inc., Virginia Main Street and the Virginia Department of Business Assistance, MDRA’s boot camp includes a Business Basics 101, where budding entrepreneurs learn all the ins and outs of starting their own small business, develop their own business plan, and compete for up to $5,000 in startup grant funds to open their business in Marion. Grant funding is available to offset rent/mortgage and utility expenses for up to six months. Winners of this year’s “Pop-Up Marion” competition will be announced on Oct. 31. More than 100 area entrepreneurs have participated in Marion’s Boot Camp training and at least three new businesses have already received grant funds to help open their doors in Marion’s Main Street district.

For the first time, Farmville Downtown Partnership offered a four-week course this October designed to instruct new entrepreneurs about doing business in Farmville. Co-sponsored by Longwood Small Business Development Center, Farmville Downtown Partnership, the Farmville Area Chamber of Commerce and the town of Farmville, the BBC: Business Boot Camp is a three-phase program that instructs, encourages and tests new entrepreneurs wanting to open their businesses in downtown Farmville. Following graduation from the four-week training course and the completion of a business plan, participants will be encouraged to compete for a space in next spring’s Pop-Up Downtown Farmville program. The Pop-Up program will provide a temporary space for the businesses to operate during April, May and June of 2014. After getting a chance to visit the Pop-Up businesses in action, a review board and downtown visitors will vote to determine the winner of the Pop-Up competition at the end of June 2014. The winner will receive a start-up grant from Farmville Downtown Partnership to help the business permanently establish itself in the Main Street district.

The city of Waynesboro, Waynesboro Downtown Development, Inc. and Staunton Creative Community Fund are co-hosting Jumpstart Waynesboro: Ignite® Your Business Contest on Oct. 22 and Nov. 12. These events will follow the Ignite format, limiting speakers to five minutes, 20 slides and one creative business idea. The audience will vote on their favorite ideas, while providing constructive suggestions, resources and networks to the presenters. In addition to a People’s Choice Award, each night the city of Waynesboro will award a $7,000-first-place prize and a $4,000-second-place prize to help launch Ignite-inspired business concepts in Waynesboro.

In addition to these initiatives, Believe in Bristol provides support to downtown entrepreneurs in its IdeaSpaceMartinsville Uptown Revitalization Association will soon finish its first Uptown Upstart Business Plan Competition. Lastly, micro-businesses are testing the waters on their Main Streets at the Luray Downtown Initiative  Market Collective and Altavista on Track’s Arts and Antiques incubator.

Virginia Main Street Summer Toolkit

VMS-toolkit-bannerLocation:
Gateway Theater
329 West Main Street
Waynesboro, Virginia

Every Main Street community focuses its economic redevelopment on the assets that make it unique – its historic architecture, eclectic mix of shopping and dining and festivals. But only a short hike, paddle or bike ride away is often an undervalued asset waiting to be incorporated into the downtown mix, outdoor recreation. Outdoor recreation opportunities contribute millions of tourist dollars to local economies each year and enhance the local quality of life.

The 2013 Virginia Main Street Toolkit, Bringing the Outdoors Downtown: Outdoor recreation and Main Street revitalization, is designed to help communities focus the Main Street Four Point Approach ® on exactly that question.

Join the state’s engaged network of downtown revitalization professionals and volunteers for this fast-paced, interactive event.

Toolkit Agenda and Registration Information – PDF

Register Here 


Virginia’s Appalachian Trail Communities

The Appalachian Trail Community™ designation program is a new program of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, designed to recognize communities that promote and protect the Appalachian Trail (A.T.). The program serves to assist communities with sustainable economic development through tourism and outdoor recreation while preserving and protecting the A.T.

Completed in 1937, the 2,180-mile-long Appalachian National Scenic Trail is one of the longest, continuously-marked footpaths in the world. It spans through 14 states, ranging from Georgia to Maine. Virginia is home to 544 miles of the Appalachian Trial, more miles than any other state! There are 20 Appalachian Trail communities, 10 of them are in Virginia. From north to south, these are: Front Royal, Harrisonburg, Waynesboro, Buena Vista, Glasgow, Troutville, Pearisburg, Bland, Abingdon and Damascus. This year, Abingdon, a VMS community, was designated an Appalachian Trail Community™.

“Our town has long offered a respite for the weary hiker,” Abingdon Mayor Ed Morgan said in a written statement announcing the designation. “The Virginia Creeper Trail, which begins in Abingdon, is a natural connector to the A.T.” The designation ceremonywas held on Sept. 11, 2012.  Abingdon now joins the cities of Harrisonburg and Waynesboro, both designated Virginia Main Street communities that have embraced their proximity to the trail in their economic restructuring efforts, creating programs that attract hikers to their downtowns, as well as providing amenities and activities that are tied to the A.T.

Front Royal, Buena Vista and Pearisburg are VMS Commercial Affiliates.

Nestled 18 miles west of the A.T in the Shenandoah Valley, Harrisonburg is filled with locally-owned restaurants, museums, art galleries and shops.  Harrisonburg offers special packages for A.T. Hikers to make their stay an easier and more pleasant one. During their annual Valley 4th celebration, hikers are invited to participate in the parade.

The City of Waynesboro is located three miles from the junction of Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway. “The Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s community designation for Waynesboro strengthens the city’s effort in becoming a premier outdoor recreation destination,” stated Katie McElroy, Waynesboro’s tourism director. “The opening of the first phase of the South River Greenway is key to Waynesboro’s commitment to the outdoors,” explains C. Dwayne Jones, director of Waynesboro Parks and Recreation. 

Plan your Appalachian Trail adventure and stay, shop and dine in any of these great Virginia communities.