An Evening on the Bridge: Luray’s Hometown Fundraiser

Our guest blogger is Luray Downtown Initiative (LDI) Executive Director Meredith Dees.  She is a Luray native and recently returned after a career experience in Denver, CO overseeing regional retail operations for a yoga brand. 

Any Main Street manager will tell you that as soon as they hear the words “road construction” or “street closures” they become uneasy. We have a large project that has loomed over downtown Luray for some time. The days are finally numbered when we will replace our distressed 70 year-old bridge (c. 1934) connecting East and West Main Street. The local economy is heavily impacted by tourism, so our small downtown needs to capitalize on every single car full of visitors and leave them with an uplifting, memorable experience.

How do we bring positive energy to the reality that we are closing down the streets for several months and host a successful, charitable fundraiser and bridge-honoring celebration all in one night?  The Evening on the Bridge idea was born.

This event was a cross between a farm-to-table soiree and a family-style community gathering. Two hundred tickets were sold out at $75 each; no small feat in a town this size (population 5,000). We hoped for 10 sponsors and ended up with 17, several had never sponsored us before and many from community members that just wanted to show support!

We seated 200 locals down the center of the 123 foot-long bridge. Luray-based caterers and bakeries provided dinner and desserts and all of the drinks were also local, including wine and beer, as well as a signature “1934” cocktail crafted by our own distillery. Big band music played in the background and lights were strung overhead to create the perfect setting.

We highlighted the new design and paid homage to the historic bridge with speakers and pictures. There was a live auction, including a donated original art piece of the bridge by a local artist that took top dollar. Overall, we raised more than $15,000 (net revenue!) for Main Street and proceeds will fund newly branded light pole banners.

The only question I have received since the event, “when can we do it again?” And I cannot wait!

See a video of the event here >>>

An Evening on the Bridge, Luray Downtown Initiative, November 5, 2017

 

 

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Tax Reform and Downtown Rehabilitation

From South Boston to Winchester, St. Paul to Norfolk, many of our Virginia communities have seen significant revitalization as a result of the Federal Historic Tax Credits (HTC). In many cases, if not most cases, rehabilitation of historic structures counts on this funding to make those projects work – and the credits are slated for elimination in the Tax Reform proposal under consideration.

Masonic Theatre, Clifton Forge, VA

The rehabilitation, re-use, and preservation of Virginia’s historic buildings is good for the commonwealth’s economy, according to a recent study conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University.  During a 17-year period, nearly $1 billion in tax credits leveraged almost $3 billion in private investment, resulting in the reuse of 2,375 buildings, ranging from warehouses, hotels, and theaters.

Where do you go for more, so you can put this economic development tool to good use?  Let me introduce you to your partners:

Here are your administrative partners.  While the National Park Service ultimately approves the federal Historic Tax Credit, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR) acts as the “gatekeeper”, administering both the federal and state tax credit programs. All applications go through DHR first and they also provide technical assistance.

Here are your advocacy partners. The National Trust for Historic Preservation and its subsidiary the National Main Street Center, a proven leader of preservation-based economic development, both work to educate national and local community leaders about its value. Your local preservation advocacy partner, Preservation Virginia, promotes this development tool, too.

Rehabilitated Masonic Theatre, Clifton Forge, VA

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.

The District Digest Vol. 2 – Downtown Ideas to Put to Work

While you were busy making a difference in your home town, you might have missed these thought-provoking posts:

  1. Holiday Customer Service: 7 Tips Retailers Should Not Ignore – Retail Minded
  2. Craft Beer’s Big Impact on Small Towns and Forgotten Neighborhoods – Curbed
  3. 6 Urban Projects Built Thanks to Online Civic Engagement – CitizenLab
  4. How to Encourage Entrepreneurship in Your Town – Strong Towns
  5. Millennials Prefer Revitalized Historic Areas Not Malls – Modern Cities

Abingdon, Virginia

 

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 >>>

VMS Commercial District Affiliate Grants Now Available!

Virginia Main Street has opened the application process for our first ever Commercial District Affiliate Grants! Affiliate Grants are designed to assist organizations and communities in achieving their downtown revitalization goals and be used for projects or planning purposes.

The maximum grant amount is $7,000 and can be used for…

  • non-profit organizational development;
  • vision/mission development;
  • work plan and budget development;
  • market studies;
  • downtown organization website development;
  • design projects;
  • entrepreneur support projects;
  • wayfinding system development;
  • economic vitality projects; or
  • other consultant services that will contribute to the historic downtown and for which other funds are not available.

Affiliate grants are available to registered DHCD Commercial District Affiliates and Virginia Downtowns. DHCD invites projects that hold the potential for positive impact on the downtown neighborhood’s long-term goals.

Applications for Affiliate Grants will be due on December 1, 2017, and the projects associated with the applications should be completed in our CAMS system by June 1, 2018. Our grant manual is available here!

The Destination Express: Enhancing the Visitor Experience with History

The Ashland Main Street Association and its local partners are dedicated to making downtown an amazing destination.  How?  By embracing their transportation history they are improving the visitor experience and creating memorable central gathering spaces. Executive Director Tom Wulf is our guest blogger with the details.    

Earlier in 2017, mural artist Ed Trask and his team finished a masterpiece on the side of the Caboose Wine & Cheese shop in downtown Ashland–a 250 foot long rendering of a locomotive that traveled Ashland’s tracks 50 years ago. The mural honors the late Art McKinney, former owner of the building and great steward of his historic properties, depicted at the train’s helm as the engineer. I captured the entire mural using a video drone.

The mural is one of several exhibits for the proposed Mid-Atlantic Railroad Park. The park will also include the installation of train-related artifacts as public art exhibits along the key corridor into downtown, England Street. This initiative will not only encourage walking tours along England Street, it will also strengthen Ashland’s brand as a railroad town.

The concept aligns with one of Ashland Main Street’s key strategic priorities, extend the Railroad Avenue [Ashland’s “Main Street”] experience to the England Street corridor.  A railroad park will spread the pedestrian-friendly feel of Railroad Avenue throughout the district and increase foot traffic to England Street restaurants and retailers.

The Ashland Main Street Association will host the upcoming Virginia Main Street Regional Rev-Up, Start with “Why”: Creating Purpose-driven Special Events, November 8, 10 AM – 2 PM.  Register today and experience Ashland up close!