Getting Started with Virginia Main Street

Virginia Main Street is accepting applications from communities interested in being designated a Virginia Main Street community. However, if your community is not ready to take this step, here are steps to to help establish or reinvigorate a successful local preservation-based downtown revitalization organization.  

  • Look at downtown as if you are a first-time visitor. What is positive? What needs improvement?
  • Invite a Main Street volunteer or manager from another community to talk with a group of community leaders about what that community and organization has accomplished and how the program works.
  • Recruit board members and take them to other downtowns to meet with peers, hear about what does and does not work, and see how your downtown compares.
  • Adopt articles of incorporation and bylaws, and register with the State Corporation Commission.
  • Decide if you can afford to hire a program manager, or more importantly, if you can afford not to! Agree on an employment contract and performance plan, schedule orientation and training, select an office location, etc.
  • File for 501 (C)  tax exempt status with the federal Internal Revenue Service.
  • Develop job descriptions for board members, officers, committee chairs and staff.
  • Recruit and educate your committees, use slide and video shows and give them appropriate information to read in small doses.
  • Schedule “downtown walkarounds” with your board and committee members. Get to know every square inch and what is good or bad.
  • Work with the board and committees to set up regular meeting schedules.
  • Set up meetings with stakeholders and partners including:
    • all downtown business and property owners;
    • local elected officials, city manager and department heads;
    • leaders from financial institutions, industry and utilities;
    • Chamber of Commerce board and staff;
    • other important community groups (historical, tourism, arts and cultural, etc.) and set up presentations to their membership if desired; and
    • the media.
  • Have a reception to introduce the program and board members to the community.
  • Have the board develop a workplan that includes your vision for downtown, the organization’s mission and prioritized annual activities assigned to committees with timeframes, individuals assigned to implementation and budget allocations.
  • Draw up a budget and have it correspond to the workplan. Set up financial control systems.
  • Develop a fundraising plan, including a list of potential supporters.
  • Solicit volunteers for key projects, create a volunteer file and develop a volunteer recognition system.
  • Select public relations tools to get the word out such as brochures, newsletters and newspaper columns.
  • Develop a media list for mailing press releases.
  • Begin to build a clearinghouse of resource material. Collect and read anything pertinent, such as community plans, studies, newspaper articles, promotional brochures, previous meeting minutes, ordinances, newsletters, etc. Order necessary periodicals. Start a file system and scrapbook for the organization.
  • Identify economic development resources and recent or proposed projects.
  • Identify historic preservation resources and recent or proposed projects.
  • Review the existing promotions calendar, and collect information on past promotional events.
  • Do an inventory of downtown including buildings, businesses, parking, etc. Include photographs.
  • Develop a network with other Main Street managers.  Ask questions and get info on their programs.
  • Join the National Main Street Network and the Virginia Downtown Development Association, circulate their newsletters and encourage board members, committee members and staff to attend their conferences.
  • Apply to become a DHCD Virginia Main Street Commercial District Affiliate.

Share this list with your downtown stakeholders by printing an Adobe Acrobat .pdf version of this list here.

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