“Booster Rockets” For Downtown Revitalization Momentum

After decades of market preference for suburban development, Main Street and downtowns are hot again! Back in the market, they are once again desirable targets for investment, business startups, expansion, the creative economy, housing, and tourism. So, how do we sustain that momentum, take advantage of the attention, and keep the revitalization progress moving forward?  Our fellow downtown advocates @StrongTowns say communities must keep taking it to the next level without hesitation.

“I like to think of the early, “fun” stages of [revitalization] as the booster rockets on the old space shuttles…they’re necessary to get the things that really matter off the ground and into the atmosphere.  After they do their job, it’s all about making sure you blend that momentum with careful, strategic planning and experience to complete the mission.”

The Cork’s Been Popped…What’s Next For Your City? @StrongTowns

Local Incentives Drive Community Development

160914-manassas-ribbon-cutting

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 >>

 

Virginia Main Street Grants Announced

160921-grantwordcloud-2Governor McAuliffe recently announced $65,000 in Virginia Main Street program grant funding for five projects in the towns of Bedford and Blackstone, and the cities of Fredericksburg, Franklin and Winchester. The Downtown Investment Grants, administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), are for design and economic vitality projects targeting areas of specific need in historic downtown neighborhoods located in Virginia Main Street communities. Grants are available to designated Main Street organizations to accelerate the economic revitalization of their downtown districts by helping implement innovative strategies, plans and programs that create an environment for increased private investment. This year, funded projects include a revolving loan pool program, facade grants, murals, banners, and brand implementation.

See more at: http://governor.virginia.gov/newsroom/newsarticle?articleId=18113

In addition, four financial feasibility study grants were awarded to the towns of Culpeper, South Boston and Wytheville, as well as the city of Staunton. These grants will allow the Main Street organizations in those communities to work with owners of significant “white elephant” buildings within their Main Street districts. The purpose is to identify the highest and best use of such properties and to develop sufficient information to allow the owner or Main Street organization to “shop” the rehabilitation and reuse of the property to private developers and investors.

Virginia Main Street grants are available to designated Virginia Main Street communities, and the next round of Virginia Main Street grant applications will be due next spring. Click here for more information about Virginia Main Street grant opportunities.

Create a Stronger, More Cohesive Community

Our hearts are deeply connected to our communities, so we want to be part of the decisions that impact our community’s future.  They can affect our quality of life, job opportunities, public health and most of all, our families.  But, how do we become part of that decision making, a real participant that impacts direction?

This question was posed to the crowd attending a session at the 2016 Main Street Now Conference, and the response was uplifting, providing “a-ha” moments and real tools for the task. Who was at the podium? The leadership of the Orton Family Foundation, who believed that the strength of a community lies in the hand and the hearts of the people who live there, and that the community’s heart and soul is the common cause that they will rally around.

The foundation developed the Community Heart and Soul Field Guide to help communities build a better future based on what matters most to its residents.  The guide rests on three key principles and gives clear steps to follow:

  1. Involve everyone
  2. Focus on what matters
  3. Play the long game, meaning target long-term success

The field guide just got an update, too, after a year-long evaluation done by Wake Forest University.

Now it is time to connect in your community for a real, old-fashioned barn raising!

Community Heart and Soul Pic

Community Heart and Soul Field Guide

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!

Street Arts Festival_smART Marketing_event photo

Three Steps to Refresh Your Main Street Strategies for Visible Results

How can your local Main Street program better use limited resources to create vibrant, people-centered places?

The Main Street Approach has been a successful model for NMSC06_WEBBANNER_F_APPROACHolder commercial district revitalization for more than 35 years and is used to revitalize and manage downtowns in more than 2,000 communities across the U.S.  The Four Point approach offers a simple guide to comprehensively address a complex and sometimes chaotic downtown environment.  While that is true, it is a challenge to get the equation just right to catalyze reinvestment, create jobs and create a better quality of life, and especially to do it just right.

Throughout the past few years, the National Main Street Center has conducted surveys, convened a task force of experts and engaged closely with the Main Street network to develop a revised framework.  This revision, called the Four Point Refresh, is the same approach, just sharpened, made more strategic and with a focus on visible results.

  1. Identify the Community Vision for Success – This essential step provides a foundation for outlining the community’s own identity, expectations and ideals, while building off of market opportunities.
  2. Create Community Transformation Strategies – Work together to identify strategies that provide a clear sense of priorities and direction.  These strategies align with the four key areas: economic vitality, effective promotion, quality design and a sustainable organization.  Typically communities will find two to three strategies to help reach a community vision.
  3. Implement and Measure – To succeed, the effort must be able to demonstrate the wise use of resources, which translates to real change on the ground: new jobs added to Main Street, new businesses open, buildings redeveloped and certainly other metrics of success.

Find out more about how to make your local revitalization efforts better, stronger and faster by coming to the next Virginia Main Street training. VMS offers trainings throughout the year, and there is sure to be one near you.

 

Three Upcoming Opportunities to Rev up Your Downtown Revitalization Efforts

Is your downtown ready for new businesses and residential investment?

Open Late - Fredericksburg, VA

Open Late in Fredericksburg, VA

In order to meet new challenges and ensure a strong Main Street, communities need ongoing training.  Whether the community is just getting started with Main Street activities or well-seasoned in managing a prosperous commercial district, staff and volunteers need different skills in different phases of the downtown revitalization process.  All in all, to keep attracting downtown investment, local leaders should stay current on impactful revitalization techniques and issues that affect traditional commercial districts.

Continue local program volunteer and staff development in the Main Street Approach by attending training as provided by Virginia Main Street, the National Main Street Center and other statewide partners.

Here are three upcoming opportunities in 2016:

Oct. 16-17:  Preservation Virginia Conference, Charlottesville, VA

Nov. 1, 3, and 4: Virginia Main Street Regional Rev Ups, Wytheville, Culpeper and Farmville, VA

Nov. 13-15: VA-1 Tourism Summit, Roanoke, VA