A Tale of Two Community Engagement Events

As an inherently grassroots movement, effective community engagement is an essential component of any successful Main Street program. Without it, organization’s cannot effectively plan their work, recruit volunteers and board members, promote the district, or communicate impact. Main Street must be community driven.

This week I had the opportunity to participate in two very different community engagement events organized by Main Street organizations. One was an informal and ongoing, with a minimal agenda but strong interaction and conversation. The other was a highly planned, one-time “idea pop-up” that was focused on activity, imagination, and a critical mass of feedback from the community at large.

SDDA Monthly Round Table at Farmhouse Kitchen and Wares

Staunton Downtown Development Association has instituted monthly round-table discussions that draw about 25 stakeholders. Held in the evening at local restaurants, it is an opportunity for the board and staff to introduce specific topics to the public, get feedback, generate ideas, and impart information. The format and feel are informal and conversational, with new topics every month.

A small piece of HDR’s Idea Incubator

By contrast, Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance held an interactive idea pop-up event that drew hundreds of enthusiastic participants over a three hour period. There were multiple stations for idea generation, sharing, comment, and creativity. This included an idea incubator, a pin board of urban design, mad-libs for visioning, and a physical chat room where the public could visit with board members to brainstorm together in real time.

I was blown away by both events – the energy, the participants, the enthusiasm, the snacks! Look for both Julie (Staunton) and Andrea (Harrisonburg) to walk us through their planning, their events, the impacts, and the outcomes in future blogs.

If your community wants to up its engagement game contact Virginia Main Street.

Can “Open Late” increase “Shop Local?”

ClosedSignIt’s an old problem and a pervasive one. In Main Street districts nationwide, small business owner’s are reluctant to be open late or on the weekends. As a consequence those who work 9-5 jobs outside of the district are unable to shop local. A recent Wyoming Business Report article takes a look at how Main Street businesses’ hours of operation could be a catalyst for shifting economic progress.

Store hours come up in conversations with Main Street advocates across the state and nationwide.  It’s a discussion topic that often ends with a collective sigh.  It’s a challenge to convince independent business owners to change, let alone an entire consumer group.

Writer Joel Funk highlights solutions from several Wyoming downtown professionals and the National Main Street Center’s Matt Wagner.  Business owners need people downtown to make it worth their while to stay open and, equally true, shoppers need businesses to be open to make it worth their while to come downtown.  A successful shift of store hours is reliant upon a relationship between the owner and consumer, encouraged by the local Main Street program’s market awareness and perseverance.

70% of all consumer spending (both locals and visitors) takes place after 6 p.m.  Tourism specialist Roger Brooks suggests starting the shift by working with businesses to stay open on Friday and Saturday until 7 p.m. the first year, then add additional days as merchant confidence and consumer habits change.

Be that catalyst to shift economic progress.  Start the conversation!

 

BrewDog, Gloucester Wants You!

Guest Blogger Jenny Crittenden, executive director of Gloucester Main Street Preservation Trust, started with Main Street in 2006.  Her leadership has inspired key partnerships and implementable growth strategies for Gloucester Village, including the creation of façade and interior improvement grant programs and an annual symphony concert that brings over 2,000 visitors to downtown. 

As we enter the holiday season and everyone is spreading cheer….here in Gloucester we’re thinking beer! 

Over the last few years, I’ve attended National Main Street Conferences and been fascinated with the concept of crowdfunding a project.  The nationally-utilized platform ties together a community in a way that a traditional approach to project funding does not.  We now have the crazy opportunity, through a national competition, to crowdfund a BrewDog brew pub – a whole new amenity to our rural community!  We are always thinking big and there’s nothing we aren’t willing to tackle; including competing on the level of cities such as Houston, San Diego, New York City, or Chicago.brewdogsocial

BrewDog is an irreverent Scottish craft brewer that loves American brew pubs and will be embracing these beacons of beery enlightenment by launching their very own in the United States.  They currently operate more than 46 BrewDog bars globally, from Tokyo to Barcelona, and now they are bringing the very first BrewDog venues stateside as part of the Equity for Punks USA campaign!

Why not Gloucester?  Exactly…why not?  Smaller communities can rally fast, build a grassroots effort, and get buy-in, not just financially, but that entire community-emotional-buy-in.  It’s what makes a small downtown so special.  We may not yet be on the leaderboard, a map that tracks the cities in the contest, but we have BrewDog’s attention.

BrewDog executives have seen our press release in the local newspapers and are watching our Facebook page, seeing that over 1,000 people are talking about the competition.  They even agreed to send a BrewDog representative and personal video message to Gloucester for our upcoming public meeting, for which we flew in beer from Scotland for tasting.  On site we will have laptops and tablets for on-the-spot investment.  We aim to take the leaderboard by storm!

If 500 people invest in BrewDog USA from GLOUCESTER, VIRGINIA, and our local partners, they will open a brew pub HERE!  Minimum investment is only $95.

Contribute and follow our progress >>

 

 

Discover What’s “Wythein:” Downtown Wytheville’s Vibrant New Website

DiscoverWytheinMain Street program websites come in many shapes and sizes.  The challenge is to create a simple and fresh website that promotes the Main Street organization and local brand while showcasing the unique charm of downtown and all it has to offer.

Downtown Wytheville Inc. recently updated their online presence with a website refresh that provides an informative, enticing and interactive experience for the user.  The site offers useful tools and information to its visitors, such as an easy to navigate, interactive map with a wide variety of filters from dining and shopping, to local community resources.  It appeals to entrepreneurs looking to locate in downtown by delivering a welcoming message, business investment guide and information on incentive programs.  It showcases the Main Street program, its mission, and ways to engage in support of downtown; and with mobile devices accounting for an increasing percentage of web traffic, Downtown Wytheville’s website can attractively acclimate to any screen resolution.

Learn more >>

 

 

Webinar: Creating Your Community Transformation Strategies – Oct. 25

On October 25, 12-1 PM, Virginia Main Street is offering a free webinar with everything you need to know about getting organized and catalyzing investment for real change.092916-webinartrnsstratimage

How do you take your downtown vision from concept to reality? The vision establishes the ultimate target toward which all Main Street efforts are directed, and it requires that major changes take place to achieve your best downtown. Hear about the refreshed Main Street Approach and how you can apply it to fine-tune your downtown revitalization efforts. This is an important event for Main Street managers, board members and local officials that could change the course of your downtown.

Learning Objectives:

  • Focus on the importance of community engagement and understanding market data
  • Discuss how to pick transformation strategies for your community
  • Explore how to measure your success
  • See transformation strategies in action through the pilot projects in other areas around the country

About the speaker:

Matt Wagner Ph.D., Vice President of Revitalization Programs, National Main Street Center

Matt Wagner has more than 20 years of nonprofit management experience in downtown development, entrepreneurship and tech-based economic development. At NMSC, Wagner is leading the launch of the renewed and re-imagined Four Point Approach, as well as helping the center reach new communities with this refreshed framework. Overseeing the field services team, Wagner also leads the center’s efforts to expand technical service offerings, and offer preservation-based economic revitalization services directly to communities.

Register for this event >>

 

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.

 

Tips for a Wonderful Experience at Downtown Intersections, Staunton, Virginia

Guest Blogger Julie Markowitz, director of Staunton Downtown Development Association, started with Main Street in 2006, armed with 10 years of experience in mall marketing and promotions. Staunton Downtown Development Association is delighted to host the first inaugural Virginia Main Street Downtown Intersections workshop in Staunton, Virginia on July 11-13, 2016.

VMS-intersection-final

Welcome to Staunton, Main Street friends! I am so excited to have all of you here in our fair city. I hope you get a chance to enjoy shopping, grab a locally-brewed beer or a glass of wine or experience one of Monday’s field sessions, so you can enjoy all of the new businesses and cultural happenings that Staunton has to offer.

We tried to select some activities that will give you a chance to relax, wander aournd and get acclimated before the event begins.  Like most Main streets, Mondays are quiet, but there is still plenty to do in and around downtown. If you want to grab lunch or dinner on Monday, here are some options:

  • American Café (lunch only)
  • Baja Bean Company
  • Bricks Restaurant and Pub (dinner only)
  • Byers Street Bistro
  • Cranberry’s Grocery and Eatery (lunch only)
  • Clocktower Restaurant and Bar
  • Depot Grille, Mill Street Grill (dinner only)
  • Sorrell’s Lounge at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel
  • The Split Banana for locally-sourced gelato

There are several different areas for shopping and site seeing within our downtown.  You can start by checking out the train station, then climb the stairs to the Sears Hill Bridge for the best view of downtown.  After the view, wind your way down to the Wharf and the Byers and Lewis Streets shops, where you will find Sunspots Studios and Glassblowing. Walk a short block past Wilderness Adventure to the Lewis Creek Market, then double-back to Pufferbellies Toys and Books and the shops on Beverley Street. End your stroll by heading up Augusta Street to visit LTD 7, a unique, cooperative gift store.

You will get your exercise and along the way, you will find charming shops and restaurants, beautiful views and friendly people. I hope you enjoy your visit to Staunton!

Get the complete list of stores and a handy map here.