Public Art: Making downtown a joyful, active, and social place

May 15-19, 2017 marked Art Week @StrongTowns and, while those days have come and gone,  public art catalyzes Main Street’s unique vitality throughout the year.

Old Town Winchester, host of the upcoming Virginia Main Street Downtown Intersections, creates an outdoor gallery experience through the Artscape program. An annual, juried art competition, Artscape  reproduces selected artwork on banners that hang throughout the downtown.  During the summer, young families are drawn to the downtown for a splash pad installation, which illuminates in the evening.

Public art can serve to make your downtown very memorable, motivating visitors to share their experience with others or surely to return. @StrongTowns author Marielle Brown emphasizes playful art to help visitors fall in love with your downtown:

We should look for opportunities to incorporate climbing, sitting, playing and general whimsy through public art, when appropriate. It may involve grappling with questions of liability and insurance at the municipal level, but the payoff will be more joyful, active and social places.

Whether you are planning a public art project, or not, you will find gale-force ideas to bring to your next Main Street committee brainstorm.

Check out more here >>>

 

Old Town Winchester Splash Pad and Public Restrooms

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We’re unveiling more info for Downtown Intersections 2017!


More to come!


 

Downtown Intersections – Winchester – July 10-12, 2017

 

Virginia Main Street 2017 Merit Awards – Nominations are Open!

Downtown Intersections is just 62 days away! Virginia Main Street staff has been working hard to craft an agenda, secure speakers, develop walking tours and workshops that will educate, inspire, and empower our communities.

Now we need your help to recognize achievement, innovation, and success in our Main Street communities. The Virginia Main Street 2017 Merit Awards are officially open!

Download the forms today and nominate your best volunteer, your favorite new public space, or your most successful retail promotion from July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017. Winners will be recognized at a special awards breakfast at Downtown Intersections on Wednesday, July 12th at the George Washington Hotel. You won’t want to miss it!

2017 VMS Merit Award Nominations (pdf)

2017 VMS Merit Award Nominations (word)

 

 

Downtown Intersections 2017!

Virginia Main Street is happy (and excited) to announce that registration for Downtown Intersections 2017 is officially open! We will be in Winchester from Monday, July 10th through Wednesday, July 12th at the beautiful George Washington Hotel.

Join us on Monday for an intensive board training. This is  designed to provide your board with the background knowledge, skills and tools to move your Main Street organization forward in a quickly changing world. Specially designed for Main Street boards, the principles of proper board governance are tailored to provide immediate impact. Consider sending 3 or more board members; group discounts available.

Monday afternoon will also bring walking tours of Winchester’s historic downtown and local gems such as the Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum. After the training and tours wrap up we will wind down with a welcome reception at Winchester Brew Werks.

Tuesday and Wednesday will be educational, inspirational, and empowering.  Sessions include downtown trends, resources for design projects and business development initiatives, in-real-life examples from communities who are innovating, and the opportunity to be hands on with branding and retailing workshops, as well as DIY market analysis for your district.

Virginia Main Street wants to see as many of our communities, stakeholders, board members, program coordinators, economic developers, building owners, business owners, entrepreneurs, and downtown revitalization fans in Winchester as possible. Please contact our office for financial assistance or group discounts.

See you in July!

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.

Secrets of Successful Communities

Guest Blogger Jeff Curtis, Executive Director of the Orange Downtown Alliance since 2008, has been involved in economic and community development for over 40 years, working in local government, chambers of commerce, and Main Street programs.  

Downtown Orange, Virginia

Recently, Board members of the National Main Street Center (NMSC) convened in Orange, VA to host a public discussion on “Secrets of Successful Communities”.  Ed McMahon, Chairman of the NMSC Board of Directors and Senior Resident Fellow of the Urban Land Institute, led a conversation on ways that small towns can succeed in a rapidly changing world.

One big change we are experiencing is that people and businesses can choose where to live or operate more than ever before. In today’s economic climate, communities that cannot differentiate themselves will have no competitive advantage; to be different, unique, and desirable.

Likewise, there is a major shift in demographics.  Millennials have surpassed Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living generation and make up the largest age group in the U.S. workforce.  They are postponing getting married, buying a home, own fewer cars, and drive less.  They are concentrating in cool towns and walkable markets. This is where Main Street communities can capitalize on their competitive advantage in the marketplace.

“A vision is critically important but implementation is priceless,” McMahon said. “Communities change one building or project at a time. The whole world is changing so you can either get ahead of the curve and shape the type of community you want in the future or you can just accept whatever comes down the road.”

Ultimately, it’s all a committed process.  Attendees recognized the challenges, like limited retail space and property owner engagement, and the benefits of working efficiently and unified together.

More information from McMahon on successful communities can be found here >>

Virginia Downtown Development Association Happy Hour!

Just a few short years ago Scott’s Addition was little more than a cluster of manufacturing and light industrial adjacent to the railyard. A handful of early 20th-century row houses remained from the early, residential days of the neighborhood, as well as a couple of quaint diners. Fast forward to 2017 and the neighborhood has more than 1,000 residential units (with more on the way), unique shops, destination restaurants, several breweries (with more on the way), distilleries, meaderies, cideries, a popsicle shop, and a gelateria. On any given Saturday the streets are alive and the breweries are standing room only.

Haven’t been in a while? Your chance to experience the recent renaissance, tour historic city stables turned urban cidery, talk shop with fellow community revitalization and economic development professionals, all while sipping cider, is coming up! On Thursday, April 27th from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. the Virginia Downtown Development Association is hosting a networking event at Blue Bee Cidery. This is a great excuse to get reacquainted with Scott’s Addition and your VDDA friends and colleagues – see you there!