Practical, Low-cost Ideas to Make Your Downtown A Destination

What can your Main Street program do to make downtown more of a destination for locals and visitors?

Would a punch list of key actions be helpful?  With today’s market, Main Street communities are happily positioned for a resurgence.  As a Main Street advocate, having a plan to ride that wave and make your downtown the best and brightest means nailing down the best strategy and the right activities. This can feel a little like trying to catch paper money in a cash booth.

There is no silver bullet, but there are lots of resources and experts that complement the Main Street Approach. Author Roger Brooks is one of them.  For more than 30 years Roger has helped transform ordinary places into extraordinary destinations. Currently, Roger is promoting a free series of webinars that focus on why downtowns are popular and more important than ever. He showcases low-cost activities that downtown advocates are doing to create vibrant, successful destinations for both locals AND visitors.

The recording of the first of the series is only available until July 28.  You can catch the rest of the series @RogerBrooksInternational.

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

Virginia’s Award Winning Destination Tourism

Governor McAuliffe recently announced that the Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC) received a national tourism industry award for its work promoting the Virginia Oyster Trail, a new initiative connecting travelers with Virginia’s oyster farms, raw bars, wineries, restaurants, artisans, and downtowns like Urbanna, Cape Charles, and Chincoteague.

VTC was recognized with the prestigious National Council of State Tourism Directors Mercury Award during the U.S. Travel Association’s annual Education Seminar for Tourism Organizations conference. Winning programs serve as models to foster imagination and innovation in the development of future destination programs.

“I am proud of the coalition of partners, both public and private, that are making a difference as we build the new Virginia economy. This award demonstrates that when our state agencies work together, we can make a major impact on the future of our great Commonwealth,” said Governor McAuliffe.

Since its official launch last November, the Virginia Oyster Trail has received significant praise from consumers and has piqued the interest of travelers seeking a unique culinary travel experience. This year, VTC saw a 31 percent increase in visitation to oyster-related content on its website, www.Virginia.org.  Virginia oysters continue to be a major driver for tourism, an industry that is an instant revenue generator for the Commonwealth. Last year, visitors to Virginia spent $23 billion, which supported 222,000 jobs and contributed $1.6 billion in state and local taxes to the Commonwealth.

The Virginia Tourism Corporation partnered with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, Shellfish Growers of Virginia, Virginia Seafood Council, Virginia Marine Products Board, and Artisans Center of Virginia, in addition to local tourism offices and planning district commissions, to make the Virginia Oyster Trail project a reality.

To learn more about Virginia oysters and the Oyster Trail, click here.

Downtown Cape Charles, Virginia

Downtown Cape Charles, Virginia

Main Street and Wine; a Great Pairing

Virginia’s thriving wine industry is boosting the state’s economy and local Main Street districts alike with a total impact of approximately $1.37 billion annually, according to a newly released economic impact study. This figure is an increase of 82 percent from the last study conducted in 2010.

“…one of our top agriculture goals was to make Virginia the preeminent East Coast destination for wine and winery tourism, and I am pleased our efforts are helping make this a reality,” said Governor McAuliffe. “This new study shows that this growth is being driven by small wineries, which demonstrates that the increased rural economic development is truly beneficial to local communities.”

The report showed that from 2010 and 2015, the number of wineries increased 35 percent, from 193 to 261. The number of full-time equivalent jobs at wineries and vineyards saw a 73 percent increase, from 4,753 to 8,218. Wages from jobs at wineries and vineyards increased 87 percent during the same time period as well, from $156 million, to $291 million.

Tourism to Virginia wineries also showed impressive growth. The number of people visiting wineries grew by 39 percent, from 1.6 million visitors in 2010 to 2.25 million visitors in 2015. At the same time, wine-related tourism expenditures grew dramatically from $131 million to $188 million, a significant 43 percent increase.

Culpeper’s Hoptober Fest 2016

Wine and Virginia’s downtowns make a great pairing.  Culpeper Renaissance Inc. expanded their wildly successful craft beverage festival to twice a year and the downtown features several shops that sell local craft beverages, Culpeper Cheese Company and Vinosity.  In Staunton eonophiles can visit Yelping Dog for a their wine fix, and don’t miss Saturday tastings at Vintages by the Dan in Danville. However it is done, Main Street recognizes the local economic impacts of partnering with regional craft beverage producers.

Check out the full 2015 Economic Impact Study of Wine and Wine Grapes on the Commonwealth of Virginia and don’t forget to visit the Virginia Wine Marketing Office for more information on the industry statewide.

Make the Most of Heritage Tourism in Virginia

Did you know that the cultural heritage tourist typically spends more and stays longer than other types of U.S. travelers?

Preservation Virginia is co-hosting the 31st annual Virginia Preservation Conference in Charlottesville, an event that draws 200 community leaders, developers, architects, local planning officials and others from across the Commonwealth.   Following the release of the final phase of three interrelated economic impact studies, including Virginia Main Street, this year’s theme focuses on heritage tourism and the places that make Virginia unique and appealing to visitors.160908-program-cover_bleed2

The schedule includes a keynote address by product-development consultant Cheryl Hargrove; debut of the new study of heritage tourism in Virginia; DIY historic preservation research sessions; guided tours of the restored Paramount Theater and Charlottesville’s revitalized West Main Street corridor; and a Preservation Pitch contest, a spirited competition to win $2,000 in seed money for a preservation project.

The conference takes place Sunday, October 16 and Monday, October 17 at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center.

Learn more >>>

 

Check the local news stands: Virginia Main Street in Southern Living

In the September 2015 issue of Southern Living, you will find a spread highlighting travel destinations across the commonwealth, including a special nod to our beloved Virginia Main Street communities.  Thank you to our partners at Virginia Tourism Corporation.  Web links direct readers to a list of the designated communities and points travelers to the heart of each community, its downtown district.  Turn up that smile and cool down the taps, the neighbors are coming!

Virginia is for Main Street Lovers!

Celebrate Downtown with Virginia Main Streets - September 2015 Issue of Southern Living

September 2015 Issue of Southern Living

 

 

Virginia’s Appalachian Trail Communities

The Appalachian Trail Community™ designation program is a new program of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, designed to recognize communities that promote and protect the Appalachian Trail (A.T.). The program serves to assist communities with sustainable economic development through tourism and outdoor recreation while preserving and protecting the A.T.

Completed in 1937, the 2,180-mile-long Appalachian National Scenic Trail is one of the longest, continuously-marked footpaths in the world. It spans through 14 states, ranging from Georgia to Maine. Virginia is home to 544 miles of the Appalachian Trial, more miles than any other state! There are 20 Appalachian Trail communities, 10 of them are in Virginia. From north to south, these are: Front Royal, Harrisonburg, Waynesboro, Buena Vista, Glasgow, Troutville, Pearisburg, Bland, Abingdon and Damascus. This year, Abingdon, a VMS community, was designated an Appalachian Trail Community™.

“Our town has long offered a respite for the weary hiker,” Abingdon Mayor Ed Morgan said in a written statement announcing the designation. “The Virginia Creeper Trail, which begins in Abingdon, is a natural connector to the A.T.” The designation ceremonywas held on Sept. 11, 2012.  Abingdon now joins the cities of Harrisonburg and Waynesboro, both designated Virginia Main Street communities that have embraced their proximity to the trail in their economic restructuring efforts, creating programs that attract hikers to their downtowns, as well as providing amenities and activities that are tied to the A.T.

Front Royal, Buena Vista and Pearisburg are VMS Commercial Affiliates.

Nestled 18 miles west of the A.T in the Shenandoah Valley, Harrisonburg is filled with locally-owned restaurants, museums, art galleries and shops.  Harrisonburg offers special packages for A.T. Hikers to make their stay an easier and more pleasant one. During their annual Valley 4th celebration, hikers are invited to participate in the parade.

The City of Waynesboro is located three miles from the junction of Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway. “The Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s community designation for Waynesboro strengthens the city’s effort in becoming a premier outdoor recreation destination,” stated Katie McElroy, Waynesboro’s tourism director. “The opening of the first phase of the South River Greenway is key to Waynesboro’s commitment to the outdoors,” explains C. Dwayne Jones, director of Waynesboro Parks and Recreation. 

Plan your Appalachian Trail adventure and stay, shop and dine in any of these great Virginia communities.