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

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 >>

 

 

Building Entrepreneurial Economies (BEE) Grants Awarded

entrepreneur-ecosystemGovernor McAuliffe recently announced over $200,000 in Building Entrepreneurial Economies (BEE) grant awards for eight projects in the Commonwealth. The BEE grant program provides funding to local governments and nonprofit organizations for entrepreneurship programs aligned with local and regional economic development strategies, primarily in distressed communities and populations.

“Small business development is a vital component of the new Virginia economy,” said Governor McAuliffe. “The Building Entrepreneurial Economies grant awards will support our homegrown assets and create new opportunities for economic diversification. By supporting small business programs in communities across the Commonwealth, we are building a strong entrepreneurial environment that will ensure that Virginia continues to be the best place for individuals to start and grow their companies.”

BEE offers two types of grants: implementation and planning. The implementation grants are awards up to $40,000 for projects that expand coverage for small business support services or implement innovative ideas that have already been funded and field tested through the BEE planning grant program. Planning grants are awards of up to $15,000 to research, develop and plan for a potential project.

The projects that were awarded funding include the development of a one-stop information, training and work space for entrepreneurs, an accelerator program and youth entrepreneurship programs. Planning grants were awarded for regional market analysis, the creation of an infrastructure network for entrepreneurs, and the development of a co-working space.

View the governor’s press release: http://governor.virginia.gov/newsroom/newsarticle?articleId=18332

Funding for FY 2018 Building Entrepreneurial Economies (BEE) grants will open on January 1, 2017, and applications will be due on March 1, 2017. Click here for more information on the BEE program.

Innovative Models for Main Street Businesses

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Airstream Beauty Boutique, Harrisonburg, VA

In August of 2016 a local beauty boutique opened in Harrisonburg’s Main Street district in an unusual and fantastic location, a 1975 Airstream Land Yacht.  Airstream Beauty Boutique owner Irina Dovganetskiy needed a small space that would allow her to test the market and grow her business – handmade beauty products using natural and toxic-free ingredients.  She wished to belong to a community of small businesses on Main Street but, without an available downtown storefront, Irina had to dream up a new way of doing business.

Clever entrepreneurs have an opportunity to think outside the box and inside a truck, trailer, or any space with a critical mass of customers and a growing market.  Recently on the Orton Family Foundation’s Cornerstones blog, rural economy expert Becky McCray shared six ways for small businesses to consider doing business in small towns:

  1. Pop-ups – temporary businesses that may last from just one day to several months.
  2. Trucks and trailers – not just for food businesses any longer, service and retail businesses are catching on.
  3. Business-in-a-business – sharing space with several different businesses under one roof.
  4. Tiny business villages – extra-small businesses in tiny buildings located together as a temporary village in an empty lot or green space.
  5. Rural-sourcing – an online marketplace offers business owners to live in rural communities, but reach a global market.
  6. Omni-local – local bricks-and-mortar shops can use e-commerce to take orders online and on-the-go mobile sites, and even monthly subscription boxes.

Could a mobile business set up shop in your downtown district without delays?  What trends can your Main Street program embrace now to nurture a thriving market place?

The Bright Buzz: Kindling entrepreneur-focused transformation in Winchester

Many communities have decided that supporting local entrepreneurs is key to a thriving Main Street and one Virginia initiative is receiving national attention!

The National Main Street Center’s Main Street Story of the Week takes a look at how a local property owner created an innovative community space for entrepreneurs and entertainment to thrive.  Jennifer Bell, Winchester’s Downtown Manager, highlights the Bright Center, a 38,000 square-foot mixed-use development housing offices for 20 businesses and organizations, the Bright Buzz for entrepreneurs, and the Bright Box for entertainment.  This entrepreneur-focused downtown project kindles a movement of dramatic transformation within Old Town Winchester.

Read more >>

 

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The Bright Center, Winchester, Virginia

Building Entrepreneurial Economies (BEE) Innovation Day on Oct. 13 — Register Now!

InnovationThe Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) will be holding a Building Entrepreneurial Economies (BEE) Innovation Day on Thursday, Oct. 13 in Lynchburg, VA. This event will provide the opportunity for business leaders to share and discuss innovative ideas in entrepreneurship development.

Several recent BEE Innovation and Implementation grant recipients will share about their BEE funded projects and how they are having an impact on their communities. The day will also allow time for participants to discuss various aspects of the BEE program. A guest speaker from the Association for Enterprise Opportunity will talk about their recent study on the topic of linking young adults to entrepreneurship and business opportunities. 

This event will allow participants to see the initiatives that communities have put in place to improve their entrepreneurial ecosystem and to get some ideas of how to replicate those initiatives in other communities and regions.

The BEE program provides grants and technical assistance to nonprofit organizations and local governments that plan and implement innovative, comprehensive, strategic and sustainable business development strategies that support local and regional asset-based economic development. DHCD seeks to invest in strategies and projects that support entrepreneurs developing businesses.

Register for this event

 

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.

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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.