The Heart of the Revitalization Process: Community Engagement

Warrenton has earned more than 25 years of wisdom as a Virginia Main Street Designated Community. In 2017, their Main Street program celebrated a reboot, a new “booster club” and mantra:  Experience Old Town Warrenton.  To get there, the first thing the community leaders did was invite all stakeholders to be proactive participants in the downtown’s future.  The meeting was so well attended that Virginia and National Main Street staff, as well as town employees, were scrambling to accommodate the standing-room-only crowd. This effort launched a wave of community interest that rippled into volunteer commitments and a meaningful program direction.  The future is bright and the board is feeling it!

“The Main Street Approach situates community engagement at the heart of the revitalization process…it always reflects the input, wisdom, and perspective of local leaders, business owners, and residents.” – Main Street America’s Community Engagement for Main Street Transformation Guide

Warrenton used multiple platforms to reach a diverse audience including an online vision survey and a facilitated public meeting – but each community should look for the tools that will be most effective for reaching their stakeholders.  Don’t be afraid to be creative! Main Street America recently rolled out a new resource to strengthen your efforts, Community Engagement for Main Street Transformation.  It provides a practical framework and includes actionable tools to put to use in your own community.  It will help you:

  • Get to know your stakeholders and future partners;
  • Celebrate the different voices in your community;
  • Generate ideas for the best solutions to the greatest challenges; and
  • Celebrate your accomplishments!

Preempt STP Syndrome, the Same Ten People making all the decisions and doing all the work, and visit the  Main Street America’s Resources Center >>

 

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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.

Virginia’s Craft Beer Scene is Booming

Governor Terry McAuliffe recently announced that Virginia is now home to 206 licensed breweries, a 468% growth since 2012, when the tasting room bill, SB604, passed the General Assembly. A newly released economic impact study shows that Virginia’s booming beer industry contributes more than $9.34 billion annually to Virginia’s economy.

“In addition to the direct economic impacts of manufacturing, the industry generates increased tourism-related revenues, provides new production and sales opportunities for our agricultural producers, and enhances community revitalization and development efforts in both rural and urban areas of the Commonwealth”, said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Todd Haymore.

This success story is close to home on Virginia’s Main Streets. One of the latest brewery additions is Sugar Hill Brewing Company in St. Paul, opened fall 2016.  The brewery added a much needed restaurant that is now a local favorite, a tourist destination, and a big economic boost to the small town. It complements the economic development strategy as an ecological and commercial hub – connecting downtown to hiking trails, off-road recreation, and summertime tube floats and kayaking on the Clinch River.

A frothy wave is crashing into our Main Street communities; one that is having a favorable impact on local opportunity, character, and spirits.  Check out more Virginia craft brewery offerings here >>

Main Street America Accredits 24 Virginia Communities

The National Main Street Center recently announced that 24 Virginia Main Street communities have been accredited for their performance in 2016 – congratulations to –

Abingdon, Altavista, Ashland, Bedford, Berryville, Blackstone, Bristol, Culpeper, Danville, Farmville, Franklin, Fredericksburg, Gloucester, Harrisonburg, Hopewell, Luray, Lynchburg, Manassas, Marion, St. Paul, South Boston, Staunton, Winchester, and Wytheville

The Main Street America™ accreditation process evaluates local Main Street programs according to 10 Standards of Performance and provides national recognition to those that meet these standards. The national accreditation program strives to:

  • Provide local and national visibility to local Main Street programs that understand and fully utilize the Main Street Four-Point Approach® and eight Main Street principles and that continue to evolve organizationally to meet new challenges;
  • Provide national standards for performance for local Main Street programs; and
  • Provide realistic goals and a tangible incentive for local Main Street programs that do not yet meet the criteria for national recognition.

Congratulations to our recognized Virginia communities!

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 >>

“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

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