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 >>


Local Main Street Communities coordinate for regional benefit

 ** Guest blogger Susan Howard, Executive Director, Abingdon Main Street

As the director of Abingdon Main Street, I am very fortunate to have three other designated Virginia Main Street communities, Bristol, Marion and St. Paul, each less than an hour’s drive from Abingdon.

The proximity of our communities and their cultural similarities have allowed us to explore ways to work together in a regional partnership.  During the holiday season of 2013, we promoted a buy local theme using a common slogan—“Spread holiday cheer when you spend it here.”  Recently, Christina Blevins of Believe in Bristol arranged a meeting with Anthony Flaccavento, a local Abingdon organic farmer and consultant for sustainable economic development, along with Olivia Hall from Marion Downtown, Teresa Harless from St. Paul Main Street, Joy Rumley from Virginia Main Street, and yours truly. Flaccevento discussed the organization called BALLE, the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies.

BALLE is like a chamber of commerce for locally-owned, independent businesses, the kind of businesses that are the heart and soul of any Main Street community.  BALLE also focuses on the triple bottom line of success for businesses:  financial, social and environmental.  We talked about the potential for a loosely-formed BALLE-like organization, as as well what it would require to form an actual BALLE chapter. And of course, we discussed the need for funding and grant opportunities available.

The next step is for the four Main Street directors in our region to meet with our respective economic restructuring committees to discuss the feasibility of a partnership between our communities using the BALLE principles.  We recognize the advantages, in terms of business networking, education and promotion, of buy-local principles, but we must decide if BALLE is a good fit for us in terms of a regional partnership.  Whatever we decide, we will be working together, and that is a good thing.

Hopewell, Martinsville and St. Paul receive funds to revitalize derelict downtown buildings

On Dec. 10, Governor Bob McDonnell announced more than $2 million in Industrial Revitalization Fund (IRF) grants, including grants for the designated VMS communities of Hopewell, Martinsville and St. Paul. The funds leverage local and private resources to achieve market-driven redevelopment of derelict structures, creating catalysts for long-term employment opportunities and on-going physical and economic revitalization.

“This program focuses on bringing derelict structures back to life. By revitalizing vacant structures, we are encouraging economic growth in communities that want new investments and creating new vitality for vacant buildings.” — Governor Bob McDonnell


Hopewell and its partner, the nonprofit group Capital Area Partnership Uplifting People, plan to redevelop the historic, but dilapidated and vacant storefront located at 238 East Broadway, in the heart of downtown Hopewell.  The mixed-use redevelopment will provide the Main Street district with a high quality coffee shop, commercial art studios, an art gallery/event space, an employment training program and a possible retail incubator and art education spaces. The project will also convert a vacant city lot located adjacent to the property into an outdoor patio/art terrace space. The project will invest more than $900,000 in public and private funds to take some of downtown Hopewell’s worst properties and make them its best.


The Henry Hotel, designed by the same architect who designed its twin, the Beverley Hotel in Staunton, Virginia, was built in 1925. It is in the heart of Martinsville’s Main Street district, blocks from the New College Institute’s new facility and is a contributing building in the Martinsville National Historic District and the city’s local historic district. In recent decades, the building fell into disrepair and became a 33-room efficiency apartment building for low-income residents.

The city purchased the Henry Hotel in 2009 and is now partnering with Waukeshaw Development Inc. to convert the building into a mixed-use development featuring 25 residential apartments and four commercial spaces. The new apartments will be a mixture of studio and one-bedroom market-rate units that will help meet demand for high quality, new housing in the Martinsville’s Main Street district. The project will invest more than $3 million in public and private funds to convert one of the Main Street district’s largest white elephants into one of the community’s newest assets.

St. Paul

Willis Building in St. Paul

Willis Building in St. Paul

The Willis Building, built around 1922, is the largest vacant structure in St. Paul’s Main Street district. After years of neglect, the town purchased the property to stabilize the structure and secure it for redevelopment. The renovation and reuse of the Willis Building will allow St. Paul to maximize the benefits of the outdoor-tourism-based regional economic development initiative known as Appalachian Spring. The Appalachian Spring initiative recognizes St. Paul as a gateway to the Clinch River, the Breaks Interstate Park and the Spearhead Trails, all major regional outdoor tourism destinations.  The Willis Building will provide space for outdoor-tourism-related entrepreneurial endeavors by providing affordable and accessible retail and commercial space. This project will invest more than $1 million to convert a massive, vacant and blighting space in St.Paul’s Main Street district into an outdoor tourism entrepreneur destination.

Historic Preservation on Main Street

Building being demolished in Culpeper due to earthquake damage in 2011. Photo source:

Historic building being demolished in Culpeper after 2011 earthquake. Photo source:

Last fall a 9,000-square-foot commercial building was demolished in the heart of a Main Street district in Virginia to create more parking. The loss of the building permanently erased a piece of the architectural history and character of the historic downtown. It also opened up a 35-foot-long hole in the urban fabric of the historic district and may have increased the cost of creating future commercial and residential uses on the parcel, uses that are critical to the vitality of every downtown.  The demolition sent an estimated 800 tons of debris to the local landfill, reduced the property taxes contributed by the parcel to the local government by two-thirds, created no new businesses or jobs and added no new residents or employees to the downtown. In short, the demolition permanently removed a valuable asset from the Main Street district, and the hole in the street front will likely prove to be a long-term drag to the economic revitalization of the downtown.

Historic preservation is a cornerstone of the Main Street approach to downtown revitalization. Virginia’s historic downtowns were never islands unto themselves, but were, rather, once the hubs of economic and cultural activity in their regions. As such, they were the focus of a tremendous amount of financial investment and cultural expression by the residents of the regions surrounding the downtowns. The result is the unique historic architecture and pedestrian-friendly commercial districts that characterize Virginia’s Main Street communities.

The preservation of these unique built environments maintains the cultural and economic hearts of Virginia’s Main Street districts and provides substantial economic benefits to local communities. Despite some losses, Virginia’s Main Street organizations are working with property owners to preserve, rehabilitate and reuse the historic built assets in their downtowns.

Example of facade design assistance provided by Frazier Associates.

Example of facade design assistance provided by Frazier Associates.

Walk through any Main Street community and you will see refurbished facades with new paint, re-exposed store windows, repaired brickwork and new awnings. Local Main Street organizations facilitated many of these improvement projects with design assistance funded by VMS and provided to private property owners by Frazier Associates. Many property owners just need design assistance and are able to fund the façade improvements themselves while others take advantage of façade improvement grant and loan programs like those in Hopewell, South Boston and Fredericksburg.

With funding from VMS, Bedford, Bristol, Luray, Lynchburg, Marion, Martinsville, South Boston, St. Paul, and Waynesboro have developed financial feasibility studies for major historic, vacant or underused buildings in their Main Street districts. These organizations worked with owners of large “white elephant” buildings in the Main Street district to develop preliminary engineering and architecture reports, market demand studies for proposed reuses of the buildings and financial assistance packages. Prepared with this valuable information, the Main Street organizations are working to find potential property developers who can return these buildings to their status as major downtown assets.

Some Main Street organizations have even taken on ownership of historic buildings in order to save them from demolition until the right property developer could be located. Three years ago, after one of South Boston’s final three remaining tobacco warehouses burned and a second was demolished and sold off for the value of its bricks, the New Brick Warehouse, built in 1900, the last standing tobacco warehouse in South Boston, was also slated to be sold off for bricks.

Saving the historic warehouse from demolition was a high priority for Destination Downtown South Boston (DDSB), South Boston’s Main Street organization. DDSB convinced the building’s owner that there was more financial gain in donating the building to DDSB, a 501-C-3 non-profit organization, for a charitable donation tax deduction than there was in demolishing and selling off the bricks. Working with Preservation Virginia and the town government, the Main Street organization found a developer who was able to preserve the building and rehabilitate it for market rate downtown housing, which is in short supply in South Boston. The $2.6 million New Brick Historic Lofts will open January 2014, adding more than 20 new, market-rate housing units to downtown South Boston and preserving a piece of architectural tobacco heritage that is unique and authentic to South Boston.

We took on ownership of the New Brick Warehouse in order to save the last standing tobacco warehouse from being demolished, and we’ve been very picky in making sure that anyone we sell the building to has to adhere to the Secretary of the Interior’s Rehabilitative Standards because that was our main goal – to preserve its historic character. We ended up with the ideal project — our developers will be utilizing tax credits, which require historic standards, so we get to preserve the building as well as get 22 market-rate apartments in downtown.” – Tamyra Vest, Executive Director of Destination Downtown South Boston

Hopewell Celebrates VMS/CSX Grant

Check Presentation. From left to right: Hopewell Mayor Christina Luman-Bailey, Quintin C. Kendall, CSX regional vise-president for state affairs, Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling, HDP Board President Jim Poe, and Lisa Atkinson, Deputy Director of Community Development for DHCD.

Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling presented Hopewell Downtown Partnership (HDP) with a ceremonial check for $7,500 as part of a Downtown Improvement Grant awards ceremony held Wednesday, Aug. 15 at the Beacon Theater in downtown Hopewell.

The grant funding is the result of a unique public/private partnership that matches $2,500 in VMS funds with $5,000 from CSX Corporation. This is the second year that CSX has collaborated with VMS to provide $7,500 Downtown Improvement Grants to designated VMS communities served by CSX Corporation rail lines. Grantees provide a local match of at least $2,500. 

In partnership with the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation and Department of Planning, HDP plans to use the VMS/CSX grant funds to build a recreation and family-friendly environment on a park site along the Appomattox River.

The proximity of the Appomattox River is one of downtown Hopewell’s greatest assets. HDP is focusing on the river as a key economic restructuring element by encouraging more access to the river, eco-tourism, outdoor recreation activities and the creation of a business-friendly environment near the river that will help attract Hopewell residents and tourists to the downtown area.

The Hopewell Downtown Partnership has come a long way,” stated HDP Board President Jim Poe. “We are now really starting to build momentum in the downtown, and with the recent grants from CSX and Virginia Main Street, we will be able to make some noticeable differences.”

A check presentation ceremony in the Town of St. Paul was held on Aug. 9 to celebrate that community’s VMS/CSX grant award. St. Paul Tomorrow will use its grant funds and local matching funds to provide permanent signage in and around Market Square, which includes the recently completed Clinch River Farmers Market.

St. Paul Celebrates Main Street Designation

Residents of St. Paul, one of four newly designated Virginia Main Street communities, recently gathered to formally recognize the distinction and enlist new volunteers at a kick-off event in November. Attendees included more than 40 residents, Mayor Kyle Fletcher, Vice-Mayor Sharon Steele, Town Councilmember Monty Salyer and members of St. Paul Tomorrow, led by current Chairperson Lou Ann Wallace.

The Saturday event coincided with a visit from Santa Claus aboard the CSX Santa Train and a downtown holiday bazaar. On hand for the delivery of Virginia Main Street  signs were DHCD staff Jackie Stump, Jeff Sadler and Doug Jackson. Pictured at right: Mayor Fletcher, Jeff Sadler, and Jackie Stump. 

In remarks to the group, Mayor Kyle Fletcher spoke of the town’s potential as a destination along the Clinch River and the potential of the Main Street effort to benefit not just residents of St. Paul, but the entire region of communities in the Clinch River Valley.

After the event, St. Paul Tomorrow Secretary Suzy Harrison commented that the community had been looking forward to receiving the signs, but noted that volunteers had already begun taking advantage of Main Street resources, including a recent educational and technical assistance visit from Kathy Frazier of Frazier Associates to begin a full improvement study of downtown facades.

Virginia Main Street designates four new communities

Governor McDonnell announced yesterday that four new communities can now tout their distinction as Designated Virginia Main Street Communities.  The new communities are the cities of Hopewell and Bristol and the towns of Farmville and St. Paul.  They were chosen based on a combination of factors that included need, readiness, community support and appropriateness of their district.  With the addition of these four communities, the number of Designated Virginia Main Street Communities grows to 25.

Said Governor McDonnell,

“With public and private investment in our traditional commercial districts, we can spark entrepreneurship and job creation downtown in rural and distressed regions of our commonwealth. Main Street is a proven model that uses limited state resources to support local strategies and leverage local resources.”

Each community brings a unique set of historic assets and strategic focus to its revitalization work. Bristol and St. Paul, in Southwest Virginia, are aligned with a 19-county strategy that promotes the region’s cultural heritage and natural assets. Downtown Hopewell’s placement on the James River is the centerpiece of a local quality of life strategy, and Farmville is strengthening ties with local universities and the emerging regional cultural heritage strategies in Southern Virginia. Virginia Main Street will provide technical assistance, training, and expert resources to assist the communities with aligning resources and achieving these goals.

We are pleased to have these folks on board and ask that you help us welcome them.