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The designation of a Virginia Main Street community

Photo courtesy of Virginia Main Street Program

Since 1985, Virginia Main Street, a program of the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, has been helping localities revitalize the economic vitality of historic downtown commercial districts. The results have been remarkable. Entrepreneurs are opening new businesses, investors are putting their money into once vacant buildings, tourists are visiting new shops and restaurants, and residents are enjoying renewed community pride.

The Virginia Rehabilitation Tax Credit Program and the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentive Program have proven to be important economic tools for the successful revitalization of these communities.

[photo] East Radford Historic District, c. 1950
Photo courtesy of Virginia Main Street Program

Virginia Main Street's approach to assisting communities with their revitalization efforts was developed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation's National Main Street Center. This national model began as a three-town demonstration project in 1977 at a time when retail sales were shifting from downtown to shopping centers and malls at the outskirts of communities. "Main Street America" was deteriorating and the future of our historic downtowns appeared bleak.

The highly successful demonstration projects helped downtown advocates formalize several revitalization strategies: buildings need to be adapted for new economic uses; merchants need training and coaching; exciting and new promotional efforts are needed to reposition historic downtowns in consumers' minds; and like malls, "Main Street" needs a market strategy. The strategy, developed by the National Main Street Center and adopted by more than 1,600 communities in 40 States, is known as the Main Street Four Point Approach™.

Culpeper Historic District

Photo courtesy of Virginia Main Street Program

The guiding principles of the Main Street Four Point Approach™ are Design, Promotion, Economic Restructuring, and Organization. Design promotes the enhancement of the physical appearance of historic downtowns through the rehabilitation of historic buildings and the encouragement of new construction that reinforces the character of downtown. Promotion helps create and market a positive image based on the unique attributes of downtown districts. Economic Restructuring strengthens the districts' existing economic base, yet expands to meet new opportunities and challenges from the changing business environment. Organization establishes consensus and cooperation among all downtown stakeholders, whether they are local government officials, banks, merchants, civic organizations, civic-minded individuals, or downtown property owners.

[photo] Ribbon cutting ceremony at a business in Franklin
Photo courtesy of Virginia Main Street Program

Main Street organizations have a variety of budget, population, volunteer, and staff sizes. Each community pursues the incremental and comprehensive Four Point Approach™ with its own locally appropriate revitalization strategy, but the end goals are the same across the board: to increase businesses and jobs downturn. Since 1985, designated Main Street communities in the Commonwealth have generated more than $600 million in private investment, completed more than 4,500 rehabilitation projects, and created more than 13,500 new jobs and 4,600 new businesses.

For more information about Virginia Main Street, please contact: Virginia Main Street, Department of Housing and Community Development, 600 Main Street, Suite 300,Richmond, VA 23219, 804-371-7030, e-mail: mainstreet@dhcd.virginia.gov or visit the website at: www.dhcd.virginia.gov/mainstreet.

[graphic] Link to Virginia Main Street Essay  [graphic] rotating images of Virginia Main Street Communities  [graphic] Link to Commercial Architecture in Virginia Essay
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