Program advances downtown revitalization, business development
RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today welcomed the towns of Cape Charles, Onancock, Tappahannock, and Tazewell to the Virginia Main Street program. The newly designated communities completed a competitive application process and will receive intensive services to help strengthen their downtowns, administered by the Department of Housing and Community Development. These include market analysis, marketplace development, capacity building, design assistance, organization development, economic strategies, and façade renderings for redevelopment projects.
“These new Virginia Main Street communities are eager to revitalize their commercial districts and create opportunities for growth,” said Governor Northam. “For more than three decades, the Virginia Main Street program has worked to spur economic development through historic preservation. Downtowns are the heart and soul of small towns, and Virginia is committed to helping them recover from the pandemic and remain sustainable for generations to come.”
Since 1985, the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) has been providing assistance to localities engaged in downtown commercial district revitalization through the Virginia Main Street program. Virginia uses the National Main Street Center’s® comprehensive, incremental Main Street Approach® to downtown revitalization, which is built around a community’s unique heritage, culture, and historic building attributes. The Commonwealth now has 30 designated Virginia Main Street communities and 90 DHCD Community Affiliates.
“Using local resources and initiatives, Virginia Main Street helps communities develop strategies to stimulate long-term economic growth in downtowns across the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “We look forward to seeing how these four communities take advantage of their new Main Street designation.”
Since 1985, Virginia Main Street communities have generated more than $1.3 billion in private investment. New businesses locating, expanding, or relocating to Virginia Main Street communities have resulted in a net gain of 15,522 jobs.
The following are the new designated Virginia Main Street organizations:
Cape Charles Main Street
Located on the Chesapeake Bay in Northampton County near the southern tip of the Eastern Shore, Cape Charles Main Street has experienced economic prosperity over the last several years. Its sandy beaches and deep-water harbor have attracted tourists, new residents, businesses, and investors. Cape Charles Main Street continues to advocate for its historic downtown and vibrant bayside by supporting the business community, enhancing residents’ quality of life, and preserving the town’s character. The organization has been successful in implementing its Main Street program and continues to receive support from public and private sectors.
Onancock Main Street Initiative
The waterfront town of Onancock is situated in the middle of the Eastern Shore, equidistant between Cape Charles and Chincoteague in Accomack County. The town sits on Onancock Creek, a former steamboat port that served as the main export point for agricultural crops for the Eastern Shore to Baltimore. Today, Onancock boasts Victorian architecture, galleries, and restaurants and is a popular stopping point along Route 13. The Onancock Main Street Initiative developed a strategic plan focused on building a local brand with dedicated volunteers, strong community engagement, and sustainable funding.
Tappahannock Main Street
The town of Tappahannock is a historic seaport on the Rappahannock River in Essex County. Tappahannock is the commercial center of the region, accessible by several major roadways and within walking distance of a full-service marina. The Tappahannock Main Street program is committed to long-term management of its downtown revitalization.
Located in Southwest Virginia along the Clinch River, the town of Tazewell is embracing its natural and cultural resources to help reposition its economy. The town is a popular destination for motorcyclists—even without direct interstate access—thanks to the “Back of the Dragon” route with 32 miles of road with over 300 curves. Tazewell is also listed on the National and Virginia landmark registers because it contains historic resources, distinct pre-1900 architectural styles, and the Hometown of the Clinch regional eco-tourism initiative. The Tazewell Today 501(c)3 nonprofit has goals to leverage its unique position to increase retail traffic, restaurant activity, and attract lodgers through developing its downtown.
For additional information about the Virginia Main Street program, visit dhcd.virginia.gov/vms.