- Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 April 2011 00:00
- Published on Wednesday, 13 April 2011 00:00
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As part of an ongoing grant application to the Department of Housing and Community Development, Carol Rizzo and Bill Spivey of Land Studio, P.C. presented data on the current economic situation of Colonial Beach. The data was rich with details and paints a realistic picture of the town that will serve as a springboard to future economic development.
Richard Hunt of Peloton Research Partners spoke to the approximately 70-plus citizens, several members of council, school board members, planning commission members and town administrative staff. The presentation centered on economic development, which, according to Hunt, “is the sustainable increase in living standards and well being for a community’s citizens” and “provides a resilient quality of life.” The data used was gleaned
from town records, one-on-one meetings with businesses and residents, focus groups, an analysis of retail sales activity and current 2010 census data.
Colonial Beach has a current population of 3,542 people and comprises 20 percent of the total 17,452 population of Westmoreland County. The average family size at the Beach is 2.23, which is much lower than King George’s 2.72 average family size, and points to an older population. The data also shows that the average age in the Beach is 43.9, again compared to the average age in King George, which is 35.1, confirming the older population of the town.
Click on image above to view video of the meeting.
The data further suggests that in the upcoming five-year period, there will be 92.9 percent of growth in the 55 to 74 age category.
The square footage of retail space at the Beach currently shows a 44.8 percent vacancy rate. Also, available house rental properties data show a 35 percent vacancy rate. This data confirms a lack of spending opportunities for items such as clothing, household, entertainment, recreation and specialty items and a lack of quality rental housing opportunities.
Based on data, in 2010 Colonial Beach residents spent approximately $33 million per year, with groceries and auto service being two of the highest categories of spending. Of that $33 million per year spending, only 30 percent remains in town.
Based on the data, it is clear that Colonial Beach needs to build upon its assets by encouraging growth in overnight room opportunities, such as hotels, encouraging specialty retail, and promoting tourism growth. With the recent auction of the former Day’s Inn building next to the boardwalk, the lack of overnight lodging is a prime concern and points to concentrating marketing efforts to quality chain hotels, small bed and breakfast establishments and a conference/community center. Further, data from 2009 shows a need for 11,300 annual temporary lodging/hotel rooms that are needed locally just to fill the unmet need created by visitors to the naval base in Dahlgren.
Hunt further encouraged the town to create and market a plan to encourage an additional 7,000 to 10,000 square feet of food and dining opportunities, to include increasing the opportunity for outside dining experiences. Also recommended is that the town encourage an additional 5,000 to 8,000 square feet of specialty gift shops, perhaps including a small arcade and a salon or spa.
Traditionally, tourists seeking specialized trips to enjoy art, history, food, bicycling, golf carting or bird watching spend $250 to $335 per day and are considered “low impact” tourists. The data suggests that by providing incentives for a quality hotel and conference or meeting facility to be built and by increasing local bed and breakfast establishments and with an active marketing campaign, those tourists could be reached. Further, creation of a Historic/Resort core district in the recently created Enterprise Zone would allow for historic designation marketing. For each $1 spent investing in marketing and other incentives, the town will gain $20 to $27 in impact revenue.
The town’s No. 1 asset is in its residents, who are thought to be “charming and hospitable” according to Hunt. Also included in town assets are the beach front, golf carts, an operating off-track betting parlor, and several quality dining establishments. Not to be overlooked, Colonial Beach has an active arts community and also has been designated as an Indigenous Bird District by the Audubon Society.
Other suggestions for strengthening economic development include: Creating recreational areas, boating areas and open spaces; actively promoting the arts, culture and history opportunities in town; and establishing, with attractive signage, areas for pedestrian, bicycle and golf cart travel routes within the town.
After the presentation by Land Studio, PC and Hunt, the audience members broke up into five focus groups of 8-10 citizens and each group compiled a wish list for this beach town looking 20 years into the future. The results from the focus groups will be presented at a meeting scheduled for Tuesday, April 12 beginning at 6:15 p.m.