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The Colonial Beach Revitalization committee held a special meeting to provide a venue to engage local business and property owners located within the historic commercial core (Colonial and Washington Avenues).
The group is hoping to generate more community interest in the revitalization efforts. Officials from the Northern Neck District Planning Commission and the Virginia Main Street program were on hand to discuss the positive actions neighboring Montross used to help win their Community Development Block Grant of just over half a million dollars.
Revitalization plan for the boardwalk
Carol Rizzio of Lands Studio presented the group with an overview of the business district revitalization plan and discussed the Community Development Block Grant that the town is seeking and how it can benefit the business owners specifically.
Revitalization along the boardwalk is the focus of the first project and will restore and improve the boardwalk spanning from Hawthorne St. north to Lincoln Ave.
The boardwalk will be repaved and erosion control will be implemented to minimize future damage.
Silt fencing, installing trees and plants, providing sod areas and irrigation will provide curb appeal along with sediment control . Trash receptacles, benches, bike racks and signage will also be added.
A revitalization grant is not designed to specifically target commerce but it does play a big role in making the landscape more appealing to visitors as well as residents, which will benefit commerce in the long run.
So the plan must focus on physical improvements that will not only attract more tourists but also directly build on one or more of the towns strengths.
Since our single largest attraction is the boardwalk, the revitalization committee has seen the need to restore it first, and improve on its structure and appearance.
Grant money will be given based on many factors but the biggest concern of the grantors is that the community is excited about the improvements enough to commit to keeping them maintained.
Since Colonial Beach is prone to occasional tropical storms that threaten to damage the boardwalk, the community needs to work to ensure that funds will always be replenished to continue to maintain the vitality of the boardwalk.
Help is always available from the NNPDC
Jerry Davis of the Northern Neck Planning District Commission spoke to the group and discussed key projects Montross used to win their DCBG of just over a half a million dollars for improvements.
The Northern Neck Planning District Commission is an association of local county governments who work together to address local issues and solve the problems that are significant to the region. These regional issues cannot be solved efficiently by each county alone.
Davis briefly explained to the group a few of the services available through the NNPDC, warning, “You have to have patience and persistence,” regarding the pursuance of a CDBG.
Montross is proud of being the central historical location as well as the county seat so the goal was to encourage revitalization in the downtown area, in a manner that would preserve the small-town characteristic. “We wanted to use the Main Street model from the beginning,” Davis said. The town became a Main Street affiliate and implemented the program prior to winning the grant.
Included in the Montross revitalization project are improvements to three major pedestrian crosswalks located at and near the 45 degree bend in Route 3 located in the center of town. This is an effort to facilitate walking traffic, slowing down visitors to allow for more browsing and potentially more shopping.
Montross’ success however resulted from their focus on two programs directed towards business owners who wished to improve their businesses either by facade improvements or reinvesting to grow their business.
Montross business owners will put up a combined amount of $331,000 of private funds to add to the $530,000 of Community Block Grant Development funds awarded to the town for revitalization of the business district.
To date private building owners have committed to $251,000 in private funds and those wishing to utilize money in the facade improvement program will put up another $80,000 total matching funds.
These monetary commitments from business owners have made Montross successful in showing the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development that the town is committed to revitalization beyond the initial improvements, funded by CDBG money.
The town will provide $140,000 in revolving loan funds, from CDBG money, to assist approximately seven businesses with eligible entrepreneurs who are willing to create new jobs. A total of six full time jobs will need to be made through various businesses utilizing these loans, four of which must be given to individuals who currently make moderate to low income wages.
Facade loans of $80,000 are available to assist building owners with necessary matching funds to improve their buildings’ outside appearance. Business owners will put up half of the repair costs, while the grant will pay the other half.
How the Main Street approach can help
Brad Below discussed the benefits of being a member of and utilizing strategies from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development’s Main Street program.
Below said that the VDHCD really wants to see that the community recognizes how they got to where they are, and is taking a proactive approach to remedy that and growing the economy anew.
The Main Street program is an economic restructuring approach to revitalizing, especially for historic commercial districts.
The difference between the programs is that with a block grant localities seek grant money to upgrade the appearance of their downtown areas. In Main Street programs the DHCD provides guidance and outlines to help citizens of a locality raise money to fund projects that will not only improve the appearance of the downtown area but will focus more on economy building activities to bring more revenue to the town.
With Main Street, a community continues to improve on the downtown area and continues to change with the economy.
The Main Street approach follows a four step program which includes organization, promotion, design and economic restructuring.
It is now up to the town and revitalization committee to decide whether or not to utilize the Main Street program or not.