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Virginia Tourism, Halifax hold open house for downtown ideas / May 23, 2019
Virginia Tourism Corporation marketing specialist Sandra Tanner will hold an open house on Wednesday, May 29, from 11 a.m.-6 p.m., in the Halifax Town Hall at 70 South Main Street. Anyone in the community is welcome throughout the day to stop by to offer their ideas and share examples about what they would like to see developed in the downtown and throughout the historic courthouse town, (population 1,309), which has served as the county seat since 1777.

“This is grassroots driven,” said Tanner. “It doesn’t work if the community doesn’t get involved.” Residents, businesses, and members of civic organizations located both inside and outside of town are encouraged to participate in this initiative to renew revitalization efforts making Halifax a thriving place to live, work, shop and play.

According to Tanner, VTC’s Partnership Marketing role in this process to listen, encourage open and candid dialogue and then take all of the input from the community to compile comments and ideas gathered.

Later in the summer a group of “sparkplugs” (15-20 people committed to completing tasks), consisting of business/property owners, residents, and local organizations/groups will be invited to attend a day-long planning session to come up with the goals/objectives based on the community’s feedback and vision for Halifax which will become a part of the town’s strategic economic development plan.

The Halifax Village Association Community Development Committee organized a well-attended presentation by Tory McGowan with the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development in September 2018, at the Halifax Sportsmen’s Club, with an introduction by Destination Downtown South Boston Executive Director Tamyra Vest (South Boston became a Designated Virginia Main Street in 2004).

McGowan featured examples of DHCD’s Virginia Main Street (VMS) “Refresh” Approach to improving economic development strategies and enhancing the quality of life for small town communities throughout the Commonwealth. “The importance of downtown areas has shifted since the early part of the 20th century,” McGowan explained to the enthusiastic crowd, “from where people needed to be to where they want to be.”

The Town of Halifax, through its partnership with Halifax County, and the Halifax Village Business Association, now HVA, became a VMS Commercial District Affiliate (CDA) in 2003 as part of DHCD’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Award for the Halifax Downtown Revitalization Project Master Plan & Phase I Streetscape Construction/Façade Improvement Program completed in 2008.

The town has maintained its VMS Commercial District Affiliate status since that time, providing attendance to DHCD Workshops by town staff, elected officials, planning commission and HVA members, and undertaking various activities with continued improvements in the downtown, its commercial approach corridors and identified gateways with the establishment of the Town of Halifax Courthouse Historic District (2011), Phase I Downtown Utility Relocation & Telecommunications Project (2012), Town of Halifax Marketplace-Farmer’s Market & HVA Community Clock Plaza Project (2011/2015), Halifax County Enterprise Zone [EZ-DHCD] (2013), Mountain Road Historic District Boundary Increase (2015), Banister River Gateway & Banister Lake Boat Landing Project (2015/2018), and VDOT MAP-21 grant applications for the Halifax Downtown Streetscape Extension Project (construction in 2020-2021).

“Tory and Tamyra’s presentations made it clear Halifax will benefit from more coordination in promotion, marketing, civic projects, historic and design awareness, under DHCD’s Main Street approach to bring vibrancy to our downtown,” remarked attendee Darnell Abbott of Abbott Farm, Garden & Gun.

VMS is a preservation-based economic and community development program that follows a national model. The national program began in 1977 when the National Trust for Historic Preservation initiated a pilot program to revitalize historic downtowns that had declined in the decades since the 1950s. The Virginia program is one of 39 statewide in operation in the United States.

A 2015 study by VCU found that since 1985, almost $2 billion in total economic impact was generated, including $870 million in employee pay, by Main Street activities. “Beyond the numbers, Main Street has helped Virginians embrace the cultural history, the sense of community, and the quality of life that a flourishing historic downtown can provide,” the authors wrote, adding, “Virginia Main Streets attract both residents and tourists to their shops and eateries, and they also attract artisanal and high-tech businesses.”

Halifax Town Council Business Development Chairman Mike Trent noted, “We’ve got a town that’s compact and walkable; it’s historic; it’s surrounded by the river and beautiful countryside; it’s a great place to grow a business and raise a family.” He added, “Taking 20-40 minutes to share your ideas will be time well spent in helping build a brighter future for our wonderful town.”


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