2019 Community Transformation Workshop Recap

October 7, 2019 | 2019 Community Transformation Workshop Recap |

Hopewell Downtown Partnership's Executive Director Evan Kaufman welcomes Community Transformation Workshop attendees to Hopewell, Virginia. Credit: Kelly Humrichouser

The 2019 Community Transformation Workshop was held October 23 – 25 in Richmond, Virginia. A hallmark event of the Main Street America Institute program, the workshop included visits to the Virginia Main Street communities of Fredericksburg and Hopewell. Over three days, participants learned from experts in the field – and each other – about the complex combination of strategy, revitalization, and leadership that creates positive change in a community. Read on for a recap of the experience from the National Main Street Center’s Manager of Education & Illinois Coordinating Program Kelly Humrichouser.

Each day of the workshop kicked-off bright and early. On Day 1, this included a bus trip to our Main Street host location, Fredericksburg.  where we dove head first into the development of Transformation Strategies with the expertise of the National Main Street Center’s (NMSC) Kathy LaPlante. Using market data and engagement surveys conducted in Fredericksburg, participants learned to recognize local strengths and community vision to define a strategy to guide Main Street work. Participants also had the opportunity to investigate the district, meeting residents, business owners, and visitors throughout downtown to deepen their understanding of the community’s assets and needs. By the end of Day 1, teams of participants had proposed strategies with attendant activities and metrics under each of the Four Points of The Main Street Approach.

The National Main Street Center's Kathy La Plante discusses Transformation Strategy development with attendees. Credit: Kelly Humrichouser

On Day 2, we traveled to Hopewell, where the NMSC’s Matt Wagner opened the day with insights on the economic trends affecting Main Street programs. With these ideas percolating, Donovan Rypkema of PlaceEconomics presented on the economic effects of downtown development, including useful ways to quantify the impact of upper floor housing, vacancy, and catalysts in the district to help Main Street programs communicate the power of revitalization to the whole community. The day included a tour of downtown Hopewell, including current redevelopment projects used as examples in the discussion. At the end of the day, Matt Wagner led a helpful discussion on working with developers and property owners to navigate the tricky territory of turning strategy into successful projects.

By the morning of Day 3, our brains were filled with new concepts and a burning question: “How do I take all of this back and implement it in my community?” To address this, the NMSC’s Norma Ramirez de Miess led a discussion on building organizational capacity through the lens of Transformation Strategies, encouraging participants to consider how these new ideas – or a renewed enthusiasm – can be used to strengthen their programs. Together, participants recognized that leading through strategy:

  • Creates the ability to have measured outcomes.
  • Brings together stakeholders and defines individual roles within the program.
  • Elevates the organization and brings symmetry to the organizational structure.
  • Defines a focus for the program, rather than working on random projects. (We’re not chickens with our heads cut off!)

At the conclusion, participants were left with a call to go back to their communities and share this new knowledge to create a sustainable, thriving organization through empowerment. 

Three days of intensive learning in the company of peers from across the country is a unique experience. Throughout the workshop, attendees networked and socialized with colleagues, enjoying the charms of Richmond, including a food tour, rooftop bar social, restaurants, shopping and even a round of miniature golf. Many thanks to the Virginia Main Street team for hosting us and sharing the wonderful sites of their state. Special thanks also to our two host Main Street programs – Fredericksburg, VA Main Street Inc. and Hopewell Downtown Partnership – and their dynamic Executive Directors, Ann Glave and Evan Kaufman.

Want to participate in a future Main Street America Institute course?
The 2020 Main Street America Institute course schedule will be announced next week! Check our website then for more details about online and in-person workshops throughout the year.