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Celebrating Community Resilience: A Preview of Main Street Now Conference Sessions

Dec. 15, 2021 | Celebrating Community Resilience: A Preview of Main Street Now Conference Sessions |

Carytown's "Mile of Style" in Richmond, Virginia. Credit: Visit Richmond

We can’t wait to join you in Richmond, Virginia, for the 2022 Main Street Now Conference, held May 16-18, to share best practices, celebrate community resilience, and envision new opportunities as we emerge into a new economic future. Along with our partners at the Virginia Main Street Program, we’ll provide educational sessions in three key thematic areas, as well as perennial downtown and commercial district management topics guided by the Main Street Approach. With sessions covering everything from managing climate-related disasters and expanding small-scale development to growing workforce housing and implementing placemaking projects, keep reading for a preview of select sessions covering our three conference themes: Community Preservation and Expression; Housing and Small-Scale Development; and Main Streets for the New Economy. Stay tuned for a full list of conference sessions when registration opens in mid-January. 

Main Streets for the New Economy

Left: A bike trail in Danville, VA. Courtesy of Danville River District. Right: A mural in Gloucester, VA of the Life & Legacy of TC Walker. Courtesy of the Cook Foundation. Photo credit: Rob Ostermaier

Embracing the New Economy in a Changing Region 
To thrive in the 21st century, Main Street communities must leverage and build upon their historic fabric and walkable spaces to add new-economy businesses in the knowledge sector, artisanal work, and small-scale manufacturing. Main Street programs must also collaborate effectively with local and regional policy makers to demonstrate how today's downtowns can help achieve regional development goals. Hear from John Accordino, Virginia Commonwealth University; Paige Read, VA Department of Tourism & Economic Development; Diana Schwartz, River District Association in Danville, VA; and Jenny Crittenden, Retail Alliance, Norfolk, VA about how communities have embraced these tasks, achieved some success, and learned valuable lessons that you can implement in your downtown.

Main Street, Monopolies, and the Post-Pandemic Economy 
For decades, the U.S.'s strong antimonopoly policies prevented big companies from hurting small businesses. But federal antitrust enforcement has been lukewarm since Bell Telephone’s breakup in the early 1980s, and corporations like Walmart and Amazon have used their market strength to muscle out small businesses. Now, the pandemic’s small business spotlight has brought new energy to antitrust policy. This could be one of the most crucial moments for small businesses in decades. Hear from Kennedy Smith, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, about major monopoly laws, hear from business owners about how monopolies have affected them, and pick up some ideas for leveling the playing field in your community.

Housing and Small-Scale Development

Left: Lift Coffee on Broad Street in Richmond, VA Right: An artist paints a mural in Richmond. Courtesy of Visit Richmond. 

A 'BAUD'y Approach: One Small Town's Mission to Improve Lives through Housing Opportunities
The Town of Marion, Virginia, in partnership with the Marion Redevelopment and Housing Authority, has embarked on a mission to improve housing stock and opportunities for all residents. By cataloging BAUD (Blighted, Abandoned, Underutilized, and Dilapidated properties), then finding creative solutions to assist in rehabilitating or replacing those identified as deficient, Marion is working to not only improve the quality of life for its citizens by providing better housing, but also increasing the locality's real estate tax base through this comprehensive program. Speakers Ken Heath, Town of Marion, and Charles Harrington, Marion Redevelopment and Housing Authority, will go over how to identify and evaluate properties to catalog stock and develop opportunities for low-cost acquisition of BAUD properties to return them to usable spaces. 

Powerful Partnerships: Housing, Food, and Celebrating Diversity
Described as “the world in a zip code,” Columbia Pike is a 3.5-mile corridor in Arlington, VA that is home to culturally diverse residents and small, locally owned businesses. The Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization celebrates this diversity through food culture, commitment to mixed-income housing, and support for neighbors during the pandemic. One of the corridor’s transformative mixed-use developments, Gilliam Place, includes 173 affordable housing units developed by Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing; La Cocina, a food service incubator and training nonprofit; and Arlington Presbyterian Church, who also maintains the adjacent community garden. Speakers Kim Klingler, Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization; Jill Norcross, Virginia Housing; Carmen Romero, APAH; and  Patricia (Paty) Funegra, La Cocina, will demonstrate the power of intentional partnerships in supporting an equitable new economy.

Community Preservation and Expression

Left: A Civil War marker along the James River in Richmond. Right: A statue of Abraham Lincoln in Richmond. Courtesy of Visit Richmond. 

Visualizing Downtown: A Climate Adaptation Approach to Resilient Heritage
Using laser scanning technology to document historic downtowns has a variety of potential uses, one of the most significant being the ability to use the data to visualize the future of climate impacts on buildings and businesses. Session speakers Lisa Craig, The Craig Group; Kimberly Rose, University of Florida Preservation Institute Nantucket; and Sujin Kim, College of Design, Construction and Planning - University of Florida, will explore how two historic downtowns (Nantucket, Massachusetts and St. Augustine, Florida) have benefitted from an academic partnership with the University of Florida to plan for adaptation of their historic districts to future climate-related disasters. Through 3D laser imagery, these heritage tourism destinations are designing for future conditions to ensure that buildings damaged by major storm events are built back better. 

Oral History Projects that Engage and Energize Diverse Communities
Every community has a story, but you won't know about it unless you take the time to ask. Explore how oral history projects can engage locals in a new way and learn about an oral history project that asked older community members to describe events related to the Civil Rights Movement. Hear from Katherine Sauders Pemberton from The Powder Keg Magazine Museum and Madeline Konz from the National Park Service about how stories and places of activism and the struggles of everyday people were just waiting to be heard. Explore how to craft opportunities for obtaining oral histories in your community and learn about funding opportunities for conducting oral history projects with National Park Service grant programs.

Registration for the 2022 Main Street Now Conference will open in mid-January 2022. Stay tuned to our channels for more details!