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Main Spotlight: A Snapshot of Virginia 2022 Mobile Conference Tours


February 9, 2022 | Main Spotlight: A Snapshot of Virginia 2022 Mobile Conference Tours | Katherine Miller, Capacity Building Program Coordinator with the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development |

Jackson Ward. Photo courtesy of reRVA.

The 2022 Main Street Now Conference is only four months away! We know everyone is excited to visit the vibrant city of Richmond, Virginia, but we also recommend taking advantage of the amazing mobile tour offerings around the rest of the state. We are offering 19 fun and unique mobile workshops, and whether you are interested in history, the arts, architecture, cinema, food or outdoor recreation, there is something for everyone!

Registration for the Main Street Now Conference is now open! Register today to take advantage of early bird rates and to make sure you reserve a spot in the Mobile Workshop of your choice. Thank you to Virginia Tourism Corporation for their generous sponsorship of Main Street Now Conference Mobile Tours.

Main Street Tours

Many of the tours highlight the incredible work of Virginia Main Street communities, such as Gloucester, Ashland, Culpeper, Orange, Petersburg, Charlottesville, Fredericksburg, and Hopewell. On these tours, you will see how they have been implementing the Main Street Approach to revitalize their historic downtown district.
Film buffs should check out Petersburg, one of Virginia’s oldest cities, which is rich in history and remarkable architecture. This city played a key role in both the Revolutionary and Civil War, and it has an incredible African American heritage. For over 30 years, Petersburg has been a favorite location for movie production. You may recognize buildings from “Lincoln,” “Harriet,” “Dopesick,” “The Walking Dead,” and more!

Prior to the Opening Plenary, there is plenty of time to explore the surrounding region. Visit Gloucester and hear the story of the only self-supporting Main Street under the Main Street America umbrella in the nation! Learn the story of the Gloucester Village through murals and see one of the oldest court circles in Virginia. Enjoy a $10 voucher to do some downtown shopping and a drink at Gloucester Brewing Company, while also networking with fellow downtown revitalization nerds. You’ll leave inspired by the many ongoing initiatives contributing to Gloucester’s vibrancy!

If you’re fascinated by train towns, make sure to visit Ashland. This tour will provide attendees with an opportunity to gain a greater understanding of place-based economic development and tourism promotion. Downtown Ashland is focused on bringing exciting, new life to an old, charming southern town. Spend the day visiting the reimagined storefronts, the renovated historic theatre, and the community’s central attraction, the still active railroad tracks.

On the final day of the conference, take a short trip to nearby Hopewell, a city at the confluence of the Appomattox and James Rivers. Hopewell is one of North America’s oldest, continuously inhabited English-speaking communities. The area served as General Grant’s headquarters and one of the world’s busiest seaports during the Civil War. However, Hopewell did not become a “boom town” until the arrival of DuPont and other manufacturing plants. The revitalization of the downtown is a major element of the City's overall strategy to redefine and improve the City's connection and industrial relationship with the Appomattox River. Learn about how the local Main Street program is working to champion Hopewell as a healthy, vibrant, and prosperous waterfront community “where friends and rivers meet” and what strategies are being used to attract young entrepreneurs and small-scale producers to the area. Enjoy some locally roasted coffee, locally brewed mead, historical sites, gorgeous river views, and fare from our up-and-coming restaurant scene. Hopewell is a small but hidden gem!

Richmond Tours

While in Richmond, take the time to explore some of the unique and historic neighborhoods within the city. Through the various tour options, you can learn about the extensive history of the city, taste the amazing culinary delights, and see the ongoing renaissance happening in Richmond. Make sure to spend some time on the picturesque James River and take advantage of everything the city has to offer!
Church Hill, one of Richmond's most charming neighborhoods, has its origins in American history, including as the site of Patrick Henry's "Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Death" speech. Since that time, and similar to many traditional urban American neighborhoods, its economic and community vitality has waxed and waned as a result of redlining, urban renewal, more automobile-centric development patterns, and other matters. Disinvestment led to decades of decline and significant increases in serious crime rates. Historic preservation efforts that began in the 1950s reversed much of this decline, but now the neighborhood faces challenges in balancing economic vitality and market forces with the need for affordable housing and social equity, especially for neighbors who had been - and in many cases continue to be - marginalized. Come learn more about the neighborhood and hear from individuals and organizations who continue to advocate for the best interests of the entire community!

Take a day to celebrate Black History in Richmond’s Jackson Ward, once known as Black Wall Street for the many financial services, cultural icons, and entrepreneurs who made it thrive. Led by Gary Flowers, an eighth-generation Virginian and fourth-generation Jackson Ward resident, this guided bus and walking tour includes an overview of the Ward’s culturally historic past coupled with a sample of modern, delicious cuisine from a variety Black-owned restaurants, all within walking distance of the conference.

Explore the oldest neighborhood in Richmond on the Shockoe Bottom tour to learn about its rich history and the contemporary redevelopment of old tobacco warehouses and hear from developers about new projects. Visit Startup Virginia, a business incubator and entrepreneurial hub for innovators and learn directly from those succeeding in this space. Shockoe Bottom had a major role in the US trade of enslaved people, and participants can visit the location of the planned heritage campus around Lumpkin’s Jail / Devils Half Acre and a slave burial grounds, as well as the iconic and historic Main Street Station. Enjoy of the plethora of fantastic restaurants in this area and take the Pulse, the convenient, free bus rapid transit system, back to the hotel.

Before leaving town, have a monumental experience that combines both futuristic technology and powerful history! Richmond’s most seasoned tour guides will lead you through the infamous sites that sparked a national discussion. Discover Monument Avenue through augmented reality glasses to both investigate its Lost Cause origins and to discuss its effects on Richmonders. After viewing and listening to archival sources, guests will dialogue about why Monument Avenue was created, who built it, and how it has changed physically and culturally during this two-hour walking tour. The Monument Augmented Reality tour ends at Marcus David Peters circle and includes the history of Monument Avenue, as well as the events that transpired in 2020. Begin at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and have time to peruse the grounds and exhibits before beginning the tour. Participants will then have time to visit the Branch Museum of Architecture and Design, a museum with the mission to elevate the awareness of the transformative power of architecture and design. Enjoy a delicious lunch at one of the many unique and tucked away restaurants in The Fan district of Richmond.

These are just a few of the amazing local and mobile tours available! It may be hard to decide which to choose, but trust us there is no wrong answer when it comes to visiting Virginia. Combined with amazing session offerings, it will be impossible to leave Richmond and the 2022 Main Street Now Conference without feeling empowered and inspired.

Check out descriptions of all Main Street Now Mobile Tour options here, and be sure to reserve your space soon! Registration for the conference is now open here.

About the Author

Katherine Miller is a Capacity Building Program Coordinator with the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), specifically working with the Rural Community Development Initiative and Virginia Main Street (VMS) program. In her free time, Katherine enjoys running, biking, walking around new cities and public transit. She is a lifelong Virginian, and she has a unique ability to find four-leaf clovers and fig trees anywhere she goes!

Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development
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