Destination Downtown wins awardsDestination Downtown South Boston and the Town of South Boston were presented with Virginia Main Street Milestone Achievement Awards for the dedication of over 20,000 volunteer hours to the revitalization of the downtown's historic commercial district and for creating an investment environment in the downtown that has fostered over 250 private investments.

The awards were presented Wednesday, March 19.

The organization also was awarded a Special Achievement Award for its leadership in partnering with the town and Rehab Development, Inc. in the conversion of the town's last standing tobacco warehouse into 27 new, market-rate apartments in the Main Street district. The awards were presented at Richmond's historic Hippodrome Theater.

At the ceremony that focused on the results of Main Street efforts, Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones spoke to the audience of nearly 90 downtown revitalization volunteers and professionals from around the state about the visible results of their hard work.

"This year, you have been thinking outside of the box and using entrepreneurship as a keystone to successful downtown revitalization," said Secretary Jones. "With entrepreneur development strategies like business boot camps and even an Ideaspace, you are bringing new ventures and amazing growth to your downtowns."

The Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) Director Bill Shelton said, "In the last five years, designated Main Street communities have sparked more than $217 million in private investment in their districts." Shelton continued, "As a result, last year, there was a net collective gain of 453 jobs across the 25 Main Street downtown districts."

"Entrepreneurship is key to revitalizing our communities. Given the proper support, anybody can pursue their dream of starting a business," said keynote speaker Toan Nguyen, co-founder of Impact Investment Consulting, C'ville Central, Community Investment Collaborative and C'ville Coffee. "Communities that are participating in Virginia Main Street are in a unique position to leverage their organizational skills, contacts and methodology to ignite the entrepreneurial spirit in their communities."

South Boston's Main Street Program was formed to keep its commercial district from being threatened by downtown merchants leaving, which renders the downtown area vulnerable to deterioration and ultimately, the loss of structures important to South Boston's historic character, according to Destination Downtown South Boston Executive Director Tamyra Vest.

Destination Downtown South Boston works to reverse this trend by undertaking activities to preserve its traditional downtown as a healthy, economically vital center of commerce and social activity and to promote preservation, rehabilitation and reuse of the buildings in the Central Business District, she added.

Destination Downtown South Boston's responsibilities are to educate, build consensus, stimulate the downtown economy through action, focus activity on downtown and maximize volunteer participation. Their goal is to work to create an environment that encourages existing building and business owners, as well as attracting new businesses, to want to continue to invest in the Downtown Business District.

Currently, there are 25 designated Virginia Main Street communities: Abingdon, Altavista, Ashland, Bedford, Berryville, Blackstone, Bristol, Culpeper, Farmville, Franklin, Fredericksburg, Harrisonburg, Hopewell, Luray, Lynchburg, Manassas, Marion, Martinsville, Orange, Saint Paul, South Boston, Staunton, Warrenton, Waynesboro and Winchester.

The Virginia Main Street program, managed by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, provides assistance and training to help communities increase the economic vitality of their downtown commercial districts. Virginia Main Street uses the National Main Street model to help communities revitalize their downtowns by focusing on their unique heritage and attributes.

The program helps communities implement a comprehensive revitalization strategy that creates economic growth and pride in downtowns.

For more information about the Virginia Main Street program, call (804) 371-7030 or visit

For more information about South Boston's Main Street Program, contact the Main Street Office at or 434-575-4209.

from The Gazette Virginian