WHDA hosts Main Street managersPublished 1:47am Friday, April 26, 2013
By TRENT TETTERTON
WHDA Vice President
You may have noticed a number of “out-of-towners” recently dining in local restaurants and walking around town and our harbor district, enjoying all the variety Washington has to offer. Beth Byrd, director of the Washington Harbor District Alliance and Washington’s Main Street program manager, recently hosted the semi-annual N.C. Main Street managers’ meeting in Washington. Approximately 30 Main Street managers from small cities/towns throughout North Carolina that, like Washington, participate in the N.C. Main Street program, participated in the event along with leadership/facilitators of the program. Feedback is that they were duly impressed with our diversity of restaurants, the music at Union Alley Coffee House and the beauty of our historic downtown waterfront business district.
The N.C. Main Street Center works to stimulate economic development within the context of historic preservation, using a comprehensive approach to downtown revitalization developed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and utilized by the National Trust Main Street Center to assist communities across the country, at the same time encouraging the creative use of business and government resources to support local revitalization initiatives. The Main Street program is available to cities and towns throughout the state, and it provides direct assistance to 61 Main Street communities and indirect assistance to countless others. The Main Street Solutions Fund provides economic-development planning assistance and coordinated grant support to designated active North Carolina Main Street communities. Main Street uses a four-point comprehensive revitalization process designed to improve all aspects of a downtown, producing both intangible and tangible benefits:
•Organization: Building partnerships to create a consistent revitalization program and develop effective management and leadership downtown. Diverse groups — merchants, bankers, public officials, the chamber of commerce and civic groups — must work together to improve downtown.
•Promotion: Re-establishing downtown as a compelling place for shoppers, investors and visitors. This means not only improving sales but also rekindling community excitement and involvement. Promotion ranges from street festivals to retail merchandising, from community education to marketing and public relations. Festivals put on by WHDA include such events as Music in the Streets, Downtown Motown and the Taste of Washington event, which featured our restaurants and merchants to more than 200 attendees.
•Design: Enhancing the visual quality of the downtown. Attention is given to the downtown environment elements — not just buildings and storefronts, but also public improvements like business district gateways, gathering places and wayfinding, as well as rear entries, signs, landscaping, window displays and graphic materials.
•Economic restructuring: Strengthening the existing economic assets of the business district while diversifying its economic base. Activities include conducting market analysis to understand the changing market place, adapting vacant buildings that have outlived their original purposes for use as entertainment or cultural facilities and sharpening the competitiveness of Main Street’straditional merchants.
The purpose of the Main Street program and the primary mission and objectives of the Washington Harbor District Alliance are identical. WHDA exists to promote quality of life and economic stability in the Washington downtown business district. Yes, WHDA puts on festivals and events, too, but the purpose of the festivals and events is to attract people to our harbor district and promote downtown businesses. A few of the major projects WHDA has recently been involved in include the following:
•Festival Park and the gazebos/performance stage,
•The sale of old City Hall to local restaurateurs who will soon begin restoration and conversion of the building into a destination restaurant (George’s of Washington) and obtained a Main Street grant to assist in funding the restoration;
•Worked with the city’s planning office to acquire funding and develop plans for a lighthouse structure on the Washington waterfront that will house public bathrooms, a boater bathhouse, laundry facilities and a dock/harbor master station on the second level. Construction is expected to begin in the early summer and be completed in October.
•WHDA leadership and volunteers are working with city management and other interested parties to determine options for stimulating investor interest in building a downtown hotel, The Turnage Theater, façade/storefront improvement of Harbor District buildings, residential usage of upper-level retail space, occupancy of vacant retail buildings, downtown gathering places, a Harbor District entry/gateway, potential uses/improvement of the “caboose park” area and creation of a maritime services area and park-like green space around the existing “temporary” bathrooms and dock-master shack on the waterfront.
There is much more on the way. WHDA is committed to the economic success and beautification of our historic downtown harbor district and all of the businesses that operate there. You may contribute to WHDA efforts by joining Friends of the Alliance. Contact Beth Byrd via email at WHDA@washingtononthewater.com or call her at 252.946.3969 to find out how. For more information about WHDA, check out its website at www.washingtononthewater.com.