CDBG Program Milestones
On behalf of Governor McDonnell, Lt. Governor Bill Bolling presented the City of Waynesboro and Waynesboro Downtown Development, Inc. a $770,000 Community Development Block Grant for downtown revitalization. Waynesboro is one of only 12 projects funded and the only downtown project. The pending grant agreement is scheduled to be executed between the City and the Department of Housing and Redevelopment in March 2012.
Oct. 25-26, 2010
The City of Waynesboro and WDDI jointly sponsored a Downtown Design Workshop. The Workshop was conducted by Frazier Associates, Architects and Community Planners. In an effort to directly engage the downtown business community, the workshop was held in the heart of the business district at 329 W. Main St. (Blue Ridge Christian Fellowship Building).
The overall goal of the workshop was to begin developing a Revitalization Program for downtown Waynesboro. The two-day on-site workshop allowed the general public to observe the design work in process and offer comments and input to the design team.
The workshop concluded with a community meeting on the evening on Oct. 26th, with an effort to engage a broad cross section of the downtown community. This included business owners, property owners and citizens who have fundamental knowledge of the study area, the local historic and cultural environment, and the overall local economy. The goal of these forums was to learn strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges that exist in Waynesboro, as well as develop initial design concepts and field drawings. Design options from other comparable communities were used to spur ideas for what might be appropriate for Waynesboro.
A major focus of the workshop was to begin outreach with downtown property owners on an expanded Facade Program for Waynesboro. In consultation with property owners, Frazier architects will be preparing facade schematics and preliminary building use evaluations for selected buildings in the core downtown district. Streetscape and public site designs will also developed for selected target areas in the downtown district, including public parking lots, the downtown riverfront and Constitution Park.
The design workshop was funded through a $35,000 Planning Grant awarded to the City under Virginia’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program. CDBG funds to implement the improvements will be applied for in spring 2011, with a potential award of $700,000 or more.
Dec. 10, 2009
The City of Waynesboro is pursuing a renewed life for its downtown commercial center. The path ahead is directed at finding new economic energy, momentum for entrepreneurial opportunity and community sustainability. By building on its unique cultural and geographic positioning around the South River, Downtown Waynesboro will reinforce a quality living environment while attracting tourists and festival goers to spend time and money there.
The City and its Partners are launching a multi-pronged economic restructuring project, centered on the Downtown. The visioning process plus other community organizing activities will facilitate next stage planning efforts including an economic restructuring plan, physical improvements plan and funding search. Downtown restructuring and revitalization is a long term incremental process but is much more feasible with careful attention to targeting of resources to strategic projects, and building on catalytic opportunities.
The economic restructuring strategies and physical improvements plan will position the commercial core for a revived, robust future. The focus of this project was on the first stage in the process – the building of a consensus Vision – representing the community, key stakeholders and leaders.
Approximately 75 residents, business and property owners, elected officials and regional representatives convened on Dec. 10, 2009 for the Visioning Session, to build from the downtown’s past accomplishments, learn from its challenges, and to think creatively about new opportunities. This level of community response was excellent and reflects genuine, broad based interest in the future of Downtown as well as effective outreach and marketing for the event.
The focus question was: “What do we want to see in place in Downtown Waynesboro in 2015?”
The Agenda for the evening included:
• Table by table introductions
• A quick focus on events to celebrate as well as challenges to overcome
• An overview of community characteristics
• A group process to create a picture of the Downtown in 2015 and identify the themes that connect the elements of that picture
On the following day, the consulting team met with staff of the Management team to review data from the evening before, develop a draft Vision Statement, and consider next steps.
The Management Team staff consists of:
• Michael Barnes – Director of Planning, City of Waynesboro
• Tom Carlsson – Waynesboro Redevelopment and Housing Authority
• Jim Shaw – Assistant City Manager, City of Waynesboro
• Kimberly Watters – Executive Director, WDDI
• Sunny Yang – Associate Planner
Dec. 11, 2009
The Management Team met to debrief on the Vision session participation and products. A series of questions were also discussed that will lead to the next phases of the work – developing the economic restructuring strategies, identifying the improvements needed to support these strategies and creating a catalytic development plan for the downtown.
These framing questions and some italicized initial observations include:
• What are the unique assets that the City of Waynesboro can build a new economic base on (important places, proximity, physical/cultural/historical assets, key people and institutions, special features)? The visioning session and report identified several key areas but a more complete regional inventory is indicated. The clear emphasis centered on the river connection.
• What is the branding message that can distinguish Waynesboro and frame its unique attractions? This work will follow the economic restructuring process but early indications are for emphasis on river connections, local arts and cultural venues and downtown festivals.
• What are the regional partnerships that will facilitate Waynesboro’s progress ? How can the successes we have had build momentum and create new opportunities? Partnerships will emerge from existing downtown players and activities broadening to regional interests that can leverage a healthy downtown into their own success. The Management Team, elected officials, business owners and businesses will be both key partners and brokers of future partners. Existing and early stage partnerships can be showcased as demonstrations of potential opportunities.
• What is the competition doing? What can Waynesboro learn and where are there possibilities to create synergies both internally and regionally? What can Waynesboro learn from other similar communities in Virginia? This will be part of the economic restructuring process. It will be critical to articulate a unique regional niche for downtown Waynesboro.
• What’s the strongest tourism niche and how does it tie into the other regional initiatives? At present, both the river connections and festival events seem to be the most significant draws. Tourism partners need to be part of a larger regional assessment of potential in developing the economic restructuring strategies. The 75th anniversary of Shenandoah National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway represents one such opportunity to partner regionally.
• How will you manage the stakeholder expectations, keep them engaged and investing in the overall momentum of the downtown revitalization? How can you bring local investors and entrepreneurs to the table? The City and its partners will develop an effective communications strategy including efforts to engage investors, entrepreneurs and the community at large.
• How can you increase the buying power in the community and bring more outside dollars in? There is a need to measure the size of the hospitality and recreation-oriented tourism market – what part of this can Waynesboro capture. Measures to leverage and build upon the successful shopping/travel services area in the city’s west end may be one strategy; encouraging visitors and shoppers to extend the duration of their stay and patronize downtown.
• How can you increase housing quality and supply in order to attract new residents? Investigating the potential for mixed-use and upper-story housing development downtown is one avenue to explore – a housing market study could identify partners and financing.
• What are the public and private investment resources that are a good fit for our strategic directions? How do we court these resources? Need to develop an inventory of financing resources and partners, while also more effectively marketing the existing development incentives at the local/state/federal level.
• Where does Waynesboro make its first strategic investments? What will jump start the change? This will be a major emphasis of the economic restructuring strategies. The highest priorities and most achievable actions will emerge as part of the community organizing and management team process.
After a conversation on next step possibilities, the group consensus was to move forward as follows:
• Reconstitute the Management Team/Refresh membership and update on process (next 30 days)
• Contact DHCD for their approval on moving forward (next 30 days)
• Recruit and Retain Consultant team to Develop Economic Restructuring Strategies and Physical Improvements Plan – ensure close coordination (next 3-6 months)
• Develop a Messaging Strategy to keep interest high during the planning – Kimberly (next 30-60 days)
The Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development awarded the City of Waynesboro a CDBG Planning Grant.
Following the prescribed process connected to that funding stream, the City has undertaken several initial steps to launch their plan including:
• Convening a Management Team meeting to identify stakeholders and generate community buy-in to the project. The Management Team is a diverse group of people representing public, civic, historic, business and residential interests in the community.
• Completion of a downtown inventory, including a database of all business establishments, buildings and properties in the downtown study area.
• Hiring of a skilled facilitator to lead the Management Team and Community through a Downtown Visioning Process
• Post-Visioning, the City has committed to moving forward with the development of economic restructuring strategies and a physical improvement plan that will support these strategies. The intention of the City is to come back to DHCD in the spring of 2011 with a CDBG implementation grant application for appropriate activities outlined in the plan.