Greetings to all COTU friends! I am so excited to report all of the great things happening in Ashland. The work of our businesses, non-profit organizations, Randolph-Macon College, citizens and government entities is bringing our community together in ways that improve the experience of living in Ashland and make it thrilling to visit.
I would like to thank everyone who is helping the Main Street organization serve as one of the catalysts for the good things that are happening in our town.
Consider some of the work that the Ashland Main Street Association (AMSA) is involved in. Our organization is certainly not taking credit singularly since each of these accomplishments was the work of many hard working people and hard working businesses and organizations that all share a vision of a vibrant town. Every project is a partnership. Here's some of what your Main Street Association has been up to:
- Organized and hosted the 6th annual Ashland Chalk Walk in May
- Organizing and hosting the 13th annual Ashland Train Day on November 7th. Main Street incurs the full $20,000 cost of the event with the generous support of our business community. The Train Day Bear Mascots appear year-round at regional and statewide events to promote Ashland.
- Earned the support of approximately 125 community volunteers who donated more than 3,000 hours of service to Main Street initiatives last year.
- Invited to participate in the Virginia Tourism Corporation's "Drive Tourism" initiative, which will bring $10,000 in marketing assistance to the town.
- "Popped open" the historic Ashland Theater and hosted 54 events so far with economic impact of more than $250,000. Additionally there have been great cultural benefits and collaboration with businesses, Randolph-Macon and non-profit groups.
- Worked with the town to secure $575,000 dollars in state grant funding for downtown revitalization and marketing.
- Working to develop a policy and process for installing public art in Ashland.
- Assisting in the design and implementation of the Railroad Avenue street-scaping project.
- Continue to recognize structural and cosmetic improvements to the downtown through the "You've Been Noticed" program. Next Recipient: Wilton Contractors for outstanding landscaping along England Street. Look for this recognition in our September newsletter.
Why do we do all of this?
- Strategically working with the Market Ashland Partnership, the Ashland Museum, and the Hanover Arts and Activities Center to drive heritage tourism and economic activity in the downtown.
- Working closely with the town's new business development and retention manager, Joe Topham, to attract new businesses.
- Implemented the Bike Garden sculpture project and other events to leverage the 2015 World UCI Bike Race. Look for a Bike Garden Scavenger Hunt to draw foot traffic to Ashland.
- Working on 'LIGHT UP THE TRACKS' celebration on December 5th to showcase our town for the holidays and draw Amtrak, Randolph-Macon and more publicity.
- Working with MAP and the Town to promote Small Business Saturday 2015 (Saturday after Thanksgiving)
- Operate with a budget of about 70,000 dollars, 23,000 of which comes as direct funding from the Town of Ashland
- We recognize historic properties significant anniversaries (Cross Bros. 100th).
- Publish GET CENTERED -our Monthly and as needed newsletter, communication instrument operated by the Promotions Committee. Featured Businesses and Artists are recognized in each issue.
- Publish weekly (Thurs - Sun) TOP Weekend Events for Ashland which is based on Richmond Top 5 model. This is linked to the Town Website for visitors to access.
- Publish and maintain our Downtown District Map to include restaurants, shopping, important dates and popular visitor information.
- Utilize Main Street Ice Cream cart at various events and loan to non-profits and businesses for promotion purposes.
- Network with 25 Designated Virginia Main Street communities and utilize numerous workshops and resources made available through the Virginia Main Street Programs.
- Maintain accreditation with the National Main Street Center, an affiliate of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
We do it because it makes good business sense, we love the Town of Ashland and it is good for our community!
Ashland Theater Update
A little more on the Ashland Theater- This building is a key project for the Main Street Association and the Town of Ashland. It is believed by "some" that the Theater is the "Ruby Slipper" building of our down town (meaning: it is very important, be careful with it and never lose it). This Grand old Dame is on its way to becoming an economic and cultural center piece for Ashland.
The building needs about 2 million dollars worth of renovations to make it perfect. Currently The Main Street Association along with the Town of Ashland are working on finalizing a development strategy and long term operating plan. The final decisions rest with Our Town Council so they should serve as you conduit for comments.
The Ashland Main Street Association.(AMSA) secured a 25,000 dollar grant thru the State of Virginia for a required feasibility study. The study is complete and has been delivered to the town. It was assumed that all along by the town that the Theater would be a mufti faceted arts venue so the study at the request of the town and the potential developer, focused on how best to restore, manage, and operate the facility rather than alternate uses like condos or a dance club..
The AMSA Economic development committee oversaw this grant in conjunction with the State and the Town. The final study was not perfect and the AMSA made extensive comments and edits for the town. The town is now in receipt of the Study and our comments.
The theater, should renovations get the final blessing and funding from the town, will focus on bringing the building up to modern standards in a historically appropriate fashion. The project is very exciting.
Parallel to the feasibility study your AMSA again in conjunction with the town of Ashland applied for and received a $500,000 grant from the State of Virginia Industrial Revitalization Fund (IRF) grant. This grant is to be matched by the town. The total 1 million dollars will do amazing things for the Theater and get us a LONG way toward a complete renovation. Many details need to be worked out. The AMSA has made comments and suggestions and the next steps are for the community to comment and the town leadership to lock down the plan. Stay tuned.
The goal of the Theater project is to have a long term viable sustainable operating theater offering varied programing. We are confident that this will come to be.
Finally, you may have seen some recent press regarding Ashland Town Council's support for what the Ashland Main Street Association is doing. We believe that excellent benefits are being derived by our partnership. We believe we are supported by the Town Council. The Ashland Main Street Association will be presenting to the Council in September to reassure everyone that the investments of time, money and resources are an excellent value for all concerned.
The National Main Street Center cites the following statistic: "for every dollar a town puts into a Main Street Operation 26 dollars in economic activity occurs". This is fantastic money velocity for all stakeholders!
All Main Street organizations are structured around 4 operating committees and a Board of Directors. The 4 committees are: Operations (raise money and run things); Economic Development (drive activity and foot traffic in a town); Promotions (toot the horn); Design (work to preserve and make things pretty in a down town district). We need volunteers on all committees so if you or some one you know would like to get involved contact us at MainStreetAshland@gmail.com
All Main Street Board Meetings are open to the public and are held at 5:30pm on the 4th Tuesday of the Month. Our meeting are currently held at the Ashland Theater 205 England St. Visit our website www.MainStreetAshland.org
and to subscribe to GET CENTERED our monthly newsletter.
Ashland downtown and the surrounding zone are doing extremely well. Over 15 new businesses have opened and many others have expanded! R-MC has great connectivity with down town and continues to offer programs to the public.
You can get a fresh baked cookie, and soon a cup of yogurt on your way to an event at our Historic Theater, all while watching trains, could it be any better than that?
Cheers to 100 percent of everyone and every business and organization that is making Ashland a cool little town AND the Center of The Universe!