In addition to our monthly DCI meetings, we wanted to give you an update on a major focus of our work over the past several months.
Earlier this year, the DCI was awarded a grant through the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) Virginia Main Street program. Since Crozet is not a town or city, we cannot be a Main Street Community. So officially, we are a DHCD: Commercial District Affiliate of the Main Street program.
Virginia Main Street offers a range of services and assistance to communities interested in revitalizing their historic commercial districts. As part of the grant, the Main Street program offers a list of strategies for communities to choose from that help guide revitalization efforts. The selected strategies are to be based on a “solid understanding of the district’s economy and its position in the regional market.” The DCI selected three strategies based on feedback received from public meetings held in 2016 and 2017; regular monthly meetings with the DCI members, community and county; and, the Crozet community survey. They include:
1. Family-Friendly Strategy
Family-friendly commercial districts offer a range of products and services for families. These districts host special events geared toward families and provide a safe environment in which to have fun. Businesses offer products and services for these audiences, as well as store hours for busy families. More than anything, this strategy focuses on children. With many families living in and moving to Crozet, the DCI felt this strategy was an ideal fit. Respondents to the 2017 Crozet Community Survey found Crozet to be a family-friendly community, rating it 4.2 on a 1 to 5 scale where 5 best described Crozet.
2. Entrepreneurial Ecosystems
More than anything, this strategy is defined by the value of place and the physical environment as central factors in creating and growing successful enterprises. It emphasizes the creation and support of great places and spaces for people to live and work, and for commercial districts to attract new businesses and ideas to contribute to the development of the local entrepreneurial ecosystem.
According to the Crozet Community Survey, many Crozet residents drive to Charlottesville (32% several times a week; 26% weekly; 24% several times a month), Waynesboro (6% several times a week; 19% weekly; 24% several times a month) or to Crozet shopping areas along Route 250 outside of the downtown district (37% several times a week; 34% weekly; 18% several times a month). Residents also frequently shop downtown (42% several times a week; 22% weekly; 15% several times a month). At the same time, 98% of respondents support existing small businesses in Crozet, and 90% want downtown Crozet to be a quality commercial center with a diversity of businesses and services. This contrast suggests residents would prefer to shop in downtown Crozet if the desired goods and services were present.
The DCI’s goal is to adhere to the characteristics that make Crozet so admirable and charming. For future businesses, we are aiming to attract and retain independently owned shops, restaurants and bars, and services that people working in downtown Crozet will need. With the proposed design of the Barnes Lumber property, the new town center Plaza will complete the “spaces” aspect of this strategy, as it will be located near historic properties, restaurants, cafes, and other businesses desired by the working community.
3. Tourists and Tourism
Marketing downtown Crozet as a tourist destination is suitable given its proximity to the Shenandoah National Park, Blue Ridge Parkway, George Washington National Forest, and Claudius Crozet Tunnel (park under construction). Its potential for becoming an Appalachian Community; promotion of the rich agricultural history of the area, including the emergent wine, beer and cider industry and farm-to-table mentality; a destination for day and touring cyclists along the 76 Bikeway; a burgeoning arts community; and increasingly, a wedding destination site, also will help draw people from outside of the area. Authenticity of a location also plays a large part in marketing a community as a tourist destination. The primary economic benefit of tourism is that it brings outside consumer spending to the community. This will benefit the businesses in downtown Crozet, but the DCI also is well aware that an increase in visitors may make downtown feel “less local” if it gets crowded with traffic, experiences an increase in prices, etc. This will play a major part in our planning for this strategy moving forward.
Get Involved in Our Revitalization Efforts for Downtown Crozet
We tried to highlight the most important aspects of each strategy, but many more details about each can be found here. It’s also important to note that the DCI is focused solely on downtown Crozet; however, the hope is that the work that takes place in downtown will benefit businesses and the community as a whole in the greater Crozet area.
We would love for you to join our efforts! We will be developing a work plan for each of the strategies. If you have any interest in joining one of the three committees that have formed to tackle each of these strategies, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment below. Thank you!