Downtown Interests Briefed on Main Street Program Opportunities

The Town of Leesburg’s exploration of forming a downtown Main Street organization took another step this week with a pair of community briefings on the program by a state-level coordinator.

Economic Development Director Russell Seymour said more than 100 downtown business representatives, residents and property owners signed up to participate in one of two online presentations by Kyle Meyer, who administers the Virginia Main Street program through the state Department of Housing and Community Development.

He provided an overview of the program in which community nonprofits, supported by, but independent of, local governments work to improve and maintain the vitality of downtowns. Efforts range from promoting community events to helping property owners land grants to help fund building upgrades. 

During his presentation, Meyer highlighted programs that have worked in other Main Street communities around the commonwealth—from South Boston to Winchester. Since 1985, 28 Virginia towns and cities have become designated Main Street communities, he said. Leesburg is one of 70 exploring the merits of joining the program. 

The Leesburg Town Council last fall agreed to investigate forming a Main Street organization.

Seymour said this week’s briefings were simply a next step in the long process of helping downtown businesses and residents understand the program—pros and cons. He said he wants them to have as much information as possible.

“At the end of the day, they are the decision makers. This is not a government program,” he said. Under the system, the nonprofit organization is run by businesses and property owners within the designated Main Street zone.

Leesburg is in Main Street’s tier 2 phase, which mainly involves the town staff helping to lead the community discussion. If civic leaders move forward with pursuit of the designation, the phase 3 ramp-up period could take another year or two. Phase 4 is a full-fledged program.

Seymour said he doesn’t want anyone to rush into the program. Among the next steps will be connect local stakeholders with those managing Main Street programs in other Virginia communities to better understand the benefits and challenges. 

Recordings of both of this week’s briefing are expected to be posted on the town’s website.

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