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South Boston studying funding for Main Street

On a night when the Town of South Boston and Destination Downtown South Boston (DDSB) were presented with a Virginia Main Street Milestone Achievement Award, Tamyra Vest, Wayne Fuller and Gene Haugh assured town council’s finance committee their organization was doing all it could to revitalize downtown South Boston while keeping the current economic crunch in mind.

 

Vest announced Monday the Town of South Boston and Destination Downtown South Boston were recently presented with a Virginia Main Street Milestone Achievement Award for investing more than $30 million in downtown revitalization since being designated a Virginia Main Street Community in 2004.

The award was given to two entities, the Town of South Boston and Destination Downtown South Boston, for partnering to create a climate where investments could be made.

The award cites the town and Destination Downtown South Boston for “creating the climate for more than $30 million in investment since being designated, resulting in substantial new business and job creation and the preservation of downtown’s vitality for generations to come.” 

Destination Downtown South Boston is a 501(c)(3) non-profit volunteer-based Virginia Main Street Organization dedicatd to the economic and cultural revitalization of downtown South Boston.

One of 25 Main Street programs in Virginia, the Main Street program in South Boston has to date played a part in creating, retaining and expanding 95 businesses since its inception while creating 156 jobs, with a five-year cost per job estimated at $6,184, Vest told council.

The Main Street Program in South Boston is budgeted for $92,000 in the proposed 2012-2013 budget after receiving $94,071 in the current fiscal year.

Included in the proposed budget for the Main Street Program are $62,830 in personnel costs and $11,358 in employee benefits, while the town’s contribution is projected at $17,812, less than the $25,851 contained in the current budget.

Vest, executive director of Destination Downtown South Boston, detailed her organizations efforts in trimming costs, obtaining grants and organizing fundraisers the past year, in answering questions from finance committee members Ed Owens and Coleman Speece.

She mentioned a $2,500 downtown improvement grant to help paint downtown fire hydrants and a façade improvement grant, funds that offer up to 50 percent of a downtown businesses’ approved facade renovation up to $1,700.

“We received extra professional consulting for free as the result of another grant,” Vest said. 

Her organization also initiated and wrote a grant for a farmers market extension last year, and this year they received a $25,000 downtown improvement grant for a hotel feasibility study.

“I went to the National Main Street Conference in Baltimore last week and got a $1,000 scholarship from the state for that.”

Despite those successes, Destination Downtown South Boston will need some level of town support for their organization to keep up its work, according to Destination Downtown South Boston President Wayne Fuller.

Councilman Ed Owens asked Vest and Fuller if their organization could ever be self-sufficient.

“Cut too much, and we can exist, but we can’t do much,” said Fuller, who reminded Owens and council that all 25 Main Street communities partner with their local governments.

“Nobody flies on their own, that’s just impossible, but that’s the way it is,” continued Fuller.

“We know we need to run our events more like a business and will continue to do that, and we also are adding a $10,000 fundraiser raffle this coming June which should be our big fundraiser,” Fuller told council.

“The duck race was an excellent event, a fun event but a financial failure,” he admitted.

Vest told the finance committee Destination Downtown South Boston probably has 30-35 supporters out of about 118 downtown businesses who are regular dues-paying members, but she added last year her organization didn’t do a full-out membership campaign.

“I can think of one business that can’t pay dues but has gone way over and beyond what their dues would do in services to our organization,” she added.

It’s hard to put a dollar amount on the true return of their investment, Vest, Fuller and Haugh said in answering a query from Owens.

“Another return is quality of life, and what we’re all about is to improve the quality of life in our community and historic downtown area, save historic buildings and beautify downtown, and it’s hard to put that into numbers,” said Fuller.

Haugh said Destination Downtown South Boston was responsible for installing way-finding signage and benches downtown, as well as coordinating advertising and campaigning for downtown businesses.

“Buildings at the lower end of Main Street were painted to Destination Downtown South Boston guidelines,” Haugh added.

“It costs money to do that, but it’s hard to put a dollar amount on it. It makes downtown more appealing to everybody through enhancing downtown.”