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Going the extra mile to drive business to downtown

The Town of South Boston downtown business district will have to literally go the extra mile if it is to remain economically viable.

That was one of the key points made by town officials to a group of downtown business owners and concerned citizens at a public meeting on Monday to give an overview of a proposed South Boston Master Development Plan project.

Capturing potential business dollars from drivers passing through the U.S. 501 and U.S. 58 corridors and attracting them downtown will be a key in the town’s plans, according to Town Manager Ted Daniel.

“A prosperous future depends on it,” said Daniel when referring to the plan.

The need for development of a downtown master plan came about from a feasibility study that was done for the John Randolph Hotel project, and in order for that project to be successful, town officials realized the need for a plan to revitalize the downtown area as well as designing a welcoming entrance to the downtown area.

“It is up to the people with the most at stake to insure it is done properly, with realistic and
achievable goals,” added Daniel. “Those most involved with the process should be town government, property owners, business owners, SVHEC, The Prizery, Historical Society and Destination Downtown South Boston.”

The town has applied for Community Development Block Grant funding of at least $20,000 to accomplish the study, and the town hopes to obtain as much as $30,000. 

Some issues needing discussion regarding the master plan include the Riverdale floodway zone, Watkins Bridge and riverfront entrance to town, in addition to traffic patterns entering town with an eye toward adequate preservation and restoration of historic Victorian commercial buildings fronting Main Street, according to Daniel.

“We need to come up with a downtown specific plan to figure out how we’re going to turn it into an economic engine and what kind of retail and niche businesses will bring people in off 58 and 360 to stay in a boutique hotel if we can get the John Randolph eventually done,” Daniel explained.

“We need to take a long-term look at how we’re going to treat the floodway and the Riverdale area and existing businesses that are there and move forward with what we’re trying to do to make a statement as you come into town.”

The need for development of a Downtown Master Plan came about from a feasibility study that was done for the John Randolph Hotel project.

That study determined the hotel project was “doable,” according to Destination Downtown South Boston Executive Director Tamyra Vest, but a concentrated effort and plan for the whole of downtown also was necessary.

In order to receive grant funding, a project management team would need to be formed to lend suggestions and oversee the development of the master plan, with the initial meeting of that group set for Tuesday, according to Vest.

There will be a visioning session between now and September where a facilitator will come from Richmond for an informational session and second management meeting, and the town also will need to do a physical building inventory, Vest explained. 

“We’ll go as far as the money takes us,” said Daniel, and “how smart the group is that uses the money depends on the people participating in it. We’ll be putting together a management group to direct the study, so we’ll need some volunteers, and input on the process is going to be critical.”