Cape Charles, Onancock Named Virginia Main Street Communities


By Carol Vaughn —

Two Eastern Shore towns are among four new Virginia Main Street communities.
Gov. Ralph Northam on Wednesday announced Cape Charles and Onancock are newly designated Main Street communities.
The other two newly designated communities are Tappahannock and Tazewell, according to a press release.
The towns were accepted into the Virginia Main Street program after completing a competitive application process.
Being in the program means the towns will receive intensive services, administered by the Department of Housing and Community Development, to strengthen and revitalize their downtowns.
Those services include market analysis, marketplace development, capacity building, design assistance, organization development, economic strategies, and façade renderings for redevelopment projects, according to the release.
“These new Virginia Main Street communities are eager to revitalize their commercial districts and create opportunities for growth,” Northam said, adding, “For more than three decades, the Virginia Main Street program has worked to spur economic development through historic preservation. Downtowns are the heart and soul of small towns, and Virginia is committed to helping them recover from the pandemic and remain sustainable for generations to come.”
Onancock and Cape Charles are both waterfront towns with unique histories and attractions.
Onancock, in the middle of the Eastern Shore, is on Onancock Creek, a former steamboat port.
The town of around 1,200 has many art galleries and restaurants, but several buildings downtown stand vacant at present.

North Street in Onancock, Va., on Tuesday, June 2, 2020. Photo by Carol Vaughn

The vision of the Onancock Main Street Initiative group is that: “Historic downtown Onancock is the commercial and cultural heart of a thriving waterfront community,” according to the town website,
The Cape Charles Main Street group on its Facebook page states its mission as being to: “Create a vibrant and attractive Cape Charles downtown that preserves historical character, encourages economic development, and enhances the quality of life.”
Cape Charles, population around 1,000, has attracted new residents, businesses, investors, and tourists in the last several years, in large part because of the efforts of the Cape Charles Main Street organization.
The town has a sandy beach and a deep-water harbor.
Northam in July 2018 cut ribbons on more than a dozen businesses in downtown Cape Charles in a whirlwind event highlighted by a golf cart parade. That was about two years after the town’s Main Street program was launched.
Downtown revitalization in communities under the Virginia Main Street program is built around a community’s unique heritage, culture, and historic building attributes, following the approach developed and used by the National Main Street Center.
With this announcement, Virginia now has 30 designated Virginia Main Street communities and 90 community affiliates.
Since 1985, Virginia Main Street communities have generated more than $1.3 billion in private investment, according to the release.
New businesses locating, expanding, or relocating to Virginia Main Street communities have resulted in a net gain of 15,522 jobs. More information about the Virginia Main Street program is at

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