Cape Charles, Onancock, Earn Main Street Accreditation

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Tom and Juanita Godwin, of Cape Charles, stand by a bench they sponsored for Main Street Cape Charles recently. The bench is one of several installed at Strawberry Street Plaza to accommodate visitors. More benches are planned along Mason Avenue. Other donors include Marlene Cree, Kim Norris Abod, Anne Payne, Jim and Tammy Holloway, Metty Pellicer, Paul Strong, and Reginald and Eloise Widgeon. To sponsor a bench, contact Cape Charles Main Street at 757-210-8083. Photo by Jim Ritch.

By Stefanie Jackson – The towns of Cape Charles and Onancock recently earned accreditation through the Main Street America program and are now part of just 25 Virginia localities to receive this “elite recognition,” according to a Cape Charles Main Street press release July 12.

Main Street programs are implemented in towns across America to revitalize their economies while preserving their history and character.

Not every town currently participating in a Main Street program is accredited; achieving accreditation signifies “exceptional commitment to preservation-based economic development and community revitalization through the Main Street approach,” according to the release.

Cape Charles began its journey to Main Street accreditation in 2018 with the establishment of the Cape Charles Main Street 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Onancock followed suit with its own Main Street 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 2019.

The standards a town must follow to achieve Main Street accreditation include “fostering strong public-private partnerships, supporting small and locally owned businesses, and actively preserving historic places, spaces, and cultural assets.”

Projects Cape Charles Main Street has completed include:

  • Branding the town as “Virginia’s Cape,” which has appeared on various promotional items and print, TV, and social media campaigns, the official Cape Charles website, and the microsite www.capecharlesvirginiascape.com
  • Strawberry Street Plaza, which was designed with features such as benches, planters, and trash cans
  • A public restroom trailer that was promoted as “clean, convenient and climate-controlled”
  • Installing banners and awnings in town
  • Obtaining and administering grants such as the Small Business Recovery Grant totaling more than $895,000, which assisted 88 businesses in lower Northampton County to sustain them through and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Accomplishments of Onancock Main Street include:

  • Launching a town brand, “Onancock 1680,” a reference to the year in which the town was founded
  • Creating the tourism website www.experiencingonancock.com
  • Generating more than $190,000 in cash and in-kind services for downtown Onancock
  • Commissioning a market study to identify new businesses that could come to town and fill empty storefronts
  • Partnering with the town to administer $355,000 in COVID-19 recovery funds for small businesses

Benefits of Main Street accreditation include dedicated grant programs only for Main Street communities, additional grants, and special awards. Main Street accreditation also provides access to ongoing services such as organization development, market analysis and development, economic strategies, capacity building, design assistance, and facade renderings for redevelopment projects.

Main Street America programs have a reinvestment ratio of more than 19 to 1. For every dollar a community spends to support its Main Street program, it sees an investment return of $19.41, according to Main Street America.

In 2021, Main Street America towns experienced a total net gain of about 6,600 businesses and created about 30,400 jobs. Those towns also rehabilitated nearly 10,600 buildings.

Through approximately 1,200 programs, Main Street America communities reinvested $5.76 billion last year.

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