BY CLARA VAUGHN, Eastern Shore Post —
Onancock will provide space in its planned visitor center to its Main Street group for an office and conference room.
The agreement follows a narrow vote of support by the town council on Monday, July 24, when Councilmember Cindy Holdren, also a boardmember of Onancock Main Street, asked the town to provide the space for OMS to relocate its office.
Mayor Fletcher Fosque supported the request in a tie-breaking vote, noting his relationship to OMS President Janet Fosque and the benefits Main Street provides downtown Onancock. The Fosques are married.
“We’re going to have a million dollars coming in to this town because of them. They apply for grants,” said Fletcher Fosque, referencing an Industrial Revitalization Fund award the town recently received after partnering with OMS to apply for the funds.
“If the town can make this space available, that will enable Main Street to do more for the town. Then we’re all in better shape,” said Councilmember Sarah Nock.
Other councilmembers said the decision was rushed.
“We all support Main Street … We just need to be very thoughtful about these decisions that we make because they have long-term impact,” said Councilmember Joy Marino, adding Onancock should develop a policy for providing space to non-profit organizations before making a decision.
Onancock purchased the building at 38 Market St. last year with plans to install new public restrooms and a welcome center there.
It used reserve funds to buy the property for $175,000, so there was no debt associated with the purchase, said Town Manager Matt Spuck.
Onancock set aside $340,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds to restore the space, but plans and costs to renovate the building are still in the works, he said.
Those plans should be complete in about three weeks and then will go to Accomack County for approval, Spuck said.
Vice Mayor Maphis Oswald said Onancock should not “commit to anything else until we do what we’ve said we’re going to do” with the building.
Nock noted the space OMS requested is not designated for another purpose.
The building has three main areas, she said, including a front space for the visitor center, side space for restrooms, and a rear corner.
“What Main Street is talking about is the back corner, which … did not have any intended purpose and this seems like a good fit to me,” she said.
Onancock was named a Virginia Main Street community in 2020, opening the town to receive specific grants and services from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, which oversees the Main Street program.
Those include market analysis, marketplace development, capacity building, design assistance, organization development, economic strategies, and façade renderings for redevelopment projects.
OMS has secured several of these since receiving Main Street designaton, and has applied for grants that are funding downtown mural projects and the $1 million IRF award to renovate the Lilliston building.
Grants awarded to OMS specifically designated for the betterment of downtown Onancock total almost $220,000, said OMS Program Manager Jenny Gehman.
The group requested new office space after rent increased from $225 to $275 monthly for the OMS office in Historic Onancock School, said Janet Fosque.
“We needed to know that we had commitment of the space so that we could stop looking for any alternative space,” she said.
Main Street groups are required to have an office to qualify for Main Street designation, she said.
Town staff and OMS will work out in the future whether OMS will pay a fee for its office in the visitor center, Spuck said.
Virginia has almost30 designated Virginia Main Street communities, including Onancock and Cape Charles on the Eastern Shore. Since 1985, those communities have generated more than $1 billion in private investment, according to DHCD.
Visit dhcd.virginia.gov/vms to learn more about the Virginia Main Street program.
Visit www.experienceonancock.com to learn more about Onancock Main Street and its initiatives in downtown Onancock.