UP enters second year: Harvest-funded group aims to improve downtown | Local News

Uptown Partnership (UP) has moved into a new office at 42 Franklin St., next to the Black Box Theatre.

Although Uptown Partnership was created with 2-year funding from the Harvest Foundation, “we are looking for ways that this organization can last forever,” said Kathy Deacon.

The grant runs from Jan. 1, 2021 to Dec. 31, 2022, said Harvest program manager India Brown.

Deacon came on board in May 2021 as executive director of the recently formed uptown revitalization organization, which operates with a 2-year, $350,200 grant from the Harvest Foundation.

In its goal to bring more businesses and consumers to Uptown, UP has various projects underway, including transforming an old alleyway into a fun place to hang out; meetings with merchants to plan promotions; training and financing for new businesses; and community contribution.

Board members are Liz Harris, President; Jennifer Reis, Vice President; Beverly Pitzer, Treasurer; Holly Burton, secretary; and Leeland Prillaman, Leutisha Galloway, Rob King, Derrick Ziglar Jr. and Mandy Folman. The board terms of outgoing president Natalie Hodge and Wayne Draper have just expired, she said.

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UP also has an advisory board “made up of key stakeholders,” as Deacon described them: Lisa Watkins of the MHC Chamber of Commerce, Brandon Martin of the county, Mark McCaskill of the city, Sarah Hodges of the Economic Development Commission and Kathleen McEvoy of the Piedmont West Planning District Commission. The role of this council is advisory; he has no voting rights, she said.

The two councils meet separately once a month.

“All the work is done by the board and the committees,” Deacon said. “I’m just helping to steer the ship.”

UP will also have two interns through Career Works, Jacovia Hairston and Lauren Carter.

A roster of volunteers is available on call to help with tasks such as setting up the new headquarters, setting up and running events and races. “It’s all about community,” Deacon said. “I am here at the head of the organization, but the work is done by volunteers from the community.

The “first major project” is the Wall Street Lane, which runs between Walnut and Bridge streets. In the summer, volunteers and city employees cleaned it. Then Frazier and Associates will open it in a winding path design. Community voting chose the design from four options that UP had posted on its Facebook page.

After paving, outdoor furniture and lighting will be installed, to transform the area into a place where people will spend time socializing, perhaps over meals purchased from restaurants in the area. There will be tables in blue, green and maybe yellow, she said, with umbrellas to provide shade.

A few blocks away, at 53 Fayette Street, UP will unveil new banners along the Fayette Street corridor at 11 a.m. Monday.

UP organizes a monthly meeting of downtown merchants. They discuss issues related to the presence of businesses in uptown areas and plan promotional events.

The weekend before Valentine’s Day, they held a pop-up shop in a building on Walnut Street, where local artisans had displays of their wares for sale. The building is owned by Dr. Mervyn and Virginia King and is rented by Liam Kearny, who lives in an apartment behind the commercial space.

Forty “Uptown Bucks”, gift certificates worth $5 each to be used downtown, were given away to early visitors. UP reimbursed companies for each of these gift certificates they received in payment. With the “Come Feel the Love in Uptown” gift basket, Merchants donated over $1,000 in merchandise and services. The lucky winner was LaDonna Hearn Varner.

UP is exploring ways to host a pop-up shop once a month, Deacon said: “It would not only give our fabulously talented artisans in the community ‘a place to sell their crafts, but also ‘create life and vibrancy. in some of the empty spaces that we still have in the city center, with the ultimate goal of bringing people back to the city center.

The next promotion will be “Uptown Madness”. Its details are still being worked out, but basically, at a March Madness basketball tournament, anyone wearing sports team attire would get a discount from participating businesses.

“The Chamber/C-PEG is already doing a fabulous job of having a lot of promotions and working” to generate interest downtown, Deacon said. “We want, through this group of meeting traders, to improve any events or promotions that are already in progress and create new ones where there are gaps to be filled.”

The goal would be to have “something happening” in the city center every month, she said. “We are here to improve what is already happening and fill in the gaps.”

The Gauntlet program aims to train future business owners and help three to five new owners open a store in downtown Martinsville by September.

UP received a $90,000 grant from the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and $30,000 from the City of Martinsville. Of this amount, $75,000 will be divided among three to five people who plan to start downtown businesses and $45,000 will be for administrative costs such as marketing and program management.

The program, called The Gauntlet, is administered by the Advancement Foundation of Vinton as the DHCD’s Community Business Launch Program. The Gauntlet offers a 10-week online course “that takes people from ideation to a pitch that will perform after the course.”

The class has participants from 13 communities; those participating locally must be willing to open their business in downtown Martinsville. Twenty-eight local residents have entered, competing to be one of the winners to share the $75,000 to help open their businesses.

Participants will present their business pitches in June; winners will be announced shortly thereafter; and businesses aided by this funding must be established in the city center by the end of September.

“This is an additional resource brought to the community that provides additional resources on top of the Chamber’s Start Up and Grow program,” Deacon said.

The community vision plan is managed with the help of consultants from Downtown Economics of Richmond.

The goal is to create a vision and implementation plan for the downtown. The consultants conducted surveys over the summer and early fall. Two hundred and ninety-eight people responded to the survey, Deacon said, and focus groups were held with faith community leaders, business owners, West End residents and non-profit organisations. non-profit.

“Part of the process is to ask the consultants to also look at the other studies that have been done over the past 20 years to use the recommendations that have been repeated throughout each of those studies, to see what’s still viable now,” Deacon mentioned.

“A lot of these studies recommended that the same things be done and they just didn’t for a myriad of reasons.” These earlier goals will be revisited and “put on priority lists and merged with what the community wants to see right now.”

The consulting firm is in the final phase of revising previous studies as well as the one it has carried out. The results of its findings are expected to be released on Friday.

For more information about UP, contact Deacon at [email protected] or call 276-212-2060.

Holly Kozelsky writes for the Martinsville Bulletin. She can be reached at [email protected] and 638-8801 ext. 2430.

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