Next step of downtown vibrancy plan to come at City Council joint meeting

Staff writer

City Council will hold a joint meeting with the city’s Planning Commission and Economic Development Authority next week, where all three are expected to air their opinions on ways to improve downtown Williamsburg.

At the meeting, all three city boards will hear a presentation from Rebecca Rowe, program manager and state coordinator with the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, who will outline the state department’s Virginia Main Street program. The program is meant to encourage economic development by preserving and revitalizing traditional downtown neighborhoods across the state.

The EDA has previously expressed interest in the program as a basis for its proposed downtown business association.

As part of this year’s budget, City Council set aside $150,000 for an action plan developed by the EDA to improve downtown Williamsburg. One of the main pillars of that action plan is the creation of a downtown business association, which would serve as a merchant’s association, overseeing all downtown businesses.

At a December EDA meeting, vice chairman Rick Overy said the release of the funds necessary for the formation of the group was placed on hold until the Main Street presentation, which will give all three boards a better sense of the logistics of how the business association would operate.

Council has expressed some hesitation around the creation of a downtown business association, saying there may be some unintended consequences with the Merchants Square Association that is already in place.

“There are a lot of ‘silos’ in town, and I’d hate to think that we would participate in creating another silo that may run afoul with the Merchants Square Association, even though they may be co-mingling,” Vice Mayor Doug Pons said at a council meeting last year where EDA chairman Adam Steely first presented its downtown vibrancy recommendations.

The meeting will also feature a presentation from Kim Beck and Scott Gasparich with Oak Island Creative, a Kentucky-based event coordinating company. The two will present design concepts and suggestions for a year-long series of pop-up events downtown.

Want to go?

Where: City Council Chambers, Stryker Center, 412 N. Boundary St.

When: 5 p.m. Monday

Arriaza can be reached at 757-790-9313 or on Twitter @rodrigoarriaza0.

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