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About Believe in Bristol

The geographical area that Believe in Bristol serves (PDF 1.9 MB):
Historic Downtown Bristol, Tennessee and Bristol, Virginia.

The mission statement developed by Believe in Bristol:
Believe in Bristol’s mission is to foster the collaborative vibrant nature of both Bristols by building a community of culture, lifestyle, heritage, music, and economy. Believe in Bristol strives to strengthen the heart and soul of our Historic Downtown and facilitate its future growth by implementing the Main Street Four Point Approach focusing on Organization, Design, Promotion and Economic Restructuring.

The vision statement developed by Believe in Bristol:
Bristol is one community whose heart is a vibrant downtown; where our unique cultural and historical heritage is celebrated; where a sustainable vigorous economy is enjoyed; and where the quality of life is enhanced by abundant opportunities for living, working, shopping and playing.

As a Certified Main Street Community, Downtown Bristol has more to offer every day — more activities, more shops, more homes, more offices and more LIFE. This progress did not just happen, it is largely thanks to the ongoing unified efforts of businesses, groups, and individuals coordinated through Believe in Bristol.

Believe in Bristol is a non-profit organization, composed of dedicated citizens, business owners, and other friends of Bristol who recognize the role a vital downtown plays in preserving and furthering our communities identity, spirit, and economy. Thanks to the proven Main Street Four Point Approach, Believe in Bristol is making real progress by:

• Organizing broad based community support
• Promoting all that Downtown has to offer
• Preserving and restoring the area's classic architectural design
• Increasing commercial potential through economic restructuring

As a result, Downtown Bristol is now a pedestrian friendly shopping environment, with a strong sense of community and its own unique character.

What is the Main Street Approach to Commercial District Revitalization?
The Main Street Approach is a community-driven, comprehensive methodology used to revitalize older, traditional business districts throughout the United States. It is a common-sense way to address the variety of issues and problems that face traditional business districts. The underlying premise of the Main Street approach is to encourage economic development within the context of historic preservation in ways appropriate to today's marketplace. The Main Street Approach advocates a return to community self-reliance, local empowerment, and the rebuilding of traditional commercial districts based on their unique assets: distinctive architecture, a pedestrian-friendly environment, personal service, local ownership, and a sense of community.

The Main Street Four-Point Approach™ is a comprehensive strategy that is tailored to meet local needs and opportunities. It encompasses work in four distinct areas — Design, Economic Restructuring, Promotion, and Organization — that are combined to address all of the commercial district's needs. The philosophy and the Eight Guiding Principles behind this methodology make it an effective tool for community-based, grassroots revitalization efforts. The Main Street approach has been successful in communities of all sizes, both rural and urban.

The Main Street approach is incremental; it is not designed to produce immediate change. Because they often fail to address the underlying causes of commercial district decline, expensive improvements, such as pedestrian malls or sports arenas, do not always generate the desired economic results. In order to succeed, a long-term revitalization effort requires careful attention to every aspect of downtown — a process that takes time and requires leadership and local capacity building.

The National Trust Main Street Center offers a comprehensive commercial district revitalization strategy that has been widely successful in towns and cities nationwide. Described below are the four points of the Main Street approach which work together to build a sustainable and complete community revitalization effort.

Organization involves getting everyone working toward the same goal and assembling the appropriate human and financial resources to implement a Main Street revitalization program. A governing board and standing committees make up the fundamental organizational structure of the volunteer-driven program. Volunteers are coordinated and supported by a paid program director as well. This structure not only divides the workload and clearly delineates responsibilities, but also builds consensus and cooperation among the various stakeholders.

Promotion sells a positive image of the commercial district and encourages consumers and investors to live, work, shop, play and invest in the Main Street district. By marketing a district's unique characteristics to residents, investors, business owners, and visitors, an effective promotional strategy forges a positive image through advertising, retail promotional activity, special events, and marketing campaigns carried out by local volunteers. These activities improve consumer and investor confidence in the district and encourage commercial activity and investment in the area.

Design means getting Main Street into top physical shape. Capitalizing on its best assets — such as historic buildings and pedestrian-oriented streets — is just part of the story. An inviting atmosphere, created through attractive window displays, parking areas, building improvements, street furniture, signs, sidewalks, street lights, and landscaping, conveys a positive visual message about the commercial district and what it has to offer. Design activities also include instilling good maintenance practices in the commercial district, enhancing the physical appearance of the commercial district by rehabilitating historic buildings, encouraging appropriate new construction, developing sensitive design management systems, and long-term planning.

Economic Vitalitystrengthens a community's existing economic assets while expanding and diversifying its economic base. The Main Street program helps sharpen the competitiveness of existing business owners and recruits compatible new businesses and new economic uses to build a commercial district that responds to today's consumers' needs. Converting unused or underused commercial space into economically productive property also helps boost the profitability of the district.
Coincidentally, the four points of the Main Street approach correspond with the four forces of real estate value, which are social, political, physical, and economic.


The National Trust Main Street Center's experience in helping communities bring their commercial corridors back to life has shown time and time again that the Main Street Four-Point Approach succeeds. That success is guided by the following eight principles, which set the Main Street methodology apart from other redevelopment strategies. For a Main Street program to be successful, it must whole-heartedly embrace the following time-tested

Eight Principles.

Comprehensive: No single focus — lavish public improvements, name-brand business recruitment, or endless promotional events — can revitalize Main Street. For successful, sustainable, long-term revitalization, a comprehensive approach, including activity in each of Main Street's Four Points, is essential.

Incremental: Baby steps come before walking. Successful revitalization programs begin with basic, simple activities that demonstrate that "new things are happening " in the commercial district. As public confidence in the Main Street district grows and participants' understanding of the revitalization process becomes more sophisticated, Main Street is able to tackle increasingly complex problems and more ambitious projects. This incremental change leads to much longer-lasting and dramatic positive change in the Main Street area.

Self-help: No one else will save your Main Street. Local leaders must have the will and desire to mobilize local resources and talent. That means convincing residents and business owners of the rewards they'll reap by investing time and money in Main Street — the heart of their community. Only local leadership can produce long-term success by fostering and demonstrating community involvement and commitment to the revitalization effort.

Partnerships: Both the public and private sectors have a vital interest in the district and must work together to achieve common goals of Main Street's revitalization. Each sector has a role to play and each must understand the other's strengths and limitations in order to forge an effective partnership.

Identifying and capitalizing on existing assets: Business districts must capitalize on the assets that make them unique. Every district has unique qualities like distinctive buildings and human scale that give people a sense of belonging. These local assets must serve as the foundation for all aspects of the revitalization program.

Quality: Emphasize quality in every aspect of the revitalization program. This applies to all elements of the process — from storefront designs to promotional campaigns to educational programs. Shoestring budgets and "cut and paste" efforts reinforce a negative image of the commercial district. Instead, concentrate on quality projects over quantity.

Change: Skeptics turn into believers and attitudes on Main Street will turn around. At first, almost no one believes Main Street can really turn around. Changes in attitude and practice are slow but definite — public support for change will build as the Main Street program grows and consistently meets its goals. Change also means engaging in better business practices, altering ways of thinking, and improving the physical appearance of the commercial district. A carefully planned Main Street program will help shift public perceptions and practices to support and sustain the revitalization process.

Implementation: To succeed, Main Street must show visible results that can only come from completing projects. Frequent, visible changes are a reminder that the revitalization effort is under way and succeeding. Small projects at the beginning of the program pave the way for larger ones as the revitalization effort matures, and that constant revitalization activity creates confidence in the Main Street program and ever-greater levels of participation.
(Taken from www.MainStreet.org)


Believe In Bristol has been meeting since the year 2000 as an organized community association and advocating downtown by participating and sponsoring community events. Main Street recertification has been a continuous goal of the Believe In Bristol Board; the original application to the Virginia Main Street program had expired and Virginia was no longer accepting applications. Believe In Bristol decided to make application for the Tennessee Main Street program. In February 2006, Bristol, Tennessee/Virginia become re-certified as a designated Main Street Community. Bristol is unique in that its main street is located on the state line of Tennessee and Virginia. Both Bristol cities have partnered with Believe In Bristol to dedicate resources to support the Main Street program.


Short-Term and Long-Term Goals:
1. Develop our sense of community and place

  • Preservation of our heritage, promote our history, culture and music
  • Preserve the architectural heritage and integrity of downtown
  • Redevelop the downtown as the center of identify and events for our community
  • Increase the cultural events and activities in the downtown area
  • Establish a physical identify for the downtown through a joint streetscape and lighting plan with Bristol, Tennessee and Bristol, Virginia

2. Strengthen our economic vitality, downtown and community-wide

  • Attract jobs and new businesses and increase entrepreneurship within our community and in the downtown center
  • Create a physical space and a cultural atmosphere inviting to our young professionals and the “creative class”
  • Increase the attractiveness of the downtown for shopping and entertainment
  • Through public and private initiatives encourage and facilitate investment by the private sector in downtown properties

3. Sustain and grow residential living downtown

  • Review housing regulations that impact the ability to create living space in the downtown
  • Improve parking options in the downtown
  • Encourage and promote services and retail opportunities appropriate to sustain and facilitate downtown residencies
  • Increase the feeling of safety for all downtown residents and visitors

4. Develop and market the downtown experience

  • Develop our culture, heritage and arts by establishing more venues and opportunities for events, exhibits and cultural exchanges
  • Expand the tourism opportunities in Bristol and the downtown in particular
  • Brand and market our downtown through events, physical space improvements
  • Expand opportunities by the development of the Birthplace of Country Music Heritage Center

5. Improve the professionalism of the downtown program

  • Add professional staff to assist the volunteer efforts and to help coordinate activities taking place in the downtown area
  • Work with the City of Bristol, Tennessee and Bristol, Virginia to adopt and implement a downtown development plan
  • Provide professional assistance to property and business owners to improve marketing and to improve retail opportunities in the downtown
  • Facilitate the addition of more citizens, business owners, and downtown residents to the downtown improvement effort

BIB Board of Directors:

President — Ken Monyak

Vice President — Sara Beth Hitt

Secretary Van Guthrie

Treasurer — Joey Curcio

Past President — René Rodgers

Tom Anderson

Kellie Crowe

Lea Powers

Wilma Gill

Bill Hartley

Jacob Hess

Sarah Hutchinson

Kimberlyn King

Chip Marshall

Sally Morgan

Terry Napier

Tanya Propst

Brittany Rutherford

Bill Sorah

Justin Wade

Grace Williams

Executive Director

Maggie Bishop