Historic Downtown eNews  |  Archive
Earl Neikirk/Bristol Herald Courier — Bristol Virginia Mayor Ed Harlow, right, and Jeff Sadler, Virginia Main Street Program Director unveil the new signage during a press conference Friday.

Virginia Main Street designation benefiting Bristol

February 06, 2012

By: David Mcgee — Published: February 4, 2012
A six-month-old Virginia Main Street designation has already produced tangible results and should generate additional benefits in the future, officials said Friday. City leaders joined with the Believe in Bristol board and the state program manager Friday to unveil a new sign – marking the Main Street designation — at the corner of Cumberland Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The Twin City received the designation last August following a lengthy evaluation of existing revitalization programs and community support.

“We’ve already seen tangible results,” Believe in Bristol Executive Director Christina Blevins said. “We’ve received technical assistance from the national Main Street people; they helped facilitate our board retreat. We’ve gotten some facility improvement designs we didn’t have to pay for and we’re able to apply for grants.”

The local nonprofit organization recently applied for a $25,000 grant as part of the Main Street program and expect to apply for others, Blevins said.

Main Street is a national program overseen by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and overseen by individual states. Bristol is one of 25 Main Street-designated communities in Virginia.

Believe in Bristol has held a Tennessee Main Street designation for years, but those services and programs aren’t applicable on the Virginia side of town.

“Tennessee Main Street has been great for us but we have a complicated downtown and taking full advantage of both programs will bring the best results for our downtown,” Blevins said.

Jeff Sadler, Virginia’s Main Street program director, cited Bristol as an example of cooperation.

“Most of the places we go, the town can’t work with the county or downtown can’t work with the outskirts of the city,” Sadler said. “It’s really exciting to know you not only have two states, but two cities that are working together to have a successful downtown. That is really, really impressive and — when I travel around the state — I tell that story when people are bickering over smaller issues.”

The oval-shaped teal, blue and tan designation sign bears the Virginia Main Street name and artwork, as well as a message urging motorists to visit downtown Bristol.

“We’re very selective. Each of those 25 communities have earned their place as part of the Main Street network. They’ve done that by working in partnerships, leveraging each others’ strengths and working together for the common good of the entire community,” Sadler said.

Bristol, Va., Mayor Ed Harlow said the recent downtown revitalization is exciting.

“We’ve already reached several goals, but we’ve got several more we can reach,” Harlow said.

City Manager Dewey Cashwell characterized the designation as “critical” to continued revitalization efforts.

Bristol’s downtown offers both history and character, Sadler said.

“You have beautiful architecture down here. I can tell a lot of work has gone into those buildings already,” Sadler said. “I travel to a lot of downtowns where I find I’m the only person on the street. That has never happened in Bristol. Every time I come down here, there are people on the street and there’s traffic. I think that’s a really good sign for Bristol.”

(276) 645-2532