Farmville Downtown’s growth has never been more visible. The signs are everywhere, including a striking mural on the warehouse wall next to the Farmers’ Market, freshly painted store fronts on Main Street and a new LOVEworks sign installed on Main Street and dedicated in December. These projects were completed with the help of Farmville Downtown Partnership (FDP) in 2014 and they demonstrate what locals have known for years: the potential of Downtown Farmville can be realized once again.
The goal of FDP is to bring together the residents, merchants, and students of Farmville to preserve downtown’s role as the center of a historic community and to plan for the future. Their mission is to present Farmville as an exciting and profitable place to live, learn, open a business, and visit. Launched as one of Virginia’s Main Street programs two years ago, FDP is comprised of a 12-member board of directors and Executive Director Helen Person. The FDP is dedicated to revitalizing downtown socially, economically and environmentally. In 2014, the partnership completed three highly visible projects, demonstrating the comprehensive nature of the Main Street program.
First, five historic buildings located on Main Street were given much-needed facelifts through a local grant from the Farmville Lowe’s Home Improvement store, combined with the sweat equity of local artists and volunteers. Despite 90-degree heat, these volunteers cleaned and painted buildings, revitalizing the circa-1910 Geo. L. Mesker Architectural Iron Works cast iron storefronts.
During the summer, a $10,000 gift from a local benefactor supported the installation of the Warehouse Triptych by Longwood alumnus Monty Montgomery. The giant colorblock panels add a sense of fun and excitement to a formerly drab, woebegone wall facing the Farmers’ Market.
In partnership with the Town of Farmville, Prince Edward County and the Farmville Area Chamber of Commerce, the striking LOVEworks sign has been installed at the intersection of Main Street and High Bridge Trail State Park. It is the fortieth installment in a series inspired by the Virginia is for Lovers marketing slogan established in 1968 by the Virginia Tourism Corporation. Farmville-Prince Edward’s LOVEworks is the only one created during a competition among local artists. The sign is constructed of locally hewn and crafted materials and features the word “love” in seven-foot-tall letters, a 1918 map of Farmville’s downtown district and a depiction of High Bridge. It was designed and built by preservation contractors and artisans Al Buczek and Paul Kovalenko.
FDP’s leadership recognizes the need to cultivate the Main Street District to create a welcoming environment for residential, business, and property development. Beyond the visible work of restoring facades and installing the mural and LOVEworks sign, FDP also nurtured new and expanding Farmville Downtown entrepreneurs and augmented successful District events with broader amenities and services during 2014. In total, Farmville Downtown has partnered with entrepreneurs planting six new or expanding businesses in the District and has received over $75,000 in downtown improvement grants.
Supporting these efforts is a coalition of donors, sponsors, and supporters whose financial, in-kind, and volunteer support enables Farmville Downtown Partnership to meet both its short- and long-term goals. In 2014, CENTRA Southside Community Hospital sponsored the 2nd Annual High Bridge Half Marathon & 5K race, which drew 431 runners and their fans. The race brought hundreds of visitors to Farmville Downtown to shop Green Front and neighboring specialty merchants, and to dine in the district’s eateries.
The Main Street Music concert series staged live music in The Café at Poplar Hall as rains moved the May and the June concerts inside. As a result, the live music scene is growing in Farmville Downtown, spawning increased patronage of downtown restaurants and populating district sidewalks after dark.
FDP isn’t done yet. In addition to planning upcoming events for 2015, the partnership continues to foster a more cohesive downtown. Using a 2014 Virginia Main Street grant, The Third & Main Financial Feasibility Study team is working on assessing existing conditions at the two former bank buildings anchoring two corners of the North Main and Third Street intersection.
“These bank buildings will provide the catalyst that launches Farmville Downtown into the next level of revitalization,” says Person. “Having them become beehives of activity will feed the rest of the district.”
The 2015 board of directors is comprised of John Miller (Longwood University), president; Caryn Kayton (Caryn’s Bridals, Formals & Tuxedos), vice-president; Kerry Mossler (CENTRA Southside Community Hospital), secretary; Jimmy Johnson (Sleeping Bee), treasurer; Paul Brammer (Hampden-Sydney College), Organization Committee; Pam Butler (Mainly Clay), Design Chair; Amy Gant (Wells Fargo), Economic Restructuring; Eboni Lee (Benchmark Community Bank), Promotion; Sheri McGuire (Longwood Small Business Development Center), Economic Restructuring Chair; Justin Reid (Moton Museum), Promotion Chair; Chuck Ross (Longwood University),Organization Chair; and Gerry Spates (Town of Farmville), Design.
For more information on Farmville Downtown and to find out how to help visit www.farmvilledowntown.com or call 434-392-3060.