Lawrenceville Revitalization Update
Less than two years ago, the Brunswick County IDA convened a group of professionals from around Virginia to address the business community and share with us their advice about how we could revitalize our downtown. We welcomed over 75 attendees, who gave insightful guidance about the challenges to opening and operating businesses in Lawrenceville. We left the daylong event energized, with a clear picture of the opportunities available as well as strong feedback on the needs of the business community. Key areas of discussion included access to broadband internet, connectivity to interstates and highways, and a need for downtown residents to support businesses. We heard from experts that we have the ingredients for a successful downtown, and we needed to focus on a roadmap to success.
Just 10 days later, we invited the residents of the community for a similar event so that we could gauge the opinion and priorities of those stakeholders. The community expressed a focus on reopening St. Paul’s College, connecting with heritage tourism, access to convenient local goods and services, and high-quality apartments downtown.
We were thrilled with the overlap in priorities between our business community and leaders, and our residents. We have spent the time since those meetings putting together the pieces for a successful revitalization. We are well overdue to update the community, and so want to provide this summary with a promise of more regular quarterly reports moving forward.
The work we have undertaken has required many partners, including the Town of Lawrenceville, Brunswick County, the Chamber of Commerce, as well as individual business owners and residents.
The most visible accomplishments have been helping to open successful locally owned and operated business in our downtown, including a florist and gift shop, a general store, sports bar, a health business as well as the early stages of a Community Center.
We have updated our National Register nomination for the Town of Lawrenceville to make historic tax credits, a critical financial incentive for revitalization, available to the maximum number of eligible properties. We hope to fund an expansion of the historic district in the future, which will mean more areas of Lawrenceville can benefit from the tax credits. At present, the tax credit program is utilized for the renovation of Pop’s Restaurant, and is an important tool for the upcoming work at the Sledge & Barkley building. We have also secured a large grant to help with exterior repairs at Sledge & Barkley. You will see activity underway there in the coming months.
To help add downtown residents, we started with a small upper floor apartment project over the Butterfly Rose Florist and Gift Shop. Upon completion of this project, these formerly vacant eyesores, were sold to an investor and returned the properties to the tax rolls. Based on the overwhelming interest, we are working to finalize the construction of 18 planned apartments over Sledge & Barkley. Construction is not yet underway, so those will not be available for rent until sometime in the next few years.
We have also visited other successful communities, including St. Paul’s, Virginia, to see how they have achieved success. Based on what we have learned, we have been working on a plan to create a formal Main Street program that will help businesses, property owners and residents achieve their individual goals for the greater good of the Town of Lawrenceville. This project will take a couple of years to implement once we have a plan and support in place but it will provide critical support as we grow more local businesses in our community.
Lastly, we have recently participated in a tour of St. Paul’s College, and provided data from our files to support a grant application for oral history interviews and a National Register update for James Solomon Russell/Saint Paul’s College Museum and Archives. We have not yet learned when the grant application will be funded, but we are pleased that the work we did for the Lawrenceville Historic District was helpful in development of the St. Pauls’ College Grant application.
In the last two years, we have learned that our historic buildings, small town character and relationships within the community are the keys to our success. We are working to maximize our partnerships and build on our potential. We have found that historic preservation is the key to our future – for every 0.25 cents spent on historic preservation projects, we are getting a return of approximately 0.75 cents that we can put right back into the community and its revitalization. We appreciate your time reading about our recent activities, and look forward to sharing more in the next update! As always, please contact our office at 434-848-0248 if you have any suggestions, questions, or concerns.
Public Comments Lawrenceville Projects
At our last meeting in June Lawrenceville/IDA Liaison Anne Williams had questions. The questions made it into the Brunswick Times Gazette; however, the information I provided to the Editor in response were not printed.
The IDA is legally authorized to do what we are doing. Our activities are reviewed before we move forward and through an annual audit. Our goal is to provide an environment conducive to economic development. I am also working to make the properties as appealing to investors as I can. This is one reason that we work so hard for make our County Available to any possible grants we can get. We cannot operate residential properties but we can create them. We apply strong measures of due diligence to ensure that we stay within the Code Guidelines. https://law.lis.virginia.gov/authorities/industrial-development-and-revenue-bond-act/. Granting agencies are very careful to make sure that the law is followed before providing funds.
I direct you to the BCIDA website where our available documents, such as the Industrial Development and revenue Bond Act and bi-laws are on our website. You can utilize this link for direct access https://www.bcida.org/documents/
Our budget is public information and is available upon request to anyone who wishes a copy. It is currently being formatted to make it add to the website. Our website was designed to keep the public informed. I also welcome any citizen to contact the office and set a time to meet with me. If necessary, I am available outside of typical business hours. I understand that many people have jobs that do not make them available 9-5 Monday-Friday.