2010 has been a year of more change and review for the SDDA. We are fortunate to have so many willing volunteers, business owners, City employees and a supportive City Council willing to lend a hand in helping us achieve our goals. The sluggish economy and budget cuts (for everyone) have made our jobs much more challenging. We are working harder than ever to keep our projects fresh ,constantly reviewing them for appropriateness and effectiveness without much wiggle room for error. It’s an exciting process and very rewarding; after all “necessity is the mother of invention.”
This year we asked our stakeholders to participate in a survey managed by Virginia Main Street experts. The idea was to get feedback from the SDDA customers (property owners, business owners, the community, the City government), examine and respond to the data and ultimately create a Five-Year Vision at a Board Retreat. The retreat was held in August and going forward, we will use that document as a reference for creating our work plan and setting goals. It is important to know if we are on the right track and make sure that we are moving in the right direction to serve downtown.
This proactive exercise provided insightful information. Overall, we received a 89.9% approval rating – something we are very proud of.
Let me offer an example. We found out that the vacant spaces on Beverly Street were deeply affecting the morale in the community so we planned “Minds Wide Open: Women in the Arts” an exhibit that filled empty storefronts and featured displays from local arts organizations depicting the role of women. The exhibit stayed up through June and July and filled Beverley Street with color and life and greeted thousands of tourists as we hosted Bike VA and A Taste of Jazz, the French American Gospel Choir and the Morgan Car Club. The community loved it and it was probably one of the most popular events we’ve ever planned.
The survey did not provide too many surprises. We were already aware of several needed improvements. The stakeholders offered some criticism about our newsletter and the website. This year, we’ve rebranded the news letter and the new website will launch this month. That is another exciting work of art, nurtured through the process by Karen Lawrence who has the patience and the technical skills to turn the vision into reality.
That’s the process: input, response and evaluation. We just keep repeating it until we get it right. We’re always changing and evolving. Sometimes we get the opportunity to be proactive, sometimes we have to be reactive. The key ingredient is communication, and that seems to be one our biggest challenges, as well. We held a Round Table about communication to determine if there was a more efficient way to communicate. Inspiring the community to respond, participate or even give us their opinion which is paramount to our growth and success. Like this blog, for instance. We’ve sent an open invitation to our community to write a couple of paragraphs with their thoughts ideas, concerns, criticism – whatever. The offer is still open.
We are excited about the coming year. We are hoping for a year of recovery. It is encouraging that we had a more profitable holiday season. We tried to make it fun and interesting for the community and easy for the businesses. We appreciate everyone who supports Downtown and we look forward to seeing and hearing from all of you in the coming year.