In the Main Street revitalization community, we often say that a city’s downtown is it’s “living room.” When vibrant and alive, it is where the community spends time together, entertains guests, and where residents feel a shared sense of belonging.
Danville’s transformation into the “Comeback City” began in 2009 when a developer visited and seeing an empty, neglected downtown. He left without even considering investing, saying, “If the community is not investing in itself, why would anyone else?” Danville took this message to heart and began to invest in Danville’s River District, the community’s “living room” remodeling it into a space people want to be.
The River District’s transformation into a busy, welcoming downtown is the result of steady, dedicated work by many. Since 2010, the River District has seen $50 million in public investment, $252 million in private investment and almost 1,200 residential spaces downtown that maintain 100% occupancy. A myriad of organizational partners have laid the groundwork to prioritize revitalization through innovation and historic preservation. Among many, this includes the City of Danville, The Danville Regional Foundation, RDA, and most significantly, the businesses who took the risk to invest in the River District, and community members who have decided to be proud of Danville; to work, play and live at HOME.
In 2022, the River District Association was recognized for their work in the River District by becoming one of 8 semi-finalists for the Great American Main Street Award, a national appreciation of excellence in revitalization work. Three winners will be announced at the 2023 National Main Street Now Conference in March, in Boston, Massachusetts.
Because of the strong foundation built by many organizational partners and despite economic challenges and a global pandemic, today if you walk down Main Street or Craghead Street in the River District, you see people walking, shopping, eating and enjoying themselves. In the past 5 years, 60 new businesses have opened in the River District, 17 in 2022 alone. RDA is proud to have contributed to the resurgence of life in the River District. To date, RDA’s Dream Launch Bootcamp has educated 400 entrepreneurs in how to successfully set up and run a business in our region. RDA’s IGNITE Pitch (formerly Dream Launch Pitch) has awarded $375,000 in start-up funds to 18 new businesses. Existing River District businesses were supported through $45,000 in GET Boosted grants, a grant designed to give them a chance to try a new idea, product, or equipment to help boost business. A new program, Start-Up Slam, modeled after a poetry slam, is a fun community-oriented event where people share a meal, share creative business ideas, and network with other creatives. To date, $141,000 in Façade Improvement Grants have been awarded to River District businesses.
The River District Association looks forward with renewed excitement to the year ahead; a new year with new businesses, new partners, new collaboration and, most importantly, the continued success of Danville, “The Comeback City.”
For more information on the River District Association, visit www.riverdistrictassociation.com.