Danville is one of the top eight communities with a shot at winning an award for revitalization of its commercial district.

The city’s River District Association announced Tuesday morning that the city is a semifinalist for the Great American Main Street Award.

“This is just such a huge honor,” River District Association Executive Director Diana Schwartz said during an event held at Main Street Plaza for the announcement.

The honor recognizes localities for preservation-based commercial district revitalization and is bestowed by the National Main Street Center.

“We are very grateful for the team at the National Main Street Center for recognizing the hard work that has been done in the River District for the past decade,” Schwartz said in a prepared statement.

Schwartz said she did not know how many communities applied for the award.

“It’s extremely competitive,” she said.

The National Main Street Center was established as a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1980 as a way to address issues facing older and historic downtowns during that time, according to the center’s website.

Working with a nationwide network of coordinating programs and local communities, Main Street has helped more than 2,000 communities across the country bring economic back downtown, while celebrating their historic character and bringing communities together, according to the group’s website.

In 2013, the National Main Street Center became an independent subsidiary of the National Trust. The center is based in Chicago, with an office in Washington, D.C., and field staff throughout the country.

The eight semifinalists were selected from a nationwide pool of applications.

Criteria for winning include strength of the Main Street program in spurring community transformation; commitment to historic preservation; innovative programming; implementation of cross-sector partnerships; community outreach and stakeholder engagement; and commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, said Kelvin Perry, president of the River District Association board.

“Since 1995, 100 Main Street programs have been honored,” Perry said at the event. “Winners are selected from a nationwide pool of applicants by a jury of Main Street professionals and leaders in the community in economic development and historic preservation.”

The Dan River and the River District distinguish Danville from thousands of other communities, said Mayor Alonzo Jones.

There has been $50 million in public investment in amenities, streetscape projects and infrastructure improvements downtown, and $250 million in private investment, he said.

“Private investment is taking place as hoped and it’s outpacing public investment by five-fold,” Jones said.

Schwartz pointed out that it has taken more than the River District Association to grow downtown. The efforts include partners such as funders, businesses and organizations, she said.

“This is a very prestigious honor that I hope will help our long-term residents recognize that Danville is nationally recognized as a model for revitalization,” Schwartz said. “We look forward to the continued success of our downtown that will illuminate a bright path to move forward and share the improvements and opportunities to all areas of our city and our region.”

The River District Association — formerly known as the Downtown Danville Association — was formed in 1999 to coordinate efforts to revitalize the downtown Danville community, now called the River District.

Danville officials will find out the week of May 16, during the National Main Street Conference in Richmond, whether the city becomes one of the top three communities, Schwartz said.


Danville Register and Bee | John Crane