Downtown Appalachia: Revitalizing Recreational Economies

Communities participating in the Downtown Appalachia: Revitalizing Recreational Economies (DARRE) program use time-tested methods to build up their Main Streets and downtown neighborhoods with the ultimate goal of increasing tourism and growing local economies. 

Community teams work with a network of service providers led by our team at The Hub to integrate strategies like developing downtown buildings; engaging and supporting local entrepreneurs; and creating long-term plans for revitalization. The newly integrated strategies become a model for each community to bring new energy to their downtowns and grow their local economies. The model created is unique to each community and can create success, even in hard-to-access, rural, and economically depressed areas. 

How does it work?

Leaders in the DARRE program are walking alongside residents in small towns to: redevelop Main Street and downtown properties; connect building owners with commercial tenants; and help community teams develop the kinds of capital – including economic & financial capital as well as social & relationship capital – that is necessary for each town to thrive as a rural tourist destination.

The central partners leading the program, the WV Community Development Hub, Partner Community Capital, Woodlands Development Group, and the Northern WV Brownfields Assistance Center at WVU, are collaborating to bring high-impact services to each community.

There are currently 8 West Virginia communities participating in the program: Cowen, Elkins, Franklin, Marlinton, Parsons, Petersburg, Richwood, and White Sulphur Springs. These communities are also part of the Mon Forest Towns Partnership service area. 

(To learn more about the communities DARRE serves, check out our stories below!)

Participating communities have access to technical assistance services to tackle persistent challenges like:

  • Redeveloping historic properties;
  • Attracting new and renewed investments into Main Streets and downtowns;
  • Connecting services to support small business growth with building development to help ensure that tenants are placed in properties; 
  • Creating community engagement strategies that ensure long-term involvement from residents; and
  • Making the kinds of visible improvements to communities that create a sense of positive momentum for local residents.

ATTENTION

Request for Qualifications

The DARRE team is contracting with both in-region and national vendors to provide technical assistance support to community teams. Responses to the RFQ will be accepted and assessed until September 2024. Vendors will be selected based on: experience, qualifications, capacity, location, cost effectiveness, and if women and/or minority owned. 

How this Program Makes a Difference

The central partners of the program (WV Community Development Hub, Partner Community Capital, Woodlands Development Group, and Northern WV Brownfields Assistance Center at WVU) are walking alongside community teams that have demonstrated a commitment to leading the development of local recreational tourism-focused economies. 

By pairing high-capacity, committed community leaders with rigorous, multi-year technical assistance focused on downtown redevelopment and small business growth, the DARRE program supports towns in unlocking the path to vibrant local communities that attract both tourists and new residents. This path breaks down systemic barriers to rural redevelopment for small towns and supports business growth plus community revitalization to bring about visible change on rural Main Streets and downtowns. 

The central DARRE program partners each bring more than a decade of experience in creating community-led revitalization through different focus areas. The partners are collaborating to bring together unique areas of expertise to maximize their support for participating communities and help them to overcome historic barriers to success.

As a result of participating in this program, communities are expected to transform the built environment of their Main Streets and downtowns,  generating increased business and tourism, and improving the quality of life for local residents.

This Program is Ideal for…

The DARRE program serves community teams who have participated in one of The Hub’s community coaching programs and are ready to expand their work with a focus on downtown development and revitalization. 

Community teams are already in place once they begin receiving DARRE services, but new community members are also welcome to join. 

The DARRE program leaders are seeking connections to community members who own a building or business or want to own a building or business in their community. The program helps community members understand the process of developing or revitalizing existing properties and provide support through knowledgeable partners and technical assistance.

Get Involved

If you are a resident in one of the currently participating communities; a practitioner who can provide development services for projects in these communities; or if you are a funder who is interested in learning more about the program, contact program lead Stacy Thomas at s.thomas@wvhub.org.

Current Participating Communities

DARRE Stories

Systemic Change

2021 became a time period of catalytic potential as we saw years of investment into our core strategies to enact systemic change yield new results. Our strategic focus areas include policy, communications, and supporting the community economic development system in leveraging unique financing opportunities such as the Appalachian Regional Commission’s POWER Initiative and Opportunity Zones.

In addition, through our strategic policy support role within the Abandoned Properties Coalition, The Hub successfully advanced two key objectives: the creation of a statewide land bank at the West Virginia Land Stewardship Corporation and extension of the state’s Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit. 

Through the Opportunity Appalachia program, 6 catalytic community projects located in WV-based Opportunity Zones received $250,000 for pre-development technical assistance. Three projects received additional private funding as a result of program participation.

Cowen

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies. Read their community case study.

Montgomery

Residents participated in the Cultivate WV program to kickstart community and economy building. Read their community case study.

Smithers

Residents participated in the Cultivate WV program to kickstart community and economy building. Read their community case study.

Kingwood

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future.

Lewis County

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future.

Meadow River Valley Region

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future. Read their community case study.

Monticello Neighborhood of Clarksburg

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future. Watch their community documentary.

New Martinsville

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future. Read their community case study.

Parsons

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future.

Elkins

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies. 

A core team led by Woodlands Development Group also participated in Opportunity Appalachia, receiving technical assistance to support a community development project located in an Opportunity Zone.

Community Coaching

In 2021, we accompanied 16 communities through our in-depth, professional coaching programs. In addition to leaning into coaching and financing opportunities offered through these programs, participating communities leveraged an additional $2.8 million in funding on their own for community economic development projects. While participating in our entry-level coaching program, Cultivate WV, Montgomery and Smithers realized momentum-building success through access to $40,000 in seed funding for projects like farmers markets, public art, wayfinding, community events, and development of a trail system.

Six communities, Lewis County, Kingwood, Meadow River Valley, Monticello neighborhood in Clarksburg, New Martinsville and Parsons, graduated the intermediate planning program Blueprint Communities* with strategic plans in place. We also launched a new round of HubCAP, our flagship community economic development program, in six towns located in the Monongahela National Forest region: Cowen, Franklin, White Sulphur Springs, Elkins, Marlinton, and Petersburg.

Franklin

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies.

Marlinton

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies.

Petersburg

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies.

White Sulphur Springs

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies.

Charleston

A core team led by Crawford Holdings, LLC participated in Opportunity Appalachia, receiving technical assistance to support a community development project located in an Opportunity Zone.

Huntington

Core teams led by Thundercloud, Inc. and the City of Huntington participated in Opportunity Appalachia, receiving technical assistance to support community development projects located in Opportunity Zones.

Grafton

A core team led by Unleash Tygart, Inc participated in Opportunity Appalachia, receiving technical assistance to support a community development project located in an Opportunity Zone.

Leadership Development

As hundreds of people began to engage in our virtual training activities in 2020, we saw a critical opportunity to scale and deepen our impact. This year, The Hub team developed an accessible, virtual platform with options for self-guided and group learning activities as well as professional coaching.

Kickstart Communities is now the crux of our efforts to bring new people into the work and grow their leadership. These activities now form the foundational stages of a Community Leadership Development Pipeline to move motivated residents from seeing the challenges in their communities to proactively collaborating to resolve them.

Message from our Executive Leadership Team

Fifteen years ago, stakeholders building up local communities and economies in West Virginia convened to map a coordinated strategy to systemically grow community economic development activity in the state. From the shared vision and collaborative leadership of dozens of strategic partners across the state, the WV Community Development Hub was born.

Since that time, The Hub has grown into the anchor community development organization serving West Virginia. We have built upon the original vision to create a method for rural, community-led development strategies that is uniquely tailored to the needs and opportunities of our state.

As we have grown and developed a proven model for success, our partnerships with community and economic development practitioners, funders, and committed West Virginia residents have been foundational to every element of our work.

Over the past two years, the team at The Hub has adapted to the unprecedented challenges our communities have faced during the pandemic by leaning into our core strengths to deepen our impact. The Hub remains committed to tackling persistent challenges, and we have focused our attention on the most impactful elements of our work.

We are supporting community leaders to advance their visions for local development, creating new pathways for engagement and leadership growth through our virtual training platform, and leading strategies that lift up voices of community leaders to move forward solutions to long-held challenges to growth.

If the past two years have taught us anything, it is that nothing about the future is set in stone. While the coming year may present enormous opportunities for advancement in our state, they will also inevitably require significant capacity building, shared strategies that are grounded in trust-based partnerships, and extended efforts to support the leadership development of individuals and organizations who have been asked to do more during a time of extreme stress and strain.

The services that anchor organizations like The Hub provide are even more critical in this time, and we expect our work to scale significantly in the coming years ahead.

We look forward to continuing to do the work of putting into action the vision and the shared strategies envisioned by that core group of community economic development practitioners and funders fifteen years ago.

In Continued Accompaniment,

– WV Community Development Hub
Executive Leadership Team

Stephanie Tyree

Executive Director

Amanda Workman Scott

Director of Community Engagement

Emma Pepper

Director of Strategic Network Communications

Katie Loudin

Director of Strategic Development