UPtown Partnership, a new non-profit organization, aims to bring uptown Martinsville back to life.
The mission of UPtown Partnership, as stated on its website, is “to create a vibrant, attractive, adaptive, and charming Uptown District that is welcoming to visitors, residents, and investors, by:
- Increasing the stock of high-quality housing options.
- Championing the development of diverse businesses, entertainment, and dining options.
- Improving the visitor experience.
- Supporting the rehabilitation of existing buildings and appropriate infill.
- Building a vibrant community identity through frequent communications, support of Uptown marketing, events, and promotions.”
The group will collaborate with business and property owners, residents, community organizations and local officials to drive revitalization.
Lee Prillaman is the president. He owns the Holt Building, which is diagonal from the uptown post office, and recently had it renovated with commercial space at the ground level and two apartments above.
Natalie Hodge is the vice president. She lives uptown, in an apartment in the building that adjoins the Jefferson Plaza, across from the Holt Building.
The group’s first matter of business was to complete the application for Virginia Main Street designation. The application had proposal sections contributed from representatives of the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce, the city of Martinsville, several local uptown residents and about 15 businesses.
“Virginia Main Street is a Main Street America State Coordinating Program that offers a range of services and assistance to communities interested in revitalizing their historic commercial districts,” the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development website states.
In fact, the group “all came about because we no longer had the Virginia Main Street designation” in Martinsville, Hodge said. “It was a technical snag.”
Martinsville lost its contention for the designation when the former Martinsville Uptown group was absorbed into the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce, she said.
Having Main Street designation would help the area get grants, she said.
UPtown Partnership “will have some similarities” to the former Martinsville Uptown, she said: “Both organizations were designed to support growth in uptown. The key difference is some of the goals we have. We’re not necessarily going to be doing as much event programming. We’ll be supporting more of the area organizations.”
Martinsville Uptown had sponsored the TGIF concert series, which was taken over by UpTown Rotary Club in 2019, but not held this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. It also had sponsored Oktoberfest, which was run last year by the chamber.
On Thursday, UPtown Partnership hosted an “UPtown Vision Walk,” which was attended by about 40 people. In small groups, people talked about their vision for the future of uptown as they strolled along its streets. Their notes are being used to refine UPtown Partnership’s strategic plan.
“The diverse cross section of participants shared key insights on what they believed would make UPtown a vibrant business district. Building vacancies and renovations, more residential spaces and new business development support were all hot topics in the groups,” Hodge wrote in an email after the walk.
The group’s website states five goals for this year:
- Get Virginia Main Street designation.
- Engage 100 active patron/volunteers.
- Facilitate 30 new residential units.
- Create four new or improved public gathering spaces.
- Identify and implement at least three design projects to improve the usability and attractiveness of uptown.
“There are a lot of new projects you will be hearing about through the end of the year. Big ones and smaller. We are working to bring back the charm of uptown and turn it into an exciting gathering place for our region,” Prillaman stated in a press release.
Posts on the group’s Facebook page, “UP Martinsville,” get some conversations going: “What would you like to see more of in UPtown Martinsville? – Dining – Entertainment – Modern Housing – Other?”
Holly Kozelsky is a writer for the Martinsville Bulletin; contact her at 276-638-8801 ext. 243.