August 12, 2014

Mixed-use/Mixed-income (MUMI) Funding Supports Murals for Revitalization

Keith Sherrill is a Community Housing Officer in VHDA’s Community Outreach area and a subject matter expert on Mixed-use/Mixed-income and revitalization efforts. We asked Keith to share his thoughts on the “Murals in Montross” revitalization effort and how VHDA supports efforts like these.

How can public displays of art such as Murals in Montross contribute to town revitalization?
A successful revitalization effort needs to focus on addressing physical and economic blight in a targeted area. In a downtown area, this blight may be from vacant properties, dilapidated buildings, or poorly maintained properties. While physical improvements are important, you have to address the economic blight in a downtown area to create an environment where people want to spend time and businesses can prosper.

Murals and other art displays can help create this environment. Murals have been used to make a downtown area more attractive to people who visit and may desire to live in an area. Art, music or food festivals also can create traffic that supports businesses in downtown areas. These festivals bring in lots of customers, allow a new customer base to be reached and create excitement.

Why is it important that mixed-use/mixed-income (MUMI) funding be used for this type of revitalization project?
VHDA’s mixed-use/mixed-income (MUMI) grants provide localities with planning resources to pursue mixed-use development as a tool to improve their downtown areas. The grants also give resources to potential developers who can address key downtown properties that have the potential to “turn around” a commercial district.

Effective downtown revitalization requires a multifaceted approach. Accurately spaced commercial businesses may attract visitors and encourage walkable blocks. Housing located in downtown areas means both consumers and business owners can live closer to those businesses. This can encourage businesses to stay open longer and support evening and weekend traffic. Also, art displays are an attractive draw, encouraging people to visit areas which they might not otherwise consider. A particular MUMI success story is the Hippodrome Theater, located in Richmond, Virginia’s historic Jackson Ward. Buildings such as this are being preserved and revitalized into hubs for business and living.

How does VHDA become involved in this type of revitalization project? What are some areas that have benefited?
VHDA’s MUMI grants are a response to the need for combined financing for mixed-use projects within a downtown area. This funding is critical because it is difficult to finance small retail space downtown in an area that is struggling.

VHDA partners with local governments around Virginia to support revitalization efforts, including efforts in downtown areas. The desire for adaptive reuse of critical buildings is sometimes the goal that starts the planning stage. VHDA assists with MUMI planning grants to determine the feasibility of specific mixed-use projects, study the housing needs in a particular area and encourage investment in mixed-use projects and in master planning for redevelopment of specific targeted areas.

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