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Turning Washington Street into Main Street

Washington Street is Haymarket's “Main Street” and Denise Hall is working to make it a place people enjoy visiting and doing business.

The street is a work in progress in terms of growth.

It has a mix of older businesses and newer ones with some undeveloped land next to the Fauquier Bank near U.S. 15.

On the eastern end of Washington Street, the town is deciding what to to with the Harrover Property and some type of recreational function for the parcel of town-owned land seems likely.

In between is a mix of offices, restaurants, town government offices, and some vacancies.

Town Manager Brian Henshaw said the town council last year decided “there was a need for a go-between” between the town and businesses “and to bring the events back under our roof.”

Town events had previously been handled by an outside events planner.

Other towns have Main Street coordinators and they don't all define the duties the same way.

“It's kind of what you make it,” Henshaw said.

In Hall's case it was decided she would not only work with the business community but plan town events and continue her work at the Haymarket Museum to make it “a welcome center, not only for visitors from the outside but to keep residents interested by changing the exhibits,” Henshaw said.

Hall took on the Main Street coordinator duties on Jan. 1.

She was a part-time administrative assistant for the town when she was named museum director in July 2013.

In her Main Street role, she talks to businesses, hears their concerns and keeps them informed of things in the works that may impact them.

The town is currently recrafting its sign ordinance in terms of “size, content and font,” Hall said. “The idea is to make them visible” without being garish.

A new ordinance should be ready within the next few months.

Business people have been part of the process of revising the sign ordinance.

They've attended meetings have been giving feedback, she said.

Henshaw said the goal of the sign rules change is flexibility. “We take a lot of pride in our history but at the same time businesses want to be seen. We want to strike a balance.”

The town's architectural review board and planning commission will weigh in as well before the sign measure goes to the town council for a vote.

Hall is also working on a means to recognize businesses for their successes.

“We want to have a recognition program for all of our businesses. Honoring those for their longevity. We're deciding what to do. It may be a plaque” for being in business a certain number of years.

She's also working with the restaurants on promoting healthy menu options. Another idea is a tax-free weekend to encourage shoppers to patronize town businesses.

Hall said the town has 160 businesses, a figure that may surprise some people in the 1-mile square town. Some of those businesses are home-based, Hall said.

Quarterly group meetings at town hall with the businesses help keep the lines of communications open.

“They get updates on different events and what the town is doing. The interim police chief and town planner Marchant Schneider give updates as well,” Hall said.

The first quarterly meeting she attended as Main Street coordinator was held in February.

“It was the day after a snowstorm,” Hall recalled.

Even so, the meeting went on with eight hardy souls in attendance.

She also maintains contact with the Haymaket-Gainesville Business Association.

With development all around it, Haymarket has tried maintain its small town identity and embrace its past.

The town has installed brick sidewalks and crosswalks and older style streetlamps as part of an ongoing Streetscape project down the length of Washington Street. Many of newer buildings are made of brick.

The state is currently rebuilding the Old Carolina Road bridge over Interstate 66. The finished span will have space for walkers and cyclists and create a safer access between the parts of town split by the interstate.

The new bridge should be finished in the spring of 2016.

The Streetscape project aims to make Haymarket easier for pedestrians and cyclists and enhance the appearance of the main business route

The events the town sponsors on Washington Street that Hall is in charge of are meant to foster a feeling of community.

The town held an Earth Day in April that featured learning stations and a scavenger hunt.

A Health and Fitness Day is planned for June 27 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Novant Health and Wegman's grocery store are sponsoring the event. Novant will offer health screenings and there will be fitness demonstrations.

Haymarket Day will be held on Sept. 19 this year.

“Haymarket – Everybody's Hometown” will be the theme and as always, there will be a parade and vendors. The late town historian Sarah Turner will be honored and her son, Jim Shepard, will serve as parade grand marshal.

The town's holiday event in December will have a Christmas tree decorated circa the 1850s -- no bulbs and decorated with popcorn.

The town museum currently has a Food and Farm exhibit through the end of May in cooperation with the Beverley's Mill historic site, which has supplied some artifacts on display.

There will be a train exhibit during June when the Regency Model Railroad Club will set up an HO scale model train display.

Horse racing and the role it played in Haymarket's history will be celebrated in July and there will be a Civil War exhibit in August, an education exhibit in September, a quilting exhibit in October, and a holiday
display in November and ending the first week of December.
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