Theming downtown Belleville
Murals are a powerful catalyst in terms of reviving and improving urban areas. For example, Jane Golden started a program in Philadelphia to bring graffiti artists “in from the cold.” The Mural Arts Program (www.muralarts.org) in Philly employs over 300 artists each year and teaches more than 1,000 young people the art of creating murals at no cost to the students. 5,000+ tourists each year enjoy mural tours in that city.
You can read more about Jane Golden’s story and the Philadelphia MAP (mural arts program) here, https://www.muralarts.org/about/about-jane-golden/. I would strongly recommend you reach out to her directly: firstname.lastname@example.org 215-685-0760. She’s an inspiration and could help you get a MAP launched in your city, town or village.
I am involved in an effort to resuscitate downtown Belleville, a small Ontario town about 1-hour and 45-minutes east of the Big Smoke (aka Toronto). I have partnered with local education institution, Loyalist College, to bring an accelerator program to down Belleville opening in January 2022. They will take part of the ground floor of a nearly 150-year-old, 3-story multi-use building we are renovating there.
In addition to the startup factory, there will be an adjacent ground floor apartment for their EIR (entrepreneur-in-residence) program. Startups that are mentored/coached tend to grow fast and survive longer than ones that have to learn everything on their own. Having a mentor live and work in the building is a powerful way to get anywhere from 20 to 40 gigs and gigpreneurs off the ground every year or two.
It doesn’t take many entrepreneurs living and working in your community to completely change the nature of your town. Think about your city, now and in the past: Conjure up an image of the men and women who started local businesses that altered the history (and future) of your neighborhood, your town, your region, your state or province, maybe even the entire nation? It shouldn’t take you long to think of a few…
A mural can be a work of art, but it can be an advertisement too. Loyalist has my permission to add this mural to the side of your building–
To pay for the cost of hiring a muralist and doing the work, I have suggested they reach out for a sponsor or two whose contributions can be discreetly acknowledged by incorporating somehow a thank you on the wall.
This has real value. A billboard can cost a lot– even in a small town like Ottawa Canada (my hometown for now), one side of a billboard can cost $3,500 a month on a street that has about 15,000 ppd (people per day including vehicular and pedestrian traffic), which works out to $3,500/(15,000 ppd x 30 days/month or $7.78 per thousand pairs of eyeballs. This is how a lot of advertising is sold– what is the cost per thousand views, aka CPM. It can range from a low of $5 per thousand for a bus board to $20 for a high-end magazine to $60 for targeted Google ads to $120 per thousand (for, say, postcard or flyer delivery by USPS of CPC).
I am also encouraging Loyalist to sell the naming rights to the incubator as well as naming internal spaces (corridors, offices, boardrooms) after sponsors as well as begin a startup fund that lends small amounts of capital (say $5,000) to fledgling companies (not all of them tech either BTW). These loans would be contingently repaid– ie, if the biz fails, nothing is owed. If the business succeeds, they pay a 2% royalty on sales for seven years as a giveback to the accelerator. Imagine if one of them achieves say a run rate of $10 million in sales per annum within that time period? A 2% giveback is $200,000 per year so this could be quite the thing for accelerating the accelerator!
I am big on theming things. I coach a number of folks who put their buildings on home sharing platforms like Airbnb.
One super host I coach put her 1-bedroom log home in the middle of “nowhere” (Wakefield Quebec) on the platform, https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/21884842?source_impression_id=p3_1635251333_Jut2ZaRkfiXVG289&guests=1&adults=1. She themed the place as a truly Canadian place and billed it as a “romantic getaway,” leave the kids at home (please).
The results have been fantastic. The worse the weather gets (Canada has really nice people but terrible weather), the busier she gets! Her realtor told her when she bought the place that she could rent it for $900 to $1,000 a month. Instead, she makes over $5k and sometimes even $6k monthly.
Theming helped with that.
So, why not theme our building on Front Street or for that matter the whole of downtown Belleville.
I’ve been pondering this. Maybe the right theme for 249-253 Front Street is as a “learning” and “making” and “creating” building? We already have Loyalist in the structure, and we are creating other artisan/workshop/makerspaces not to mention a bunch of nice apartments (some of which will be on Airbnb). What if one of our artisan spaces was rented to a cigar box guitar maker (I actually have a tenant in one of my buildings in Ottawa who designs and fabricates such things). Maybe an Airbnb guest will want to visit and stay awhile. Learn about guitar making? Join an impromptu concert?
I know that Carolyn Butts and her business and life partner, Hans Honegger, reinvented Tamworth, a tiny town not too far from TO and Belleville. They bought old, beat-up buildings that no one else wanted and fixed them up for the MTR (medium term rental) market and made both affordable residential apartments and workshops available where creatives could come, write their magnum opus, create their next new product or service, or meet with their teams in a quiet setting. It’s remade not only Tamworth but Carolyn’s and Hans’ life too. read more here, https://brucemfirestone.com/animate-a-whole-town/.
A village of fewer than 500-people (Hobart, New York) is home to not one or two bookstores but five indie shops along their main street, which has totally remade their town. People from NYC and Boston (a few hours away by car) flock there to purchase “a leather-bound collection of classical verse, or a set of classic political essays.” [Source: https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/hobart-book-village?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=atlas-page.]
Obviously, their theme is books and learning and experiences based on that. As Bill Bryson has written, “Books are TV for smart people.”
Or how about only slightly larger Coombs BC? A Norwegian couple settled in this Vancouver Island community more than two generations ago. They set up an old country store with a sod roof. Grass roofs were common in Norway and cheap, so they brought this technology with them long before green roofs became a thing. The only problem is grass grows and YOU DO NOT WANT TO GET UP ON A SLOPED ROOF WITH A LAWN MOWER unless of course you feel like cutting off some toes or your whole foot in a horrible accident (this is a real problem BTW).
So, instead, they did what they did in the old country– they bought some goats and let them loose every summer to live on their roof (to eat their grass instead). Goats are much steadier on their four hooves than humans on their two spindly legs.
The place became knows as goats-on-the-roof and, if you can believe it, it became one of the top tourist attractions on the island.
#Sheesh Maybe Canuckleheads don’t have much to do other than watch hockey and drink beer? You can read more at, https://brucemfirestone.com/goats-on-the-roof/.
Belleville = ?
So, what theme might work for Belleville? Hmm, I’m not sure. Let’s look at some others first–
PEC (Prince Edward County), known as wine country Ontario
Ottawa, the nation’s capital, Winterlude
New Orleans, bourbon/jazz/Mardi Gras/hurricanes
Savannah, home to Forest, Forest Gump
Quebec City, Winter Carnival
Vegas, instant weddings and even quicker divorces
I still don’t know but maybe something among these would work?
-next to PEC (#JustKidding)
-home to gigpreneurs
-where makers go to affordably live-work-play-learn-create-socialize?
-escape from New York (err, Toronto), remote work hub
-party central like Nashtyville, aka Nashville, where you can hop aboard a downtown liquor wagon pulled by a farm tractor (#JustKidding)
-ice fishing on the Bay of Quinte
I really have no clue, do you???
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