Solving Downtown Lynchburg's Dilemma

Lynchburg, VA - Lynchburg's annual Get Downtown festival is this Friday. It's an event that each year packs people onto Main Street, but this year, absent from the festival are some big downtown businesses.

Which begs the question; are less people getting downtown at a time when the push is to bring business back?

When it comes to Downtown Lynchburg many see it as a 9a.m. - 5p.m. operation; a mass exodus of office workers clocking out, and heading out.

And it doesn't help that stores continue to close.

Take a drive down Main Street Lynchburg and the signs, say it all. Many stores are closed, some for good.

In the last year alone, White Hart Coffee Shop, Bull Branch, Catalano's Deli, and this bakery all closed their doors; joining the slew of already dark windows dotting downtown streets.

"The people that you surround yourself with, with the hobbies that you love, creativity and art" said Haley Pavao.

But at least one store front is newly opened; Pavao, owns Pastiche, an upscale gift shop, sourcing all its products from local vendors.

"I chose downtown one for the character that a downtown urban area has" she said.

She's not deterred by the stores heading out of town. She's banking on a new downtown investment to bring her permanent clients.

"Loft living has become very popular and I happen to be surrounded by it here. So I'm very encouraged" said Pavao.

Lofts are springing up everywhere with the hope that the folks moving in will stay downtown to spend time and money.

"You go from a business district into being a thriving residential district, I think that's what we need" said Tony Camm, the manager of the Downtown Holiday Inn.

Camm has worked downtown for 30 years. He says that's the solution to downtown's dilemma of a fleeing work force. Come 5 p.m., all downtown employees head home.

"By the time people get to this side of town or the street, they're in exit mode. We change that by just having really cool people that want to open up businesses or establishments that stay open beyond five o'clock" said Camm.

A feat easier said, than done.

Lynchburg Mayor, Mike Gillette, he said downtown needs good residential stock. The more people that live downtown, the more businesses that will want to cater to them. Also drawing attention to the great things that already exist on Main Street is important. That he says is helped by festivals like Get Downtown.

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