Outdoor appreciation: Hub receives grant for plaza

An overhead view of plans for the outdoor plaza at the Staunton Innovation Hub behind the former The News Leader building.

Submitted

STAUNTON — The Staunton Innovation Hub has received a $25,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development to complete plans for an outdoor plaza.

The Hub is at 32 N. Augusta St. in downtown Staunton, and is home to the Staunton Creative Community Fund, LGBT Technology Partnership and Institute and Project GROWS.

Julie Markowitz, executive director of the Staunton Downtown Development Association, wrote the application for the Downtown Investment Grant, which is through DHCD’s Virginia Main Street program, “to support the development for the Hub square.”

“It’s going to be amazing,” said Markowitz of the outdoor square planned for Augusta Street behind the former The News Leader building.

The square would be available year-round for meetings, watching movies, eating lunch outdoors, and just gathering the community together.

Markowitz said the grant will pay for WiFi, lighting and, during the winter, heating.

Included in the plans for the space are plants, a performance stage and space for food trucks and vendors.

“The Staunton Innovation Hub just satisfies quite a few needs for downtown Staunton,” Markowitz said.

The Hub provides rental space for entrepreneurs growing their businesses, meeting space, and services and support for entrepreneurs.

“So, within the walls of the Innovation Hub there are people who are running a business. They are developing a business,” Markowitz said.

Markowitz said since the Hub’s April 2018 opening businesses and entrepreneurs have signed on to rent space and the Hub has experienced rapid growth.

“And I think that speaks to a need [that was in the community],” she said.

The Hub’s outdoor square falls under transformational space, which Markowitz said the SDDA identified from its 2016 community survey as a need the community wanted. The community wants access to outdoor spaces in downtown Staunton.

“So that satisfies that transformational strategy for us,” Markowitz said of the Hub’s outdoor square.

Phase II of the Hub’s renovation plans includes the former The News Leader building at 11 N. Central Ave., which will house Mary Baldwin University’s MBA program and other organizations. The Hub’s plaza is part of the final phase of the project.

“This space will give the community the much needed green space, a place to enjoy community events hosted by SIH such as concerts, dance lessons and movies,” said Alison Denbigh, who founded the Hub with her husband Peter Denbigh. “Plus it will be a third space to continue your work outdoors.”

According to Alison Denbigh, Phase II of the renovations has taken longer than originally planned as construction costs keep rising. However, the Denbighs still hope for Phase II to open in early 2020.

Denbigh said the grant will provide funding for items “that allow for the plaza to be functional for professionals.”

She added that Markowitz “should receive full kudos for the approval of the grant.”

“We appreciate the support the SDDA demonstrated and for DHCD for approving this project,” Denbigh said.

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