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Callao Revitalization Project Update

With the assistance of the Northern Neck Planning District Commission, Northumberland County is moving forward in submitting an application to the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to fund its just completed revitalization plan for Callao. The plan is the culmination of two previous state grants. The initial award of $15,000 was used to establish a project management team of various stakeholders, hold public meetings to determine community interest and support, complete an inventory of occupied and vacant commercial space, and develop a community Vision for the future of Callao.

The second grant of $35,000 helped advance the effort by bringing in experts in revitalization to assist to develop a master implementation plan and projected costs to achieve that Vision. Using the public contracting process, Hill Studio, partnering with Arnett Muldrow, was selected to lead the planning. The two organizations brought seven professionals—experts in architecture, city/regional planning, landscape and streetscape design, economic restructuring, marketing and branding—to conduct a two-day design workshop in early December.

The consultants “walked” the entire project to get input from management team members, began drafting designs for the streets, sidewalks, landscaping, crosswalks, open spaces, lighting, parking and more. Architects met with owners of 22 commercial buildings to develop renderings for potential façade improvements along with cost estimates. A profile of the current demographic and economic position of Callao was also developed. The materials emanating for the workshop were then presented to members of the management team and the public to be sure they were on target with the Vision and preferences of the community.

In January, the drafts for various components of the master plan were completed for review by stakeholders. The Northumberland County Board of Supervisors held two public hearings with very positive citizen input. The final master plan—including the commercial area, building façade improvement, economic restructuring, and branding and marketing— along with the budget to be submitted to DHCD will be presented at the March meeting of the Board of Supervisors for approval.

The third grant – to implement the plan – would provide funding for the revitalization of the “main street” area of Callao from Route 202 just north of the traffic light down Northumberland Highway to the end of Callao Supply. Branding and marketing funding would also be available for signage, pole flags, website, marketing samples, and more. Finally, it would provide a 50% match (up to $15,000) to businesses to move forward with enhancing the façades of 22 commercial buildings.

Residents and businesses in Callao, as well as residents in the surrounding areas and across the county, are excited by the potential for a reinvigorated commercial district with expanded and new businesses, opportunities to share the history and culture of Callao, and recognition as the “Hometown of the Northern Neck!”

Theresa Lambert is Executive Director, Northumberland County Economic Development Commission.

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