Dante, VA: Where There's A Vision, There's Opportunity
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From coal depot to a coffee cafe, the economic future of Dante, VA is bright. Dante's creative approach to utilizing grants opportuntities has brought new life into this former coal camp, deep in the hills of southwest Virginia. Once known for its rich coal deposits, Dante (population approx. 400) now sits at the heart of the Clinch River watershed, a region teeming with biodiversity and eco-tourism potential. The Dante Community Association began in January 2017 by rapidly assembling a network of community, county, state, and collegiate partners to accelerate planning initiatives. Their efforts ultimately targeted two key brownfields, the Dante Depot/ downtown park and former Arty Lee School. Both had unfortunately become unsightly after years of neglect. Extensive efforts established a vision for the two properties that leveraged economic development trends prevalent in the region such as local foods, lodging, retail, entertainment, and continuing education/co-working. In a short two-year period the community has obtained eight grants worth $200,000 and has been recognized by the VA Department of Housing and Community Development as a member of its Main Street Affiliate program. A sample of their grants include conceptual design assistance from undergraduate students at the Community Design Assistance Center at Virginia Tech, a brownfields site assessment and redevelopment plan through the EPA, a new playground through KaBOOM!, and a grant through VA Dept. of Transportation to restore a portion of the Dante Depot.