New CRI director enjoying the ‘Culpeper Experience’

The new executive director of Culpeper Renaissance, Inc. Dan Goldstein is able to see beyond the blight and to brighter days for this spot in downtown Culpeper which is slated to be a small park. Photo by Wally Bunker
The new executive director of Culpeper Renaissance, Inc. Dan Goldstein is able to see beyond the blight and to brighter days for this spot in downtown Culpeper which is slated to be a small park.
Photo by Wally Bunker

In September last year, Dan Goldstein sat in a town council meeting watching a presentation by Culpeper Renaissance Inc. (CRI) Interim Executive Director Jeff Sadler about the “Culpeper Experience” and what CRI needed to do to bolster and expand the downtown shopping and dining experience.

“I thought it was very well done,” said Goldstein about Sadler’s presentation. “It helped identify areas of Culpeper we could improve.”

The presentation highlighted deficiencies in the types of shops and additional family restaurants that other localities of similar size attract.

Goldstein, who was taking over as Culpeper’s Main Street Program executive director, took it all in. Now, along with well-trained and enthusiastic staff of one full-time and one part-time employee, the 41-year-old Washington, D.C., native is helping develop the Culpeper experience.

“We want to increase opportunities and options and make it more attractive to visitors,” said Goldstein.

One of Goldstein’s first major projects is the design, creation and funding for the E.B. Wood Community Park in the 100 block of North Main Street. The now-vacant lot once was home to a Masonic Lodge, restaurant and other businesses. The building believed to have been constructed before the Civil War was severely damaged in the August 2011 earthquake and ruled an unsafe building due to structural damage. It was demolished and the stucco walls to adjoining buildings replastered.

However, the past few years Mother Nature has taken a toll on the adjacent buildings where the stucco has fallen off and holes developed, exposing old crumbling brick. In addition, broken bottles and debris has collected onsite.

To create the pocket park, with four tables, brick walkways, benches, chairs and planters will cost between $40,000 and $50,000 to complete. CRI signed a three-year lease with the property’s owner at no cost to CRI.

“They are making it pro bono to us,” said Goldstein.

The park will enhance the value with the improvements. Goldstein said the walls to the adjoining buildings will be patched and prefabricated painted corrugated metal walls constructed.

“We are literally going to cover (the exposed walls) up,” said Goldstein

The gated park will also be closed at night.

“We are working with the police department on security measures,” said Goldstein.

A storage area will be set aside at the rear of the park on an existing concrete slab to store trash carts for the A.P. Hill Building next door.

Goldstein said the prefabricated walls, planters and other amenities can be easily removed if the property owners have another use for the property after three years.

Goldstein has already received a $12,500 grant for the park but more is needed. Fundraising is Goldstein’s forte. He served as fundraiser for 10 years at the Smithsonian Institute. But as a fundraiser for the Smithsonian he never really got to see tangible results after he raised the money and handed it over to the curator.

“With a job like this, my fingerprints are going to be all over the park,” said Goldstein.

He hopes that local businesses and individuals will donate cash or in-kind services to make the pocket park a reality,

He also served as a fundraiser for a private company responsible for the new museum at the Gettysburg Battlefield.

Goldstein, who was raised in Prince George’s County, Maryland and lived in Spotsylvania County since 1985, found the CRI executive position as an opportunity he couldn’t resist.

The married father of two children, a boy and girl, is fascinated with history, both Civil War and American Revolution.

“It played a big part,” said Goldstein, a High Point University U.S. history graduate, with an interest in archeology, about applying.

He also appreciated that CRI was a small and established Main Street Program, plus Culpeper was close to his home. The historical and preservation aspect in downtown was appealing as well.

“It intrigued me because it was a local job and because it fit in with what I was interested in,” said the former curator and development director at the Fredericksburg Area Museum that closed in April 2015 due to funding problems.

Goldstein had been on the job for only a few days last year when he attended a manager’s meeting in South Boston. When he told those attending that he was from Culpeper, Goldstein said he was shocked at the rave reviews the town’s revitalization efforts received. CRI has been operating since 1987.

“Culpeper is one of the oldest Main Street Programs,” said Goldstein. “We are held up as a model. I was very proud to hear that.”

The state is invested in Culpeper’s program and its success is being looked at on the national level, said Goldstein.

The new CRI director also cherishes the great working relationship with town government, which allocates $150,000 annually to help fund CRI. He said the town staff has been phenomenal to work with on various proposed projects, including the pocket park.

He noted from his manager’s meeting that two close by localities lack that kind of relationship.

Besides the park project, Goldstein would like to see upstairs vacant space above some of the downtown shops turned into apartments. He also would like to see the now vacant building once the home to Culpeper Human Services and Foti’s Restaurant near the Depot house retail shops on the ground floor and apartments above. Expansion of the revitalization footprint from Davis Street – although Goldstein notes that is not done – would bring more opportunities for both businesses and visitors alike.

South East Street holds potential for expansion with the addition of a brewery and office space, along with several shops from U.S. Avenue toward Davis Street. He envisions new sidewalks and historic lighting for the area, which would direct foot traffic to that area of downtown.

“We see that area as light industrial,” said Goldstein and prime for green businesses.

Goldstein has rolled up his sleeves and is ready for the many tasks ahead.

Wally Bunker is a freelance contributor with the Culpeper Times. You may reach him at wallybunker@outlook.com