Momentum growing in FXBG Canal Quarter District
What we now know as Princess Anne Street in Fredericksburg used to be a section of Route One, which could be driven from Maine to Key West. The zoning for Princess Anne Street was initially meant for businesses such as car dealerships and gas stations (Haley’s Honey Meadery, for example, is located in what was once a gas station at 1600 Princess Anne). Now that Route One no longer covers Princess Anne Street, the Canal Quarter District has emerged as its own destination on the outskirts of downtown Fredericksburg.
Simon Watts, a lifelong resident of Fredericksburg, always felt that the Canal Quarter District had been neglected for most of his life. Watts is the MakerLab Specialist for IdeaSpace, a branch of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library at 1616 Princess Anne that offers Maker technology to residents of Fredericksburg, including 3D printers, coding equipment, and an audio/visual booth with a greenscreen. IdeaSpace opened to the public in December 2020, right in the middle of the Canal Quarter District. Since then, Watts has witnessed tremendous growth in the District.
“It’s great to see it come to life,” he said.
In the past 3-4 years, the Canal Quarter District has seen the opening of many local businesses, including IdeaSpace, Fly Fitness Inspiration Studio, Haley’s Honey Meadery, and Ike & Rita’s, and all indications are that the Canal Quarter District will only grow and flourish in the years to come.
The City of Fredericksburg recently initiated a rezoning of the area to a classification called Creative Maker District, which encourages the renovations of older buildings and allows more categories of businesses to open — including those involved in light manufacturing and other “maker” activities.
According to Matt Haney, the owner of a number of buildings in the Canal Quarter District (including 2619 Princess Street, which is currently under renovation), these renovations will draw in both businesses and foot traffic. Haney believes that the previous zoning did not fit the Canal Quarter District. With this rezoning, businesses that were excluded by code now have the chance to open, and help return Canal to what it once was as a district.
Haney is the owner of the building that houses Canal Quarter Arts, an art studio that is owned and operated by Jeannie Ellis. Since Canal Quarter Arts opened in December 2019, Ellis has noticed that the District has begun to thrive. She noted that before the renovations, neighboring buildings were falling apart; many buildings, according to her, are still in bad shape. Ellis believes that the renovations of these buildings, and the openings of more businesses, will allow both the Canal Quarter District, and downtown Fredericksburg, to thrive.
“We’re kind of the gateway to downtown,” Ellis said, noting that the expansion of the Canal Quarter District has extended the business capacity of downtown Fredericksburg.
According to both Haney and Ellis, the business that paved the way for the Canal Quarter District’s recent expansion was Red Dragon Brewery. Red Dragon was founded by Dan Baker and Tom Evans and opened in August 2016. Baker said he draws inspiration from Scott’s Addition, a neighborhood in Richmond that is home to 18 local breweries, cideries, meaderies and distilleries. “There’s a synergy there that they all sort of complement one another,” Baker said. He believes that one of the primary goals with the Canal Quarter District should be for businesses to emulate Scott’s Addition, and he is optimistic that, through partnerships with other businesses, that form of synergy can exist among the district.
One of the businesses that Baker has looked to partner with is Sprelly, a gourmet peanut butter store that is next to Red Dragon. One of the concepts for a promotional partnership would be a Steal-the-Glass night, where guests can buy a pint glass from Red Dragon with the Sprelly logo, bring the glass to Sprelly, and earn a prize. Adrian Silversmith, owner of Sprelly, agrees with Baker that these partnerships should be encouraged and executed. “We are collectively excited,” Silversmith said, as he wants more unique businesses to open in the Canal Quarter District. Silversmith believes that the rezoning and expansion will provide the City of Fredericksburg with great revenue, as well as a home for businesses that will serve the community well. He also hopes that there will be collaborative thought amongst the businesses of the Canal Quarter District as to what types of businesses will open, in order to minimize competition and maximize cooperation.
The Canal Quarter District is consistently evolving, and we look forward to chronicling its bright future. Follow Fredericksburg Economic Development & Tourism on Facebook to stay up to date on the different businesses opening in the district.