From the Daily News-Record
In Search Of Ideas
Harrisonburg Held Up As Development Model
Posted 2009-01-28 By Jeff Mellott
HARRISONBURG – Martinsville City Councilman Danny Turner sported his red Martinsville “Bulldogs” High School baseball cap on Monday while touring Harrisonburg’s downtown.
Harrisonburg has what Martinsville needs, said Turner, who was part of a delegation looking for ways to revitalize their city’s downtown.
Harrisonburg city officials guided the group and discussed the collaborative relationship that has made downtown revitalization possible here.
A Virginia Main Street official in Richmond had recommended both Harrisonburg and Staunton to Martinsville officials as successful programs to visit. The delegation spent time in both cities Monday.
A big difference between Harrisonburg and Martinsville is the role college students play within the community, said real estate broker James Coleman, a member of Martinsville’s delegation.
Martinsville officials are working with the state to establish a college to be located in the southwestern Virginia city, but that is years away, Coleman said.
Re-establishing a manufacturing base would be key to any revitalization efforts for his community, he said.
Martinsville’s economy has suffered as it has lost manufacturing jobs to overseas factories, while another mainstay, the tobacco industry, has been on the wane, Turner said.
Turner likes the variety he found in Harrisonburg’s downtown.
“We definitely need more restaurants in Martinsville and more nightlife to give the young people something to come back to and enjoy themselves,” he said.
Coleman agreed with Turner that Harrisonburg has the type of downtown Martinsville wants.
“You’ve got beautiful streets,” he said. “You’ve got great leadership. You have everything that we aspire to have.”
Tribute To City
It has been less than four years since Harrisonburg officials had gone on a similar trek, visiting Lynchburg in 2005 to seek ideas on how to bolster their year-old Virginia Main Street program for downtown.
This week’s visit by Martinsville representatives was a tribute to the Harrisonburg community, said Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance Executive Director Eddie Bumbaugh. Downtown Renaissance is the nonprofit group that has led the city’s revitalization programs.
Bumbaugh said this is just another indication of how far Harrisonburg has come since the city became a designated Main Street community in 2004.
“To have another community visit this soon after that, tells me that downtown revitalization has occurred at a much more rapid pace than I would have imagined,” Bumbaugh said.