Urban Exchange Project Impact

By: Kelly Creswell Email
By: Kelly Creswell Email

Revitalizing downtown Harrisonburg has been the talk of the city for years, with the hope of more business and more places to live right in the heart of the city.

The new Urban Exchange project is making that talk become a reality. It will be on on more than two acres of land in downtown Harrisonburg. The project will add nearly 200 new condos and apartments to the area.

It will be built on Market and Mason streets, including the former sites of Easterns Auto Mall, Southern Electric Company, and a former car workshop. Project developer Barry Kelley says it's geared to young professionals.

He says, "Over the years, of the projects we've done in the past, we've had a lot of demand for this type of residential unit downtown. And so hopefully we'll be able to meet that demand."

Demolition on the existing structures will start this month.

"If there's a hump that downtown Harrisonburg has to go over to become fully viable, I believe that this project will put it over that hump," says Charles Chenault, a city council member.

With two floors for parking and retail stores and four levels reserved for condos and apartments, Chenault says this will give the downtown area something it has never had before.

"That's a 24-7 audience presence within the downtown that's going to shop downtown, that's going to eat downtown, that's going to frequent downtown with all the venues that they have," says Chenault.

Chenault says he foresees a huge upswing in the current businesses downtown as well as new business, such as drug stores and laundromats, coming downtown that will serve larger populations.

With no needed rezonings from the city, the project is slated to break ground later this month. Despite the modern designs, Downtown Renaissance Director Eddie Bumbaugh says Harrisonburg has a little bit more flexibility than other Valley cities when it comes to new downtown projects.

"We are very committed to preserving and restoring existing historic buildings," says Bumbaugh. "However, there are vacant spaces. There are buildings that are not historic and not particularly attractive that are appropriate to have new construction."

The developer is also is taking advantage of the new economic development incentives the Harrisonburg City Council recently passed. With this large an investment, including parts slated for retail, the developer has more time to pay off the taxes, whereas a new commercial business building in another part of the city would not have as much time.

This project is expected to be finished by June 2009.

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