Streetscape Plan Aims to Improve Downtown

By: Litsa Pappas Email
By: Litsa Pappas Email

HARRISONBURG -- Plans are in the works to improve downtown. The idea is to have a vision for Harrisonburg which could make downtown more vibrant through improvements on streets and infrastructure. It's called the “Downtown Streetscape Plan.”

Improved sidewalks are just a part of the bigger streetscape project which could bring more business to Harrisonburg. They may just be sidewalks, but to the many people who walk around downtown, it makes all the difference.

Jack Marmorstein is one of those people and he said there would be many benefits to completing the streetscape project.

"Just a big fan of bike and pedestrian infrastructure. You know it saves energy, good for the environment, good for growth, good for employers, good for business," he said.

The plan has been developing in the city for years. Richard Baugh, a city council member, said the streetscape project start in 2008, but there were some difficulties.

"Part of the delay was both the recession and the challenge to come up with funds, plus with the other piece that always happens, you went for the lower hanging fruit. It was easier to do the side of the street that we did than the side that remains," said Baugh.

One side of Main Street shows the improvements, with the brick sidewalks. Just across the street though, the sidewalks were never completed and for years, the two sides haven't matched.

Baugh said he'd like to see city leaders finally finish the project.

"Something that does enhance the visual image of the downtown area, and get us past the part where we've been now for five years. One side of the street has it and one side of the street doesn't."

It's not just to make downtown look better. Marmorstein said starting with the sidewalks will in turn bring more business to the area and that's what can boost the local economy.

"And if it looks dumpy, no one's going to think there are nice restaurants or nice shops on it, so it really has to look nice to attract the business and the employment downtown," said Marmorstein.

Baugh said he's excited to hear the new streetscape plan from the public works department Tuesday night at the city council meeting. He said public works may need to update utilities underground, so if it digs up the sidewalks anyway, it will be a great time to improve them.

Harrisonburg City Council meets Tuesday at 7 p.m. to discuss this streetscape project.


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