Friday, March 6, 2009

3 Lessons from Charlottesville

I had the great pleasure of visiting Charlottesville VA last Friday to talk with city officials about how they've created such a vital downtown. We met in City Space where Gary O'Connell, Charlottesville City Planner, gave representatives from Winchester a solid overview about creating a thriving city center. Accomplishing this mission wasn't easy and it didn't happen overnight. In fact it took approximately 25 years and a great deal of energy, commitment and vision.

After being given the opportunity to talk with other Charlottesville officials and merchants, I discovered three primary reasons, besides their united vision and disciplined planning, that they have been so successful:

1. Embrace of eclecticism and uniqueness -- They play up the things that make downtown Charlottesville a distinct place, don't try to "outmall the malls," and appreciate and encourage the quirkiness of their shops and businesses.

2. Partnership and collaboration -- They partner with all stakeholders and are always looking for the win/win. The University of Virginia, for example, is seen as a crucial partner in building and maintaining the downtown and student internships are used to create a strong connection between the University and downtown Charlottesville.

3. Cooperation and pleasant coercion -- City representatives see their primary job as creating an atmosphere for success and are "always selling" the benefits of downtown as well as the benefits of participating in events. One-on-one, face-to-face communication between stakeholders is ongoing so frustrations are aired, suggestions heard, and connection maintained.

Creating places like Charlottesville is a long-term endeavor that takes the concerted effort of numerous impassioned stakeholders. But the results of their united, collaborative efforts is a downtown that pulses with life and makes Albemarle County one of the best places to live in the United States of America.
Photo courtesy of bobindrums

1 comment:

Businessplayce said...

Lessons for many towns here! Fredericksburg among them! Nice article!