Downtown and HDR are at an important crossroads. After years of building partnerships, supporting key projects, coordinating efforts among business owners, and providing resources to help downtown stabilize and grow –- we have experienced many benefits of the revitalization effort. Jobs have been created; commercial property values have increased; tax revenues have grown; historic buildings look vibrant; businesses are prospering; and people are moving here.
Investment in downtown has reached an unprecedented level which shows solid belief in and commitment to our city center. In fact, the private sector is so heavily invested, some may believe the renaissance is done.
But, there is still much work to do. In our history, there were false starts and failed attempts at revitalization. It is likely that the downtown would not have made such strides without the ongoing, concentrated focus of a revitalization program. That dedicated focus guarantees that the best is yet to come for the downtown.
As HDR looks forward, it sees new opportunities and important initiatives ahead:
- With the coming of the Hotel Madison & Shenandoah Valley Conference Center and a downtown park, coordinated efforts are critical to connect those visitors to businesses and amenities throughout the downtown.
- Retail in America is changing and requires a new data-driven approach to help businesses identify and attract new customers, strategically expand into new products and services, and sharpen their competitive edge. In late 2017, we worked with the city and county to commission a regional market analysis that will give us the data we need to adopt a coordinated economic development strategy and chart a practical path forward. Download the full market study.
- National trends show that customers are seeking more than transactions from businesses. They want to visit unique destinations, make connections with their community, and have distinct experiences. Shifts in business recruitment and business assistance programs are necessary for small downtown businesses to succeed.
- The incredible diversity of Harrisonburg isn’t widely reflected in the faces and places of downtown. We need to explore if all community members feel welcome? Do products and services appeal to a wide customer base? Are there entrepreneurs from diverse communities who want to open businesses downtown? How can our organization become more diverse?
Our fundamental mission to support and enhance the downtown isn’t going to change. We just need to be more strategic, more inclusive, and more focused on economic development. Downtown isn’t done. There is still more work to do. We have many new opportunities ahead & we are going to figure out what’s next together.