Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance and the City of Harrisonburg are teaming up to lead Harrisonburg’s first downtown master planning process. This process will be conducted by an outside planning firm and will help us engage community members and conduct research that will lead to the development of a “road map” for how we plan our downtown’s future. This process is intended to be highly inclusive and we will seek engagement from people who live and work throughout the city from students to families and to residents who reflect our community’s great diversity. The road map will outline recommendations for how and where we plan new construction, how we address historic preservation, how we grow our local economy and our small business niche, how we improve our public space, how we incorporate a park downtown, and much more!

HDR is seeking an intern to assist this effort with research and community engagement. This planning effort is a yearlong process, and this internship will begin in January and run through April. Depending on the student’s interest and availability, it could extend into the summer and fall semester. Hours may fluctuate depending on the project assigned but should range between 10-20 hours a week.

Due to COVID-19, HDR’s physical office is closed and staff are working remotely. We anticipate remote work for part of next year and will need the intern to work remotely as well. Therefore, the intern must be self directed and willing to work independently. Every task assigned to the intern will be done with health and safety considerations in mind. We will follow all health and safety measures and expect the intern to do so as well.

The planning firm, HDR, and city staff are kicking off the process in December so additional internship tasks may be identified at a later time. Core responsibilities of the intern include:


  • Field Work
    • Assist the planning team with on-the-ground research that may include some of the following:
      • Compiling and reformatting existing business and event data from HDR’s website.
      • Collect business name, business type, hours of operation so it can be added to GIS maps.
      • Collect event and programming information from past years and prepare documents that track event/programming host, target audience, regional or local draw, event size, etc.
      • Conducting public realm assessments, which involves walking through downtown to assess sidewalk conditions (where are sidewalks missing, too narrow, broken, etc) and map locations of street trees, missing street trees, pedestrian lighting, vacant buildings, benches and other amenities
  • Community Engagement
    • Survey or interview business owners on various topic areas
    • Survey or interview pedestrians
    • Assist with developing and staffing “pop up” public engagement activities or events
    • Help HDR identify communication channels and connections for inviting student and faculty participation in the process
    • Help HDR recruit volunteers to help staff public engagement activities or events
  • Photography
    • Take photos of specific places, activities, events, or conditions as needed
  • Meeting Participation
    • Depending on schedule and workload, attend HDR staff meetings, HDR board meetings, City Council meetings, and downtown master planning steering committee meetings
  • Data Entry
    • Assist the team in compiling survey data
  • Research
    • Research policy and best practices and write up case studies. This may involve making and interviewing contacts in other cities for background information and details.
    • Translate materials and information into other languages (if fluent in languages other than English)

Desired skills & qualities:

  • Interest and knowledge of Downtown Harrisonburg
  • Independent worker who is able to work efficiently with minimal supervision
  • Deadline oriented and able to efficiently complete tasks
  • Research skills
  • Strong writing skills
  • Outgoing and comfortable speaking with community members
  • Data entry
  • Comfort with working outside in colder weather
  • Reliable and committed to completing tasks and internship job responsibilities
  • Fluent in multiple languages

Please send a cover letter stating qualifications and interest to Andrea Dono, executive director of HDR, via email at andrea.dono@harrisonburgva.gov.