Several university departments are leasing 30,000 square feet of office space on four floors in the facility, which is a short stroll to the city’s flourishing downtown district and a half-mile jog from campus.
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe acknowledged the value of the initiative when he toured the facility and spoke at a grand opening celebration on June 4 along with JMU President Jon Alger and Vice Provost for Outreach and Engagement Jim Shaeffer.
“I thank you for what you’re doing and what you’re going to do in this facility,” said Governor McAuliffe. “For the great work JMU is doing to grow and diversify the economy, bring in new jobs, and build the small businesses. This is how you do it, by bringing people together.”
The idea is to create a hub for engagement with the local community as a cornerstone for JMU’s vision to become the national model of the engaged university.
“By locating this space squarely in the community,” said President Alger, “we intend to send a message to the entire community: ‘you are welcome here. We are open for business, we are open for collaboration, and we are open to new ideas.’”
Consolidating departments into a central location will create more opportunities for stimulating business, workforce, technology and community development. The community gains easier access to JMU’s resources and brainpower, and JMU benefits from community expertise and perspective.
Ice House partners include Outreach and Engagement, the Office of Technology Transfer, Communications and Marketing, Community Relations, Small Business Development Center, Center for Economic Education, Center for Entrepreneurship, Institute for Certified Professional Managers, Shenandoah Valley Partnership, Shenandoah Valley Technology Council and the Lifelong Learning Institute.
The Cassco Ice House complex was built in 1934 on two acres at the intersection of South Liberty and West Bruce streets. For decades it was a linchpin of the local economy, supporting the distribution of agricultural products, but has been frozen in time since it discontinued operations in 2004, a casualty of dramatic changes in transportation and refrigeration.
JMU’s presence at the Ice House anchors Phase One of the initiative, which also includes a 104-space parking lot diagonally across Bruce Street. Phase Two includes plans for commercial, community, and residential space.
The principal developers for the Ice House are both JMU alumni, Barry Kelley ’83 and Andrew Forward ‘86. They envision adding two restaurants, a craft brewery, jewelry museum and workshop, yoga studio and 34 loft apartments.
The impetus for the project was a $500,000 grant to the city of Harrisonburg from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development’s Industrial Revitalization Fund.
When fully realized, the Ice House will encompass more than 100,000 square feet and become another cool spot in the hotbed of downtown revitalization in Harrisonburg, which recently earned a Great American Main Street Award and was named the fastest-growing city in Virginia.
Written by Rob Tucker, Community Affairs Manager at James Madison University and member of the Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance Board of Directors.