Small Group Discussion Notes from Creating Our Town

Compiled by the Campus Community Civic Collaborative


Redevelopment of the Northeast Neighborhood

Notetaker: Leanna Smithberger


  • Free Wi-Fi in the northeast neighborhood; possibly run out of the Simms Center
  • Better signage around neighborhood to encourage visitors
  • Beautiful community — like how it used to be
    • Spotlight program – local government can step in to seize property that isn’t maintained at a certain standard
      • Takes too long, not effective enough
      • Taking care of vacant lots will improve the neighborhood, but need a more efficient way to solve this problem
      • Question of priorities? Is this a low priority for the city?
    • Beautify the water tower
    • Fix sidewalks
    • Community garden
      • Landscapers to help accomplish this?
    • De-paving the Rose’s parking lot
      • Potential sight for a community pool/park
  • Historical site at Newtown
    • Want joint help from JMU, EMU, and Harrisonburg
    • Historical marker at Newtown Cemetery (currently in progress)
    • Have a “history walk” to share the history of Newtown — tie in with tourism
  • Public apology from the City of Harrisonburg
  • Need to bring together stakeholders (Churches, Community members, Businesses, etc.)
    • Draw upon existing resources
    • Use redevelopment as job creation — businesses need to hire from the community
    • Getting info out to build excitement
    • Need to “renew people’s minds” — no existing program to help rehabilitate prisoners
      • Job creation as a component
      • Partnership with AKA
      • Poetry collective in/out of prison to help heal


  • Northeast Neighborhood Association will pursue getting a public apology from Harrisonburg
  • Partnership between NENA and AKA for rehabilitation program
    • Potentially including the poetry project
  • Continue to pursue historical marker at Newtown Cemetery
  • Find out who organizes the “town walk”
  • Promote historic work in Newtown — get Ms. Tolliver’s books in tourism office, etc.


Issues of Transportation and Parking

Notetaker:  Alison Steed

  • One group member parks at Municipal lot and walks; Mason street is a nicer walk than alternative routes
  • What is the justification for restricting parking in neighborhoods near campus to people in the area? → it seems there are many open spaces on the street going unused
    • They can’t park in front of their own home if too many others park there
    • There is a tension evident between Harrisonburg community and JMU during this discussion
  • The idea of a traffic “diet” → restricting turning lanes to help with traffic problems
  • Chicago precedent: roundabout on Port Republic
    • Discussion of stop signs vs. stop lights
    • A roundabout costs less to put in than a 4-way intersection
    • What about trucks?
      • It is important to make the radius big enough, but a roundabout would work for trucks too
    • Similar precedent in Italy: roundabouts everywhere and work well
    • In the Netherlands, bike lanes are included as well
    • Roundabouts present a cultural issue
      • Must give people time to get used to them
  • The need to incorporate trucks in any issues of transportations
    • Need to differentiate between thru-traffic and people that actually need to stop; causes congestion
  • Overlay districts vs. full zoning ordinance
    • Is it the same process? Full zoning takes longer but much of the same steps are taken
  • Parking exists but it is always reserved for something else, yet spaces are empty
    • Maybe we can have specific times that a lot is reserved for a given business
      • Example: coffee shop or church in the morning, something else at night
    • Change ratio of parking spaces
      • Difficult details involved; businesses change (come and go) and property owners might not want this
  • Burden of proof on new parking added
    • Maybe the city should have to justify that they need the spaces before they get them
    • Restrict to the city’s project use, not necessarily for businesses
  • The idea of a parking deck downtown (a private deck)
  • Other solutions that aren’t driving cars are important as well
    • Encourage other types of transportation
      • Better lighting will help
    • More bike lanes


Political Processes – Community Involvement

Notetaker: Tim Ruebke

  • First Round – Reason for sitting at this group?
    • Drawn in by failure of trust in the City building project
    • How to be more engaged in community
    • Don’t live where there are a lot of garage doors and no sidewalks
    • How do we get those involved that do not normally get involved?
    • People are affected, but they may not know how to get involved or too busy (work and children) to get involved
  • Yes, can say we want to hear from people, but they don’t believe anyone wants to hear
    • …more than just hear from you
  • Impressed with good people that are elected.
    • The decision-making process though isn’t always transparent.
    • More needs to be done.
      • What are the active steps?
      • What can we do?
  • How we hold public discussions?
    • Usually just ONE event.
    • What about multiple sites?
    • …and providing CHILDCARE?
  • The choice of most cost effective may leave too many people out….
    • May actually cost more NOT to have people engaged…
    • Need to get diverse/different people involved from the beginning.
  • Process is extremely important.
    • The opportunity and ability to express, to be heard/listened to… helps people let go of their tightly held ideas and consider others
    • At the latest meeting, several people came to the microphone and said, “Well, I know you’re not going to listen to me…” a lot of work to overcome that history and sentimentality
  • City Council needs to meet one time in one of the churches in the Northeast Community
    • …snow removal in this community is slow
    • …important to find the right place for people to feel comfortable attending.
  • Problems at the school with reaching people who need the information.
  • At a recent event, Russian translation equipment and interpreter were provided; however, no native Russian speakers attended as wrong date was chosen as a result of limited communication and lack of understanding for that culture .
  • We underestimate the effort it takes to get people involved. NEED TO VALUE the expertise and mechanisms for engagement. How?
  • Thesis on how to have effective communication – Rick Castaneda
  • How do we get more diversity when green, open, and public space is so culturally important for most immigrant populations… but they don’t come now?
  • Citizenship classes: 15-16 hour days of work with children creating a million meetings; so how?
    • Kids come from somewhere, working with them in a vacuum leaves parents out
    • Best way is to work with parents- Engage parents
    • Invite to come with us to the market
    • There is an information and relationship gap…we have to take individual responsibility to take someone to the market, etc.
  • School based opportunity – Getting input into new school is the next opportunity
  • Go into the communities, how can we involve you more?
    • What can we do to help you?
    • Take standard meetings to the parents
    • Text parents
    • Alternate meeting times (more than one date for the same materials)
  • Prioritization of values…Language
  • YES, New middle school is a real opportunity
    • Some kind of process by January – useful to have as many people involved as possible
    • Multi-tiered approach, not a one-time deal
    • Rick, please document what you do/did and share with city
    • Show the value of engaging people
    • Kisner is approachable
  • Two hour meeting to decide on 1 of 6 possibilities announced on website
    • 5:30-7:30 sign in
    •   Give comments that day
  • How to talk and listen with people with whom we disagree
    • Rick Castaneda. Help people learn how to listen
    • Also, the focus on “it’s heritage not hate”
    • Effective communication across groups


Harrisonburg & JMU Places and Spaces

Notetaker: Lauren Holder

  • Harrisonburg & Students → some students have never been downtown
  • Alger → great job at trying to integrate school with downtown
  • How do we “force” people to go off campus → making it valuable from the students’ perspective
  • JMU reinforces bubble, using Aramark and campus spaces at JMU vs. Downtown
  • Students in apartments, need invitation
  • Buses don’t circle downtown
    • Buses don’t go to the “true” downtown
  • Atmosphere downtown is “21+,” not as welcoming for underage students
  • Advertising downtown art walks → First Friday of every month
  • Gay community at JMU & Minority groups worry about safety downtown
  • Sexual assault on campus is a hot topic
  • International students have a big fear of violence, because “guns widely available”
  • Aspen Heights & Springfest increased negative relations between JMU and community
  • There are kids museums and places to drink, but not much in between
  • Priorities → We (grad students and upperclassmen) want to live w/ people that have the same priorities, does that alienate the younger students?
  • In the 1960s: VA theater, lines of JMU students, they’d do their shopping downtown
  • Ice House- JMU Downtown presence in court square → backlash from the community. The purpose was to have a positive PR presence downtown
  • Farmer’s Market comes to JMU- can we branch out in the same way?
  • Things are expensive downtown, why don’t we have discounts for JMU students in local businesses, they need incentive
  • Nonprofit gallery space? Happens in other cities and could pull in the art students. Lots of art majors and minors-pretty large groups


Space & Forum Downtown

Notetaker: Kaitlyn Shields


Historical preservation- structure no longer being used, replace, use missing physical history

  • Action: Get Nationally Recognized and Register for Buildings

Value: Public Rights and Private Rights

Places of Good Use

  • Farmers’ Market
  • Massanutten Library
    • Serving every age group ethnic, social group
    • Outreach services, children, book by mail
    • Entertainment and services
    • (Need to recognize this area in the community)

Use library as a connector between JMU and the Harrisonburg Community. Massanutten Library already does this!

Parking Spots by Roses

  • Turn into a diversity area for events

JMU becoming public space

  • (Make ) Campus a destination for community
  • Action: Need more flow between community and JMU

Values: Culture & Ethnic

  • Action: Need places for the sharing of culture
    • Example: cuisine, Rocktown Bites, El Sol
  • Problem: Rent is too expensive for Downtown for minorities
  • Action: Using citizen’s business who are not using and venues
    • Parks & Rec
    • Clementines
    • Keezel Building
    • Lucy Sims
    • Outside Massanutten Library
  • Action: Day of the Dead, Community Alter to put pictures of people who have passed away to honor them and honor a culture

Public Space

  • Court Square Theatre
  • Jess’s Quick Lunch

Step 2:

  • Action: Who Owns Rose’s Parking Lots
    • Contact HDR
  • Space: More availability for places later at night
    • Court Square theatre used for more non-profits
  • Bringing Live concerts to Court Square electronically
  • Action: Runs on campus from JMU to Downtown
    • Connecting with JMU organizations and Downtown for a 5K
  • Action: Business promoting
  • A place students could intersect with Harrisonburg community
    • Massanutten Library volunteer, history projects on community buildings and sites
  • Problem: Need more walking
  • Action: Need to promote International Festival more!
    • City fundraising for Part time director
  • Action: FLASH mob for International Festival

Who to reach

  • Upper level JMU officials like JMU commerce
  • President of the Board: Andy
  • City JMU Council: Charlie King
    • Example: Orientation of JMU students, 4th July 5K

Broaden Public Policy

  • Addresses the social media, stream online

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