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Road Town and You!

City Manager’s Newsletter – 13th January, 2009 – Road Town and You!

 Have a Happy, Safe, and Healthy New Year!
It’s a Fact!
Bacteria in salt ponds give them their distinct odour and colour.  The Virgin Islands’ salt ponds are created at the bottom of steep watersheds and help to provide storm protection and flood mitigation.  They are an important habitat and food resource for migratory birds.  (Source: Marine Awareness: A BVI Guide, 2008)
The following is an excerpt from the book Smart Communities: How Citizens and Local Leaders Can Use Strategic Thinking to Build a Brighter Future by Suzanne W. Morse, the executive director of the Pew Partnership for Civic Change.  It describes how one city brought its downtown back from the edge.
“In the eighties, downtown Charlottesville, Virginia, looked bleak.  Anchor stores were moving to the suburban mall, and small businesses were closing their doors.  In 1984, Charlottesville embarked on a downtown revitalization effort that can provide lessons for all communities interested in renewing the health and viability of their downtowns.  Located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in central Virginia, Charlottesville, (pop. 45,000) is home to a number of historical sites that attract thousands of visitors every year, including Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello…James Madison’s Montpelier, and the grounds of the University of Virginia.  These attractions notwithstanding, in the late 1960s Charlottesville found itself facing many of the same problems confronting cities throughout the country: rapid suburbanization and the accompanying erosion of the central commercial and residential urban core.  Retail sales in the central business district and real property assessments were down, and one consultant plan recommended that 65 percent of downtown buildings be rehabilitated or replaced because they were deteriorated or obsolete.  Early attempts at urban renewal and rounds of planning had come to naught.

The city refused to abandon its hope for downtown renewal….  City government pored over reports from national consultants and began to implement a series of policies and concepts suggested by the consultants.  The reports called on Charlottesville to create a downtown that would be clean, safe, and auto free, in order to encourage people to use the space for work, leisure, and entertainment.  Put simply the common goal was to make downtown Charlottesville a place where people would want to be.  

Buildings that had been vacated were not abandoned but were preserved and transformed for alternative uses, including an elementary school that became an art center, a post office that was transformed into a library, and an auto repair shop that eventually became the headquarters of a local television station.  After being blocked twice in the late 1970s, efforts to create a historic preservation district along the pedestrian mall were successful in 1984.

A design scheme featuring a tight grid, small blocks, and narrow streets created a pedestrian-friendly environment and a fifteen-block auto-free zone – quite significant for a city of Charlottesville’s size.  A task force comprised of city officials and downtown businesspeople gave design guidelines to downtown businesses that limited colours and materials to those thought compatible with the character of the buildings, helping to create an attractive and aesthetically pleasing setting.  Not least important, the community itself valued preservation as a desirable approach to design and renewal.

Property values in downtown Charlottesville rose 10 percent in 1999, compared with 6 percent citywide, and commercial vacancy rates on the pedestrian mall were as low as 1 percent in July 2001….There are now more people downtown after 5 p.m. than during the day.  
Downtown Charlottesville remains a success today because the city, private investors, and the public made a commitment to preserving the area’s historical assets…..  Having set realistic goals and implemented plans to achieve them, community members were able to watch the revitalization of downtown Charlottesville unfold over many years – and they were rewarded for their patience.”
Did you know…
That you are liable for a $100.00 fine if you make a “U” turn on a public roadway where it is not permitted?  Like on the Walter Francis Highway for instance!
Prevent dengue fever!
Dengue is spread by the bite of the Aedes aegypti mosquito.  Dengue often causes a severe headache, fever, rash, and muscle and joint pains.  Nausea, pain and vomiting may also be present.  To reduce your chances of contracting this illness check your surroundings and get rid of potential mosquito breeding grounds such as containers with standing water, use mosquito repellent containing DEET, clean clogged rain gutters, and cover all windows and doors with screens.  Contact the Environmental Health Department (494-3701, ext. 5110) if you are concerned about potential breeding areas in your community.

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