Babysteps toward moving forward?

Column by Chris Graham

It’s another report bound to collect dust on a forgotten bookshelf. That’s the cynic’s view of the latest and greatest Downtown Vision Report aiming at guiding whatever it is that Waynesboro is going to do to breathe life into its downtown.

The people leading this particular Save Downtown effort will tell you that the reason that we’re not going to fail this time is because this time we’re engaging the community to share its vision. If you ask me, the reason that we have a shot this time, and that’s as far as I’ll go right now, that we have a shot, is, OK, sure, we’re engaging the people, but more to the point, we’ve got a deadline.

“It’s a pretty ambitious timetable,” said Tom Carlsson, the director of development at the Waynesboro Redevelopment and Housing Authority, which is leading a joint effort with the city and Waynesboro Downtown Development Inc. toward filing for Community Development Block Grant funds from the state that could jumpstart design and infrastructure work that could itself jumpstart a larger-scale downtown-redevelopment project.

“It’s probably more realistic to say that it’s going to take two years. But we’re just going to have to put our nose to the grindstone and do it in an accelerated fashion. If they’re giving us signals that they expect a construction application in spring 2011, and they’ll consider it if we move through this process efficiently, then we ought to do exactly that,” Carlsson said in an interview for the Feb. 22 installment of The AFP Show podcast.

(Download the PDF of the Downtown Vision Report.)

The signals are coming from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, which oversees the CDBG program. I want to say thanks to the folks at the DHCD. Years of experience with deadlines have taught me that deadlines are a good thing. You may work yourself dead, but they do tend to get you moving toward achievement in a way that dawdling for going on 50 years as we’ve been doing in Waynesboro about our downtown just can’t do.

Back to the Downtown Vision Report. It doesn’t excite me all that much in and of itself. A lot of rehash of local socioeconomic data and that kind of thing. And I’m not much on reports on what was said during a brainstorming session. It can be like trying to make sense of somebody’s Tweets.

But I do like what it all represents. Maybe we’re starting to move forward here in Waynesboro.

It can happen.

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