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Waynesboro citizens, leaders envision downtown’s future

  
Story by Chris Graham
freepress2@ntelos.net

Plenty of enthusiasm, with a couple of doses of reality. That was the downtown visioning session held in a packed City Council chambers in Waynesboro Thursday night.

The packed chambers were a sign of the enthusiasm. Sixty-seven people took part in the two-hour-plus session, which had participants breaking up into small groups to discuss their ideas for the near-term and long-term future of Downtown Waynesboro and then sharing them with the larger group in a macro-level discussion.

The goals and visions shared were themselves the signs of the enthusiasm. One hundred percent occupancy in downtown storefronts, “we want to see people,” a large commercial retail center “like an LL Bean’s,” different visions of a downtown-based higher-education center, a riverwalk with river cafes, positive leadership.

The reality checks started in one exchange during a discussion about the steps that would need to be taken to get downtown moving in that general direction. Session facilitator Becky Clay Christensen asked where a subgroup’s suggestion that “leadership” is an important element in the downtown-revitalization effort should go in the categorization of the ideas presented in the session.

“Put that down under the category ‘wishful thinking,'” a participant answered, referencing the running history of studies and attempts to jumpstart city projects that have fallen short of success.

The second came from an unlikely session participant. Vice Mayor Frank Lucente, long a critic of city efforts to involve itself in downtown revitalization, observed the meeting from the dais in the Council chambers. Prompted by Clay Christensen to share a word that he would leave with in mind from the session, as other participants had done, Lucente offered a few.

“Private investment and entrepreneurship,” he said, reciting his shorthand for his idea toward a private sector-led downtown revival.

 


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