The Keys to Virginia's Urban Revitalization: Live/Work/Play

An op-ed makes the case for the benefits of mixed-use development in Virginia, namely the creation of 24/7 environments for living, working, and playing.
March 12, 2015, 6am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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To begin an op-ed in Virginia Business, Ryan Jenness cites the examples of two "much ballyhooed," but eventually failed projects from in Virginia during the mid-1980s—the Sixth Street Marketplace in Richmond and the Waterside park in Norfolk. 

"Both Sixth Street Marketplace and Waterside provide sobering examples that the 'if you build it, they will come' philosophy works better in a Kevin Costner movie than in urban planning," writes Jenness.

But those examples were only a prelude to the current urban renewal efforts in Virginia, according to Jenness.

"The good news is that cities and developers alike have learned from missteps and assumptions. This is clear in the emergence and early success of so-called 'live/work/play' mixed-use communities in Virginia's metro areas. Much has been written about how these endeavors are popular with certain population subgroups, including millennials, empty-nesters, young professionals, and others looking for a short commute."

The difference between current efforts and the failed efforts of the past, according to Jenness, are the attention devoted to creating "24/7, 360 day per year" experience for residents—"not only living on-site, but also working, dining, shopping and entertaining." Jenness cites projects in Richmond, Norfolk, Roanoke, and Virginia Beach as examples of the new way of building.

The conclusion of the argument is more pragmatic then theoretical, and one that appeals to a broader audience in many types of communities: "The lesson to local governments, developers, and urban planners is clear: a one-dimensional retail project, regardless of popular support or any government subsidy, fails to attract people in the same way that a diverse, mixed-use residential project does. Consequently, a key component to real urban renewal lies in these live/work/play communities."

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Published on Wednesday, March 11, 2015 in Virginia Business
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