Harrisonburg Downtown Mall

Last week I came across some old architectural plans and sketches for a project called the “Harrisonburg Downtown Mall.” The designers wanted to close portions of Main Street, East Market, and West Market so that Court Square and the area surrounding the courthouse would be restricted to pedestrians.

The Harrisonburg Downtown Mall would have been a place for recreational activities, cultural events, and seasonal festivities. The designers envisioned a public space with places to socialize, shop, and relax. The plans called for public benches, street art, interesting light fixtures, and other historical waypoints and landmarks.

When I first saw the plans I immediately thought of the Charlottesville Downtown Mall — one of the longest outdoor pedestrian malls in the nation, with many stores, restaurants, and civic attractions. The Charlottesville Downtown Mall is a staple of the Charlottesville community, and it is a unique place where citizens, students, and tourists can come together in a safe environment and engage in civic activities.

As far as I can tell the plans for the Harrisonburg Downtown Mall were drafted in the 1960s or 70s. I don’t know why these plans were never implemented in real life, but it was interesting to see Court Square in a different context and imagine what could have been.

  1. Thanh

    Wow. Where’d you find those sketches?

    I know a number of people have brought up the topic of a downtown mall in Harrisonburg that is closed off to vehicular traffic and for pedestrians only, like the one in C’ville.

    I think the biggest road block, so to speak, in implementing something like that in Harrisonburg’s Court Square is that Rt 11 and Rt 33 are pretty major thruways/roads. There’s not a good alternative to bypassing traffic on 11 and 33 around Court Square.

    Maybe you could just close off the north, west and south sides of Court Square to traffic and allow traffic on Rt 11 to travel through, but then what do you do with traffic on Rt 33? Maybe a bypass or loop road? (But there’s been a lot of opposition to that idea too – http://www.preserverockingham.org/index.html)

    Oh well… I still think that Downtown Harrisonbug has a lot going for it (Court Square Theater, good bars/ restaurant and several more opening in the next few months, art galleries, boutiques, multi-use developments, and housing) and there is more wonderful things to come (even without a pedestrian mall)…

    Have you heard of or seen the new Streetscape plans?

  2. Corbin

    It certainly looks like Downtown Harrisonburg is on the upswing. The new urban exchange is an indication that people want to be in an urban environment like Downtown Harrisonburg.

    These sketches were from Davis and Associates — an old architecture and engineering firm in Hburg that closed about 15 years ago.

    I think I’ve seen the new Streetscape plans, but a refresher would be nice.

  3. finnegan

    Dude, where on earth did you find those?

    Thanks for posting that. I’ll have to email this link to Charlie Chenault.

  4. Corbin

    These sketches (any many more) are in storage at the Massanutten Regional Library. I was granted permission to look through the firm’s old drawings, and I stumbled across these gems.

  5. Thanh

    Again, I was distracted in my previous thoughts. Something I should have said earlier too – “Thanks for posting that! Very interesting.” :o)

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