VDDA Hot Topic Luncheon focuses on traditional downtown design

Nestled at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and located on the edge of the Washington, D.C. suburbs, the Town of Purcellville has worked to maintain the small town characteristics that have defined the community for centuries.  New downtown construction projects and infill developments fit right into the local, historic charm.  This achievement made the town the perfect location for the most recent Virginia Downtown Development Association (VDDA) Hot Topic Luncheon, held Thursday, August 19th.  The topic: How do traditional downtowns fit in to a growing New Urbanism movement?     

Attendees enjoyed the food and rustic ambiance of Magnolias at the Mill, a former downtown seed mill, and were captivated by speaker Kennedy L. Smith, of Community Land Use and Economics (CLUE) Group and former director of the National Trust Main Street Center.  Smith used humor and striking images to deliver the message and stir conversation.      

The message, New Urbanism, a revival of traditional, late 19th and early 20th century community design principles for both urban infill and greenfield development, in the past has been perceived as adversarial to the historic preservation movement.  Essentially it was thought that New Urbanism abandoned the older, historic town core to create sanitized replicas in the suburbs. 

However, the two movements aren’t really mutually exclusive.  As Smith explained, they share a fundamental conviction; they both support the development patterns of successful, older neighborhoods and small towns that integrate housing, shops, workplaces, parks and civic facilities into close-knit communities that are both charming and functional.   Downtown Purcellville is an excellent example of this cooperation in action.

If you have questions or would like to become a member of VDDA, call or e-mail the VDDA office at: admin@downtownvirginia.org or (804) 754-4120.