public plaza

A Growing Crozet is a Happy Crozet

The Benefits of Small Town Growth

Since the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Crozet has come to be a choice location for families in Albemarle County.  With the area wineries, festivals, amazing restaurants, boutiques and family day outings around local farms and playgrounds, it is no surprise that the area has attracted more residential growth than any other area of the County.  As the community continues to grow, many feel anxiety over the impacts of growth and fear losing the small town charm. While unmanaged growth can be detrimental, managed growth can provide meaningful benefits for the whole community:

Economic Benefits: As Crozet grows and adds more places in which a business can operate, there will naturally be an increase in tax revenue for the County.  These dollars can then be allocated  for schools, services, maintenance and capital  improvements.  Here’s an interesting fact about Crozet:  Growth has been largely upper income families.  Median household income in Crozet went from being among the lowest in the County to the highest (over $80K per year).  This creates economic opportunity because people have disposable income to spend.  From a tax perspective, higher incomes mean higher value homes, more tax revenue to fund additional services and school growth.

More specialty restaurants, shops and service providers are in demand for the area. Peidmont Place, opening in late 2016 has been fully leased since opening and businesses are thriving.   In a fairly recent DCI Facebook post, we asked our page followers about this very topic.  From that post, it was insightful to learn that there were several people that suggested Crozet needed a new bakery (with donuts), a dog grooming facility, a work space, and even drive thru coffee! Having more business, means more jobs and more demand for products and services. 

Social benefits:  Growth can help improve the educational opportunities for all residents.  Growth can bring good restaurants, breweries, wineries, and cultural events.

Cultural Benefits: Crozet has attracted talented people with big ideas and refined cultural tastes.  They create vitality and enrich lives through creative  expression.  Crozet is now home to more than 130 artisans! It has its own orchestra,  a ballet school, a chorus and a theatre group. 

Recreational Benefits:  Crozet has always been attractive for outdoor recreation and growth has fueled the creation of new recreational venues and opportunities.  The expansion of Claudius Crozet Park, a new park in Old trail, the Patricia Ann Byrom Forest Preservation park in Whitehall, preservation of the Crozet Tunnel as a tourist attraction, Polo at King Family Vineyard, Wild Rock Childrens’ nature play park are expanding an already rich outdoor culture in Crozet.

Growth is now helping support new development in downtown, an area that’s been largely left behind during Crozet’s growth boom. Milestone Partners development plans for downtown will bring new businesses, new jobs, new retail, hotel and restaurant opportunities.  Perrone Robotics has already moved into downtown and brought 17 new jobs that could grow to more than 100 in the next few years.  Plans for a civic plaza will solidify downtown as the the heart and soul of Crozet.  The plaza will be a pedestrian focused place for socializing, entertainment, dining, and relaxing.  Residents can create new relationships and perhaps start new family traditions.  Many towns in Virginia are struggling to survive and would do anything to attract the kind of growth that Crozet is experiencing.  The reality is that Crozet has much to be thankful for and thoughtful growth is one of them.

DCI Facebook Post Nov. 2, 2016

DCI Facebook Post Nov. 2, 2016

DCIFBPostReply

LESSONS FROM AMERICA'S GREATEST PUBLIC SPACE

Jacob & Liza Stoner in Central Park January 23, 2016

Jacob & Liza Stoner in Central Park January 23, 2016

I spent the weekend with my family in New York City last weekend and had the good fortune to witness the largest 1 day snowfall ever recorded in Central Park.  Sunday afternoon, thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people of all ages were out enjoying the snow.  We heard at least 5 different languages and I've never seen a more creative assortment of snow men, women and children.  People were sledding on all manner of flat bottomed objects and there were shrieks of joy and laughter everywhere.  Snow has magical powers; we know that.  But great spaces can have the same effect and the scene sparked my curiosity about the history of Central Park and what lessons might actually apply to our public plaza in Crozet.  Here's what I learned about the history of the park:

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  1. The park, established in 1857 on 778 acres at what was then the north end of the City. It was designed by Fredrick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux.  The park was not part of the original master plan for Manhattan; it was added some 30 years after the master plan was completed. 
  2. The park was under the control of local government and inadquate resources were dedicated to the ongoing maintenance of the park.  Consequently, the park quickly slipped into a first period of decline from the 1870's until 1934.  In that year, management of the park was restructured and a single individual, Robert Moses, was empowered to manage the park restoration.
  3. Again, in the early 1960's the park began a serious decline and it wasn't until citizen volunteers stepped in the late 70's to save the park that good things began to happen. In 1979, management of the park was restructured again and control was given to a citizen based board of directors.  What followed was a large scale public/private partnership that raised money for the restoration of the park and then actually built an endowment to support maintenance of the park in perpetuity.  

So what can the history of this iconic American park teach us about building a downtown plaza/park in Crozet?  Here are some initial thoughts:

  • Plans can, should, and will evolve over time.  
  • The size should be in scale with the buildings around it, it's purpose in the community, and the number of people we envision using the space.
  • Don't count on local government to build or maintain the park or, in time,  you're likely to be disappointed.
  • Citizen involvement is essential in every aspect of design and implementation of public space.
  • Effective management of public space is critical.
  • Maintenance costs should be considered during the design process and adequately funded from day one.

Please share stories, thoughts and ideas about this important community asset that's coming to downtown Crozet.

Thanks!

Frank Stoner