The city of Danville’s River District Development Project has been named the winner in its population category for the Virginia Municipal League’s 2014 Achievement Award.
Danville’s entry into the awards competition detailed efforts to counter the exodus of textile and tobacco industry jobs by forging a handful of success public-private partnerships that are adding a new look and vibe to much of downtown and the Tobacco Warehouse District.
Local leaders view the River District as the “living room” to the city, with signature assets such as the Dan River, the Riverwalk Trail and many of the oldest, most architecturally attractive and significant buildings in the city. These assets distinguish Danville from other communities in competing to attract new residents and new businesses.
Danville’s living room has undergone extensive remodeling. Visitors now see two completed, beautifully designed streetscape phases – the latest featuring a new trailhead for the city’s Riverwalk Trail and a pedestrian plaza with a promenade connecting downtown with the rapidly developing Tobacco Warehouse District. In the center of the plaza sits a multi-stage waterfall fountain donated by Japan Tobacco International to show its commitment as a corporate citizen to the future prosperity of the region. The plaza is a gateway to downtown. It sits prominently at downtown’s outskirt, greeting all who cross the bridge spanning the Dan River from U.S. 58 Business and North Main Street.
Farther up Main Street, visitors see the amenities provided by the first streetscape phase. Here, the city widened sidewalks, installed brick pavers, created more visible and safer pedestrian crossings, upgraded utilities and placed trees, benches and new lighting. The city also installed public, outdoor Wi-Fi connections that are free to the public.
The streetscape phases – the first one completed in December; the second, in April – are only part of the remodeling effort. The city has adopted design guidelines for the look and feel of buildings in the district, changed traffic patterns to enhance movement through downtown, opened a new parking lot on Main Street, and conducted a parking study for the full district.
Much more is to come, but the $20 million spent to date in public investment in the River District has generated more than $90 million in private investment. The private investment includes apartments, restaurants, higher education, health/fitness and entertainment options.
The VML Achievement Awards recognize the accomplishments of member local governments for innovative problem-solving, excellence in management, increasing citizen participation and striving toward higher service levels.
The awards competition is divided into five population categories so that local governments compete with other local governments of comparable size. Danville’s entry was judged the best in the category for local governments that serve communities with a population between 35,001 and 90,000.
The entries were evaluated based on the following criteria:
• accomplishing projects and implementing programs that enhance the vitality and quality of life in cities, towns or counties;
• developing more innovative ways of delivering government services;
• implementing new or improved approaches in addressing a significant community need, or significantly improving an existing program;
• reflecting excellence in management;
• increasing citizen participation;
• striving toward higher service levels;
• possessing ideas and approaches that make a project or program relevant to other local governments;
• having a long-term value to the community; and
• showing a documented record of effectiveness that illustrates how a project or program has achieved its goals.
Danville officials were presented the award Tuesday during the Virginia Municipal League Annual Conference in Roanoke.
The Virginia Municipal League is a statewide, nonprofit, nonpartisan association of city, town and county governments established in 1905 to improve and assist local governments through legislative advocacy, research, education and other services. The membership includes all 39 cities in the state, 159 towns and 10 counties.