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Uptown work nets honors for city

Friday, September 6, 2013

From Bulletin staff reports

Martinsville has received another award for improvements made to part of its uptown business district.

The Virginia Municipal League (VML) is presenting the city with an achievement award for turning “unsightly blocks into a park and trail hub,” according to a story in September’s edition of the league’s magazine, Virginia Town & City.

The award recognizes improvements to the area surrounding the uptown walking trail, Depot Street and TheatreWorks’ building, said David Parsons, VML’s director of communications.

Those improvements include a new restroom building beside the trail, new staircases to help people get up a slope, a mural on the TheatreWorks building and new lights, curbs, gutters, benches, picnic tables, trash cans, sidewalks and landscaping.

In April, the Virginia Downtown Development Association presented the city with an award of excellence in recognition of the improvements.

Martinsville received VML’s achievement award in the category of cities and towns with populations between 10,001 and 35,000. The city’s population is about 14,000.

Ten projects in Staunton, Bristol, Front Royal, Falls Church, Fredericksburg, Radford, Manassas Park and Martinsville were considered for the award. One city — Parsons could not remember which one — turned in multiple projects for consideration.

The end result of Martinsville’s project was “very impressive,” Parsons said, adding it is “something that people can be proud of.”

He said Martinsville was chosen as the winner largely because it showed how a major project benefiting the community could be done with help from various sources, including nonprofit organizations and volunteers, yet with limited financial backing.

Among those involved in the project were residents, business owners, the Martinsville Uptown Revitalization Association and The Harvest Foundation, the magazine story showed.

Improvements were aimed at luring both residents and visitors uptown, according to officials.

Resulting from the project were “ideas and approaches that other local governments can learn from” in doing projects elsewhere, Parsons said.

Overall factors taken into account in evaluating projects included whether they enhanced community vitality and quality of life, developed innovative ways of delivering services, resulted in new and improved methods of addressing community needs or greatly improving a program, citizen involvement and how well projects were managed, Parsons said.

He indicated that not every factor had to be applied to every project.

“There was not a point total” tallied for each project, he said, adding that “there is always some subjectiveness involved” in judging projects.

A panel of three judges considered the projects. Parsons declined to name them out of concern that cities that did not win would try to contact them to find out why.

He said, though, that the judges were “local government experts” from across the state, including retired city officials.

Parsons said the achievement award will be presented to Martinsville officials during the VML’s annual conference Oct. 15 in Arlington.


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