Preston Lake: Harrisonburg 2.0?

Brent Finnegan -- January 9th, 2007

This weekend the DNR ran a story on the mixed-use development at Preston Lake, near Massanetta Springs Road, east of town (this was also picked up yesterday by the development-tracking WCSR blog).

Preston Lake is being developed by the Hine Group, which recently developed another mixed use community in Florida. These developments have been called “new urbanism” by city planners. Emphasis in these communities is on having retail spaces within walking distance of residential areas.

This is the sort of thing you expect to see in Reston, but why Rockingham County? If I had to guess, I would say it’s the new high-tech jobs that are supposed to be coming to the area soon. Also, it seems that the president of the Hine Group, Rich Hine, now resides in the Valley.

These places are interesting, but personally I don’t know that I’d ever want to live in one (and at $149,000 for a one-bedroom flat above a store, I might not even qualify). This Christmas I was in Williamsburg’s not-yet-completed New Town. It felt like I was on the set of The Truman Show or on Universal’s back lot or something. If you’ve ever been to one, you know what I’m talking about. It’s like downtown Staunton, minus the soul (i.e. no history).

But if you’re going to have growth anyway, you might as well have “smart growth” and pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods. With all the new higher-paying jobs expected in the area over the next few years, this sort of real estate should sell like hotcakes. According to, as of last June, “sales have gone so briskly on the 46 upper-story residential flats that there’s a waiting list and they are proposing to add an additional 40 such units.” On the other hand, there are only two companies that have signed up for retail space in the (new) Main Street area so far. We’ll see what happens.


13 Responses to “Preston Lake: Harrisonburg 2.0?”

  1. Josh says:

    I recommend checking out these two Preston Lake links for a good overview of the property:

  2. Josh says:

    The Walt Disney Company developed an interesting/scary town a few years back called Celebration, FL.,_Florida

    I guess it’s sort of like living at Disney World, full-time.

  3. writergirl says:

    I checked out the website for this development a while back and just found it scary. The prices were outrageous and to be honest, even if I could afford it, I wouldn’t want to live there. Again more development that doesn’t match the salary of the average valley resident. If you build it, clearly they will come, no matter how scary or weird it is. While I find the new City Exchange Flats to be a bit pricey, I’m glad to see existing buildings and spaces being used for development needs. It’s a creative use for a historic building and gives downtown a much needed improvement. I wish more developers would look to doing something similar, but I guess that just doesn’t make them enough money.

  4. jgroner says:

    I run a blog on mixed-use development for my law firm, Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice. We have many offices in the Southeast U.S. and we do represent developers. I try to give a voice to a variety of points of view in my blog. Please note that we are the WCSR blog (abbreviation for our firm name), not the WCSA blog.

    Jonathan Groner

  5. Josh says:

    “It’s like downtown Staunton, minus a soul.”

    Modern development is inevitable. Is it possible for any modern developments to have soul?

    The major downfall I see with new developments isn’t so much the lack of soul, it’s the lack of affordable options for young professionals and families.

  6. finnegan says:

    Jonathan – typo noted & fixed.

    And what I mean by “minus a soul” is simply that these places have no history. I love history, and I like to see and know the history of a place. It’s like the European town squares at Busch Gardens compared to the real thing.

    And to clarify – I never said I was against this development. All I said was that I couldn’t afford to live there, and that I feel like something is missing when I visit places like New Town (namely history).

  7. finnegan says:

    If you’re interested in the topic of sprawl in the Valley, watch WVPT (PBS) tonight at 7:30, and check out the blog for the Virginia Viewpoints show afterward. Local sprawl is this month’s topic.

  8. pragma says:

    Will this new (to the Valley) type of development change its character?

  9. finnegan says:

    I’m sure it will change the character of the Valley in some way, just as any new business or development would.

    One thing I will say about mixed-use developments is: I like the ability to walk to the pharmacist or grocery store, instead of drive. Where I currently live in Harrisonburg, I often bike to work (7 minutes) or bike downtown (10 minutes) but the closest shopping center is more than two miles away, and the sidewalk between here and there is pretty spotty. I’ve biked it once, and it proved to be an unpleasant and dangerous endeavor.

  10. finnegan says:

    The DNR ran a follow-up feature on sprawl today.

    story here

  11. jgroner says:

    Thanks for pointing that story out to me. I printed out a copy and I may post another blog item soon referring to this very interesting story by Jenny Jones.

    My blog is at

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