The Suburbanization of North Valley Pike

Brent Finnegan -- June 29th, 2010

The North Valley Pike Strategic Corridor Plan, which recommends turning Route 11 north of Harrisonburg into a “two lane ‘main street,’ with a new parallel road serving through traffic,” was presented at a public meeting last week, and is scheduled to be finalized and presented to the Rockingham County Board of Supervisors in July.

A current draft of the plan in PDF format can be downloaded from the project website. The 56-page document lays out a guideline for how the area north of the Harrisonburg city limits should be developed.

Conceptual Map of North Valley Pike Corridor

Conceptual zoning map of North Valley Pike corridor

Rockingham County Director of Planning Rhonda Cooper says that area was chosen in part because of its proximity to the Harrisonburg and Rockingham County technology and research parks.

The plan, initiated by a county planners, began in September, 2009 with a public “workshop,” followed by the formation of a citizens advisory committee. Planners and committee members have been operating under the projection that “Route 11 nears failing capacity by 2030, which would lead to the conclusion that under a status quo scenario widening will be necessary.” According to the PDF:

At the March 2010 CAC meeting working groups spent time going over a series of scenarios:

Scenario 1: Do nothing, live with congestion
Scenario 2: Route 11 as an improved four lane, divided commercial corridor
Scenario 3: Route 11 as two lane through parkway, new parallel road becomes a commercial street
Scenario 4: Route 11 as two lane “main street”, with a new parallel road serving through traffic.

The CAC members discussed each of the scenarios trade-offs and eventually identified Scenario 4 as a clear favorite . . .

The plan details “smart growth,” horizontal mixed use, and other modern urban planning concepts, as well as transportation trends such as bike lanes, behind-the-building parking, and roundabouts.

Here’s one conceptual “before-and-after” depiction of what the area might look like in 20-30 years, taken from the document.

North Valley Pike Corridor Strategic Plan 1

Images from the North Valley Pike Corridor Strategic Plan

Cooper says the plan is meant as a general blueprint for the next 25 years, not a specific layout. “The plan focuses on form, mass, and streetscape rather than function.” She adds that any actual developments will require political will and public support. “We know this won’t happen overnight.”

Funding for improvements is anticipated to remain a challenge for the foreseeable future. “Paying for these sorts of road improvements wouldn’t all be the responsibility of the developer,” Cooper says, referring to possible proffers to help ease the burden of the county to pay for all improvements. “Creative ways of funding would still need to be sorted out.”

Comments on the plan are being accepted until Friday, July 2.

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19 Responses to “The Suburbanization of North Valley Pike”

  1. Tad says:

    A few thoughts. This seems like something out of pure fantasyland. This study suggests this area will go from sprawling industrial with a few residents to downtown, vibrant, upscale, cool, sustainable, etc. I found it all hard to believe. Who is going to pay for all of this? Great, two more traffic lights to get through on my way out of town. Let’s wait and see if SRI sticks around at the end of the ten-year lease before we dream big.

  2. Bill says:

    I concur with Tad regarding SRI, but I also believe that the county needs to make sure that its northern “gateway” to the technology park be improved and upscaled. There’s not much wrong with having some type of upscale plan on record in the event the county wants to make sure that some more undesirable businesses attempt to develop in the corridor. This plan however, would be much better suited and obtainable on the southern side of the city limits where the necessary ” rooftops” of affluent communities such as Bridgewater, Dayton, Belmont and Monte Vista are located nearby. Also, with both the city and the county recently rezoning areas in the south 11 corridor, there is a much better opportunity to attract such an urban development, particularly for retail and professional businesses. Hopefully the plan could be overlaid on the south 11 corridor as well.

    • Dan says:

      This seems like a good point. Why didn’t they develop a plan like this for the south 11 corridor? Is it too late in the game for that part of the county? Maybe there is a comprehensive plan already for the south 11 corridor. My hunch is that it’s much easier to create a plan for a parcel of land before anyone is interested in developing it.

      • Jennifer says:

        Hi Dan:

        There will be a south 11 corridor study. It is in the very beginning stages now. Stay tuned for public meeting announcements for that corridor study. Please see the website for more forthcoming details.

    • Thanh says:

      There is a South Regional Study focused on Route 11 south currently underway. The study is being done by the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Metropolitan Planning Organization (HRMPO). The study is expected to be completed within the next 12 months.

      “The Harrisonburg Rockingham Metropolitan Planning Organization (HRMPO) received proposals for the Route 11 South Regional Study and has chosen Volkert and Associates to complete the study. The study is expected to be completed 12 months from the notice to proceed. This website will be updated as more information becomes available.

      All questions concerning the study should be directed to Jennifer Hibbert, Transportation Manager of the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission, 112 MacTanly Place, Staunton, VA 24401, 540-885-5174 email:”


      The HRMPO members include City of Harrisonburg, Rockingham County, Town of Mt. Crawford, Town of Dayton, Town of Bridgewater, and VDOT.

  3. Jim says:

    I would suggest the vision of the plan is more “urbanization” than “suburbanization”. And yes, this project (and study in general) appears to be fairly “boiler plate” more or less, still who know what the economy (and therefore this corridor) might become in another 20 – 50 years. Hence, the reason for the plan…

    • Dan says:

      I was thinking the same thing in regards to “suburbanization.” After reading the headline, I was expecting the worst but I was pleasantly surprised.

      I’m sure this area will be developed at some point (maybe not anytime soon) and it’s great that there are guidelines in place to ensure that whatever is eventually built will be built with humans in mind and not just cars.

    • Jim, I understand what you’re saying, because suburbs generally refer to residential areas, and this would be mixed use. But went with suburbanization because it is being added on to/near Harrisonburg. It’s essentially an extension of Harrisonburg outside the city limits.

      If it was being proposed in the middle of nowhere, it would make more sense to me to call it urbanization.

  4. All should keep in mind that this is right next to the north Harrisonburg exit off I-81 and between that and the new SRI complex. It is actually surprising that there has not been more of this sort of development there already.

  5. BANDIT says:

    Would the speed limit be reduced in that area? I think it’s a tad to fast as it stands for this kind of development…

    • Frank J Witt says:

      Bandit, from what I saw when I read the plan, it is a different road, NOT route 11 NOW. It would be to the left of the where 11 is then turn back to 11 at the I-81 interchange. Look really good though and hopefully it can come to fruition.

      • Tad says:

        Incorrect. The new road would be the through traffic road. The existing Rt. 11 would be the “main street”. The government trying once again to create community where none exists.

        • Frank J Witt says:

          AAAAAAAAAhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…got it.

          I think my thoughts were better….naturally

  6. Kris says:

    It looks a lot like the same ‘ol same ‘ol (SPRAWL) to me–nothing particularly new or innovative here–a few widened tree lined streets. The “future” pictures with barely any traffic don’t depict the future anticipated growth, and there are no street lights, traffic signals or business signs that pollute most views of long roadways–could it be so? Why not include green areas with benches and fountains, and areas for outdoor gatherings that might include public speaking events, or music or other entertainment. How about one long street that only allows foot or bike traffic with outdoor kiosks and food vendors (a hot dog or ice cream stand–yum!) And why not incorporate some serious solar and wind energy features into the plan–could this area be self sustained? Not all solar panels are bulky and ugly and not all wind energy comes from giant propellers-and if it planned to be incorporated into the architecture and landscape, it would be wonderful and beautifully futuristic!

  7. Kris, please. That sort of thing might fly in Harrisonburg, but we are talking Rockingham County where they love their fossil fuels.

  8. Ronn says:

    This is pure fantasy–Urban Studies 101. No doubt this will make the developers and real estate industry smile. Why doesn’t Harrisonburg formulate a plan to remove the slaughter houses, chicken rendering plants, seed towers and plastic factories from the city limits? While they complete that how about a plan to enforce housing codes and to bulldoze the numerous boarded up and substandard housing. This would be a true “Renaissance”.

  9. Eric says:

    I like the plan! It looks really interesting. I come from what used to be a small town in Florida and is now a thriving city, well landscaped and well laid out. A city that went from 40,000 to 375,000 in 30 years. What I’ve observed from that is you don’t stop growth, many people down there were in the same position as us, trying to keep it from happening but to no avail. It’s better to plan now for the future rather than wait until it’s too late and then you have a mess trying to fix it when its overpopulated. I think they have done a spectacular job in designing this. Probably the biggest challenge now will be finding the funding for it.

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