Santa and Red Wing Academy at the Depot

If you missed our First Friday at the Depot this month, you missed an amazing party. Santa and Red Wing Academy were at the Depot and the spirit of Christmas was in the air.

Depot First Friday

Thanks so much to R.S. Monger and Sons for opening up their Marvin Window and Door showroom for this event. Thanks also to Tiller Strings and Herr and Company for sponsoring the event along with Gaines Group Architects. It was the perfect spot to gather and the acoustics were just right for the music.

Depot First Friday
Depot First Friday

We had lots of young friends stop by to see the guy in Red – no not Charles – the other jolly elf – Santa. He gave out candy canes and listened to the wish lists. Some LONGER than others. Charles is still hoping Santa will bring him a Harley Davidson if he says it enough times.

Depot First Friday
Depot First Friday
Depot First Friday
Depot First Friday

We welcomed Red Wing Academy back to our space and they blessed us with beautiful music. Meg with Tiller Strings, led the group in three sets up music playing Christmas tunes and even some Steel Wheels classics.

The night was beautiful and hopefully Santa will recover from his injuries suffered from these two sitting on his lap before Christmas day.

Depot First Friday

If you have not attended our First Friday downtown in the past, we will start up again in March – we hope you can visit. January and February there are still gallery openings downtown, so watch for posts for locations on the Art Council Facebook page.

Depot First Friday

From all of us at the Depot, we wish you a peace filled holiday season! Happy Holidays!

Need a speaker for your community group – call me

If you need a speaker for your community group – call me. I love sharing my passion and knowledge with anyone willing to listen….

Washington DC

Each year I have some regular presentations I do and each year I get invited to some one time only gigs. It ends up being around 25 – 30 presentations per year typically. My favorite subject of course is architecture and green design / sustainability. I also speak about social media for construction professionals and Aging in Place.

public speaking

While getting to speak at the Department of Energy twice a year for one of my favorite people on the planet – Mary!!!! is really cool. My favorite places to speak are to students at all education levels. I have been invited into all grade levels and for all types of classes. One of my regular visits it to the James Madison University. This Environmental Ethics course always welcomes me and send me the nicest thank you comments.

public speaking

If you are looking for someone to present for your group that can offer some ways to make your home and business more energy-efficient and healthy, and usually bring some laughter, talk about aging, or just someone that will ramble for 20 – 45 minutes – let me know. I am happy to develop a presentation for anyone willing to listen.

public speaking
public speaking
public speaking

First Friday at the Depot – Santa and Red Wing Academy

First Friday at the Depot with Santa and Red Wing Academy is this Friday, December 6, 2019. If you have attended this event in past years, you know how special it is. Stop by before you claim your Holiday Parade spot along main street to see students from the Red Wing Academy that will play several sets for you to enjoy. Santa will also be available for photos and for letting him know what is on your wish list this year.

First Friday Art Opening

Friday, December 6, 2019

We will have hors d’oeuvre and drinks available. Note the special hours!

5:00 pm – 6:30 pm

The Depot

141 W. Bruce St. Suite 201

Harrisonburg, VA 22801


Visit with Santa in the R.S. Monger & Sons Window and Door Showroom while enjoying the sounds of Red Wing Academy.

Red Wing Academy


We are thrilled to welcome back Red Wing Academy students to our space again this year.

Red Wing Academy is open to non-beginner violin, viola, cello, bass, guitar, mandolin and banjo students. Students will receive individual and group instruction from highly trained music teachers and will also be coached by members of The Steel Wheels throughout the week. Daily curriculum will include group classes, mini lessons, improv and jam sessions, technique and tone development, stage performance, electives, recreation, panel discussions, and more. Each day will close with a camp wide rehearsal to practice for Red Wing performance.

Throughout the 4-day workshop, students will learn several tunes to perform collectively. The Academy experience will culminate at Red Wing Roots Music Festival with a live, on-stage performance with The Steel Wheels.

Email or call 540-588-0332 for more information.

Red Wing Academy is hosted by Eric Brubaker of The Steel Wheels as a four-day intensive camp held at Eastern Mennonite University.

Eastern Mennonite Elementary School is close to finished

Eastern Mennonite Elementary School is close to finished. This has been a long time coming and we are finishing later than I hoped due to a variety of reasons. However, this project has turned out just as beautiful as I hoped it would be when I did my first sketch of it back in 2015.

Eastern Mennonite School

The color scheme changed a bit and the gathering space is a work in progress, but the design intent is evident in the finished product.

Eastern Mennonite SchoolEastern Mennonite School

The finished landscape will come along with figuring out how the students will use the space. For now, we have a minimal landscape design so the school can evolve into this new loved space that is exactly what the students want and need to learn and play.

Eastern Mennonite SchoolEastern Mennonite School

The classrooms are not yet filled with life, but you can see how open and full of light they are even in their pre-move in condition and our sketch of what we thought would evolve.

Eastern Mennonite SchoolEastern Mennonite School

The change from what used to be there to what is there now is incredible. This building has new life and I hope a long life! We, collectively as a team – contractor / building owner / subcontractors / architect – were able to save the embedded energy of the previous structure and update the systems to allow for an efficient and long lasting future for this school and building. With every renovation project there are surprises along the way, but with a good team you can navigate those challenges and produce this kind of dramatic change. This team included Harman Construction, Trumbo Electric, Blauch Brothers, Classic Kitchen and Bath, Lantz Woodworking, Weaver’s Flooring America, Partners Excavating, Coleman Engineering, F & R Engineering, Don Largent Roofing, Rich Wagner Masonry, E=MC2, Marv Nicly, Mike Stoltzfus, and Mast Landscapes.

The building was originally an appliance store when it was built.

Eastern Mennonite SchoolEastern Mennonite SchoolEastern Mennonite School

It took on new life and was renovated many times, but when we started our work it was a church and Menno Media.

Eastern Mennonite SchoolEastern Mennonite School

The entrance to the building is welcoming and the front desk we designed and was built by Lantz Woodworking is beautiful. It is a dramatic change from the before photo. The other cabinets that you see through the building were designed and installed by Classic Kitchen and Bath to provide ample storage options for all the teachers.

Eastern Mennonite SchoolEastern Mennonite School

The existing building rooms were small and most of them were dark. We opened up the floor plan to allow a lot of light and sized the rooms for the Eastern Mennonite Elementary School community. These new classrooms are light and larger than their former classrooms on the loved Rt. 11 campus. Each classroom has ample storage and close access to a restroom and drinking fountains.

Eastern Mennonite School  Eastern Mennonite SchoolEastern Mennonite School

The new teaching kitchen in the Eastern Mennonite Elementary School is going to allow for a lot of exciting lessons. It is a big space that will allow for flexibility teaching and is another dramatic change from the previous kitchen in the building.

Eastern Mennonite SchoolEastern Mennonite School Eastern Mennonite School

We wanted to make all the spaces feel light and welcoming so we moved the corridor to the east wall to allow in light. This will also buffer some of the road noise from the classrooms. The old corridor made the space feel small and dark. Our design change opened up the building making it feel larger.

Eastern Mennonite SchoolEastern Mennonite School

Our goal to make sure we designed fun in all the spaces possible and created usable elements for all the students which led us to upgrade the previous circulation system as well. This new lower handrail in the stair will be friendly to the youngest to oldest in this new building use. There is also an elevator making the entire building accessible to all abilities.

Eastern Mennonite SchoolEastern Mennonite School

In an effort to make the building itself a teaching element all the systems in the building are being labeled. This building science lesson will be able to take place at all grade levels and in all parts of the building. Even the mechanical rooms got access to light providing viewing windows into the heart of the building systems. Viewing portals will be added in walls to further tell the story of how this building works.

Eastern Mennonite School

This project makes me happy and I am thankful to have been given the chance to work with the teachers and students to achieve the finished product. I am looking forward to hearing and seeing the activity in these spaces. The love this school gives their students is evident in the dedication they put into creating this new space. If you are thinking about an Elementary School that has a focus on loving your children, teaching them the importance of service, music, art, and play while offering the best education possible – you should check out Eastern Mennonite Elementary School.

Eastern Mennonite School

Harrisonburg’s Debt Capacity vs Goals for our Future

Change is coming in Harrisonburg and we should discuss it in public dialog. Harrisonburg’s debt capacity vs the goals for our future city seem to be just a hint of what is coming. I heard the debate about a new elementary school a few years ago and the new high school coming soon. We are talking about how we should not spend “that much” on either of them. I wonder why the same debate did not happen for the new municipal building – or maybe it did and I missed it? What about the money that will be spent on expanding the courts in downtown? What are we willing to spend to address the homeless issue in town? Will we spend money to upgrade our local parks? What else is coming that the city needs to pay for that is not “in the budget?” Why are we not asking for the EUI (Energy use Intensity) for all city buildings and new proposed schools? This is a monthly bill that has to be paid for by our taxes. Why do we get stuck on specific projects and not holistic efficiency for our buildings and systems? What might “break” next that we are not expecting that will need to be repaired?

energy use intensity

This morning the Citizen published an excellent article on Harrisonburg’s debt capacity to help us understand the challenge we are facing.


The conversation should be about more than debt capacity, it should also focus on what we want our city to be when we grow up.

market street

See my blog post “What do you see as the biggest challenge the city of Harrisonburg is facing over the next 5 years?”

I believe at the city council meeting where the new high school was presented with a budget under $100 million (as the contractor was directed to deliver) that the real estate tax locally will need to go up .13 cents per $100 of assessment to pay for the debt service. This is a huge jump in real estate taxes. That would push us to one of the highest real estate tax levels in the area. I don’t think it is the wrong thing to do (build a new high school), however, I think we should discuss ALL the spending that is on the horizon along with specific projects.

Winchester – .93 cents per $100

Staunton – .95 cents per $100

Harrisonburg – .86 cents per $100

Waynesboro – .90 cents per $100

Roanoke – $1.22 per $100

Lexington – $1.06 per $100

Charlottesville – .95 cents per $100

Other things that we should financially consider include:

expansion of water supply

addressing the homeless issue

parking structures downtown that are nearing the end of their useful life

underground utilities that are in the same condition as those replaced this summer on East Market St.

New middle school or renovation of THMS

New elementary school

downtown park / expansion of the farmer’s market

expansion of the greenway network

streetscape continuation downtown

adjusting pay scales for public servants

What else should be on the list?

Court Square

I have been here for 11 years now. I have fallen in love with Harrisonburg and I want it to be a world class city. I want that goal to be built on our traditional values and I don’t think we can get there quickly. With good financial decisions, efficient use of our funds available, and proper planning with intentional DESIGN!!!! we can get there. We are already an amazingly diverse melting pot of cultures, foods, language, personalities, but we can be even better. I am looking forward to that challenge and the discussion that needs to happen along the way.

Post your healthy and well informed comments below.