Gaines Group Architects
market street

What makes a city welcoming, inviting, unique?

My favorite city I have ever visited is Charleston, South Carolina. There are gardens, beautiful architecture, interesting stories (some of them true) about the history of the town, custom ironwork, open air markets, and incredible food.

Charleston City Market Charleston City Market Charleston South Carolina

I have visited Charleston many times, but have never lived there. My view of the city is from the perspective of a tourist. It caters to those coming for a few days and provides a welcoming atmosphere to give you reason to come back. The city has a soul and you see it in the streets, homes, and people.

Court Square

So what makes a city welcoming, inviting, unique? Every city has a history to tell, but most don’t tell it. Every city has a soul, but most don’t celebrate it. What does it take to bring a city to life for residents and visitors?

market street

As I was walking downtown last night we took a detour and went up market street from court square. I don’t usually walk this sidewalk and I was struck by the lack of welcoming feel this car centered street exudes for a pedestrian. There is a variety of little unique shops on this street, but nothing holding the street together to show its soul. Is there a strategy to bring life to the sidewalk on this one block stretch that could be added? Is there a way to celebrate the diversity of shops while allowing the car centered culture to continue? How do we honor the oldest photography shop in downtown Harrisonburg?

Picture taken by Christa Gitchell of the sign rehab for her shop.

Downtown Harrisonburg has a rich food culture, exhibits historical markers around Court Square, and boasts an open air farmer’s market. It has also been the Gaines Group’s home since 2009. So what can we add that would raise the level of welcomeness to our friendly city even more? How can we tie our history and community together to show our soul? Is it street art, vegetation, or something else? Should we celebrate our local universities or the music culture? Could it be as simple as adding a design guide for crosswalks and encourage gathering spaces? How can we build pride of place and reduce the car centered design elements?

What elements have you seen in cities that tie together and build pride of place? What would you like to see downtown that tells the history of place and builds a welcoming culture to those living here, as well as those just visiting for just a few days? How can we make Harrisonburg a truly friendly city? In your words, what makes a city welcoming, inviting, unique?


Chesapeake and Western Depot

Check out this cool find inside a wall on a renovation project

Check out this cool find inside a wall on a renovation project

You never know what to expect in the walls of a renovation project. There are always things hiding from the construction process in the past. From coke bottles to beer bottles things get tossed inside of walls and sit there for years waiting to be exposed again. On a recent project in downtown Harrisonburg, this cool find was inside a wall. The date on the newspaper is April 18, 1973 about two months before I was born. The contractor found it as he was doing demo and it was just left on the floor in the pile of trash.


Canstruction 2016 poster

Canstruction Harrisonburg 2016

Canstruction Harrisonburg

Canstruction Harrisonburg 2016  is a unique international nonprofit organization which hosts competitions, exhibitions, and events showcasing colossal structures made entirely out of full cans of food. After the structures are built the creations are on display on the public as a giant art exhibition. At the end of the viewing, all food is donated to local food banks.

Canstruction Harrisonburg

Why Canstruction Matters?

The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank exists for a few very simple reasons: Food sustains life. It restores options. It provides hope.

BRAFB is an emergency food assistance agency that serves more than 114,000 people each month, a near record in the Food Bank’s history. Last year, we distributed 18 million meals to hungry families across the Blue Ridge. We expect to serve even more this year. The economy might be improving for many of us, but for the working poor, hunger is a daily struggle. Families shouldn’t have to choose between paying the electric bill or buying groceries.

Canstruction Harrisonburg

About Canstruction

Founded in 1992, Canstruction promotes the design community and raises food for  hunger relief efforts. More than 100 Canstruction competitions were held in cities around the world last year, making it one of the largest international food drives.

Chesapeake Western Depot

Chesapeake Western Depot – Update

Work continues on the Chesapeake Western Depot in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The demolition and framing are done. The electricians have finally started rough-in. The plumbing fixtures are all ordered. Things are about to start moving quickly.


Our sign is out front and gravel is down in the front lot. The windows have temporary plastic protection allowing work to continue inside while we wait on window installation. The wood paneling in the Herr & Co. office has been removed to be refinished.

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With each step along the way we are working on finalizing interior finishes to make sure we get things just right. Our goal is to preserve the original intent of the design while implementing the appropriate HVAC and lighting systems. On the lower level things are tricky, we are attempting to hide needed wiring while maintaining the exposed wood ceilings and lattice-work.

Chesapeake Western Depot Chesapeake Western Depot Chesapeake Western Depot Chesapeake Western Depot

Want to see more, check out these posts HERE, HEREHEREHERE and HERE.

Chesapeake Western Depot Harrisonburg

Chesapeake Western Depot Project – Framing Update

Chesapeake Western Depot Project – Framing Update

Chesapeake Western Depot Harrisonburg Chesapeake Western Depot Harrisonburg

Chesapeake Western Depot Harrisonburg

The progress on the Depot continues with this nice weather. The framing crew has been hard at work to get the second floor secure (lots of water damaged materials have been replaced). There are only a few new walls that are being added to allow for restrooms and a first floor conference room. Skyline roofing has also been on site finishing up the new roof on the office portion of the building. The building is now safe to walk around on the second floor (mostly).

Chesapeake Western Depot Harrisonburg Chesapeake Western Depot Harrisonburg Chesapeake Western Depot Harrisonburg Chesapeake Western Depot Harrisonburg

Some of the unique details of the building are emerging as things are cleaned up and damaged portions of the building are removed. The original integrity of the design is being maintained. It continues to amaze me that this structure built in 1913 is still functional and beautiful. I am looking forward to seeing it come back to life and shine.

Chesapeake Western Depot Harrisonburg Chesapeake Western Depot Harrisonburg Chesapeake Western Depot Harrisonburg Chesapeake Western Depot Harrisonburg

Some additional historic photos were located to verify the original design. We still have not found any interior photos of the structure. If you have any, let us know.

Chesapeake Western Depot Harrisonburg Chesapeake Western Depot Harrisonburg Chesapeake Western Depot Harrisonburg

Design on the exterior signage is in the works with Eddie Edwards Signs. What do you think?

Chesapeake Western Depot Harrisonburg Chesapeake Western Depot Harrisonburg

Progress on the interior design continues. Here are some more selections that have been made for the restrooms and the break room. Our goal is to show a variety of styles around the building to act as a showroom for future projects.

Chesapeake Western Depot Harrisonburg Chesapeake Western Depot Harrisonburg Chesapeake Western Depot Harrisonburg

Want to see more, check out these posts HERE, HEREHERE, and HERE.

Welcome our newest team member – Hannah Jackson, Allied ASID, CSI

 Welcome our newest team member – Hannah Jackson, Allied ASID, CSI
Hannah Jackson
Hannah studied at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and received a Bachelors of Science degree in Interior Design. While at UTC, she was involved as a student member in the Interior Design Alliance (IDA), American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), and Construction Specifications Institute (CSI).  She was active in her sorority, the UTC campus, and the Chattanooga community through philanthropic events.  She was drawn to The Gaines Group by their variety of residential and commercial projects, as well as, the small firm atmosphere.  She has always had an interest in interior design and architecture, and is excited to start her career at The Gaines Group.  
university of tennessee chattanooga
Hannah enjoys spending time outdoors hiking and camping, and she likes to read, paint, and refinish/re-purpose furniture in her spare time.  She is glad to finally be in the same city as her family again after being 500 miles away at school for the last four years.  She is looking forward to volunteering in the community and getting involved in a church.
Want to touch base with her, give a call or email:
office: 540-437-0012
email: hannah (at)
American Society of Interior Designersconstruction specifications institute

About The Gaines Group, PLC

The Gaines Group, PLC is a Virginia based architecture firm with offices in Charlottesville and Harrisonburg. Established in 1987, the firm has a dedication to strong ideas, ecological stewardship, and client satisfaction. As an award-winning residential and commercial building design firm, The Gaines Group, PLC has established a strong reputation of sophisticated design through addressing the specific needs and place for which a project is to be built.

The firm’s mission statement: through design we can have a better future. We want to see that our work made a difference and the community is a better place for it.

Why we do it: because we want our clients to have comfortable beautiful healthy spaces to live, play, and work.

The firm offers a comprehensive range of integrated design services including architecture, LEED Consulting, Specification Consulting, Interior Design, Landscape planning, Master Planning, Site Planning, Graphic Design, and Marketing Design.


East Johnson Street Tiny House update

The East Johnson Street Tiny House is rolling along. As you might expect, the speed of construction of a home this size is much faster than a larger home. When I stopped by the site earlier this week the house had quickly gone from a hole in the ground to a structure that has form and will soon have windows and wiring.

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There is plenty of storage space above the bedroom.

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Let us know what you think so far.

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Click HERE to see previous posts about the project.

2015 Harrisonburg SVBA Home and Garden Show


The 2015 Harrisonburg SVBA Home and Garden Show is scheduled for April 11-12. This annual event is a rare chance to talk to multiple building industry experts all in the same location on the same day. If you are thinking of building a new home or renovating your existing place, this event is the place to be for you.

The show this year features some new activities for the entire family.

Blue Ridge Area Food Bank food drive will benefit those going hungry in our community. It will also give you a chance to win an assembled Double Deep Hive w/ Plastic Frame & Foundation donated by Valley Bee Supply with each can you get one entry. Bring 6 cans of food and get 7 entries to win.

10fr double deep comm

SVBA Classic Car Cruise In is returning this year. You want to check out some of the coolest cars in the Valley – this is the place to be. If you have one of the coolest cars in the valley – I know you will be there! For more information click HERE.


F & M Bank and VBS Mortgage Hideout Playset from Byler’s Storage Buildings, Inc giveaway. One lucky show visitor will win and even have it delivered directly to their own backyard.


Achieve Studio will host a 30 minute Yoga Class outside on the grass lawn to start the day on Saturday. Join us at 10 am to get your mind and body right before talking to the experts!

Canstruction is a unique design competition using cans of food to create incredible structures. The food is then donated to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. For more information click HERE.

Canstruction poster

This years event features education sessions covering topics from soap making, canning, energy-efficiency, and home comfort to bee keeping, beer making, gardening, native plants, and backyard chicken raising. for schedule of topics click HERE.

Good Living Expo is a chance for home based business to display their goods at the show.

Playhouse Design Competition is a chance to see the work of the next generation of designers from our community. We will have their work on display (unfortunately we will not be building the winner’s design this year.) For more information click HERE.


Harrisonburg Soapbox Derby Car Build Clinic is a chance to learn how to put together your car for the annual Derby. If you have a child that is interested in cars, science, or technology, bring them to this event. It is a great chance to have a hands-on experience. For more information click HERE.

Derby Logo

The annual MTC live auction and silent auction is back. This is a great chance to support a great cause and pick up some really cool items. From tractors to trucks, gift cards to meals – there is something for everyone in this auction. For more information click HERE.


The Kid Zone will be bigger this year than ever, with the Girl Scouts and Explore More Discovery Museum bringing activities to the show. Bouncy House, cookie toss, giant kerplunk, and more – this will be a fun space for kids of all ages.


The Rockingham-Harrisonburg SPCA is hosting an adoption event at the show this year. If you have been looking for a furry best friend, check out this event HERE.


Once again we celebrate the best of the best in our Valley Mobile Food scene. Join us as we enjoy the offerings of Mama’s Caboose, Mashita, Honey Baked Ham, Vova’s Kettle Corn, and Sweet Treats at the show!

Beer and Wine Garden featuring local wine from Crossroads Vineyard and beer from Virginia Eagle. Sip on your favorite wine or brew while listening to the sounds of Mike Davis!

Randy’s Do It Best Hardware Plant Sale will give you a chance to purchase beauty and color to get your home SPRING READY!





SVBA Harrisonburg Home and Garden Show 2013 – new venue, new attitude, you don’t want to miss this!

Construction Experts, Classic Car Show, Bands, Dancing, Kid Zone with HUGE Bouncy House, Taste of Virginia, BEER Garden, SPCA, United Way, MTC, Live Auction, Silent Auction – this is not your everyday HOME and GARDEN Show!

The SVBA Home and Garden Show for 2013 is scheduled for April 12th – 14th at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds in Harrisonburg. This Building Communities event is at a new venue, has a new attitude, and has new activities.

Friday Night: Invitation only party with music, food, drinks. If you want in to this exclusive preview show of the Home Show, contact an exhibitor today as there will be limited admission. The show is not open to the public on Friday night!

Saturday (10 am – 8 pm) – BBQ Chicken by MTC students, Food Trucks (Moma’s Caboose, Galindez Catering, a donut truck), Classic Car Show, Bands (Soul Transit Authority and Age Before Beauty) Bouncy Houses for the kids, Beer Garden for adults (to benefit the United Way Harrisonburg), SPCA Adoption Center, Construction Industry Experts. Admission is $3 per person or $5 for a family (proceeds from admission benefit MTC). Children under 12 are free.


Sunday (Noon – 5pm) – Food Trucks (Moma’s Caboose, Galindez Catering, a donut truck), Bouncy House for the kids, SPCA Adoption Center, Construction Experts. Admission is $2 per person or $5 for a family (proceeds from admission benefit MTC). Children under 12 are free.


Here is a recap of the show from last year.

Get to know “Harrisonburg Bikram Yoga”: Friday Featured Local Business

About Harrisonburg Bikram Yoga: Opened in February of 2013, this business is one of a new trend of health focused expansions in Downtown Harrisonburg. 


Kendall, give us some background on your company. What do you do and why do you do it? 

Bikram Yoga Harrisonburg offers yoga classes in a traditional Hatha yoga sequence of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises performed in a room heated to 105 degrees and 40% humidity. We opened the studio with the dream of bringing the yoga series and its many healing benefits to the Harrisonburg community and surrounding areas.


Do you have an ideal client? If so, what do they look like? 

Our ideal client is human. 😉 Seriously, though, anyone can do Bikram yoga. As Bikram says, “It’s never too late, it’s never too bad, and you’re never too old or sick to start from scratch once again.” Bikram yoga gives you control over your own body and health. Anyone interested in doing that is an ideal client.

What is your favorite success story in the past few years? 

Our grand opening weekend was packed! We had lots of new and experienced yogis and they all came out with smiling, happy faces. I consider that success!

What do you like to do for fun? Favorite restaurant? Favorite place to spend a Saturday afternoon? 

When I’m not in yoga on Saturday afternoon, I love to spend my time watching movies, going for beautiful hikes, or eating good food at local restaurants like Local Chop, Clementine, or Little Grill (where I can get delicious vegan food).

What is on your (iPod, radio, phone) while you work? 

I have a Pandora station I’ve created with Bob Marley and Frank Sinatra. It comes up with some really interesting song choices. This is probably my favorite thing to listen to while I work. When I’m driving, I love “This American Life” podcasts or “Ted” talks.

What is your favorite book? 

Fahrenheit 451

What is your favorite app for your phone or iPod? 

Pinterest. I love browsing around for recipes, new ideas, and yoga posture pictures!

Where is your favorite place to vacation?

the beaches and rain-forests of Costa Rica (my husband’s country)

What historical figure would you most like to have dinner with and why? 

A toss-up between Alan Watts and Andy Warhol. Both extremely intelligent and I admire their work for different reasons. I would want to soak up the philosophy of Mr. Watts and absorb the curious creativity of Mr. Warhol.

After Construction

After Construction

Before Construction

Before Construction

During Construction

During Construction


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