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?


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