City Council discusses new goals and initiatives at public workshop

A panel presented TED-talk style speeches on of free speech in the media followed by a discussion. FILE PHOTO / THE FLAT HAT

Increasing student and community-focused retail and diversifying industries are among Williamsburg’s upcoming projects.

The City Council and Williamsburg residents met last Thursday evening to discuss the goals, initiatives and outcomes for 2013 and 2014.

One of the biggest plans for the future is a push for more professional services.

“Our engines now are tourism, hospitality and education. That’s what drives our revenue in the city. When you rely on one or two industries, there’s always a danger,” Michele DeWitt, the economic development director, said.

An incentive program in the arts district gives tax cuts to creative businesses that position themselves in the area. Examples of creative businesses include software engineers and architects in addition to artists.

Another big push is student-oriented retail near the College that would follow in the footsteps of Tribe Square and Brickhouse Tavern.

“There has been a lot of progress with mixed-use development and the trolley. This is what people mostly care about in college — having places to go and things to do,” Danielle Waltrip ’14 said.

Waltrip serves on the Neighborhood Relations Committee, which sends reference material to students about off-campus housing and city rules such as trash day regulations and public library hours. The Committee also works to maintain effective relationships between landlords, city residents, college students and neighbors.

“The relationship between the city of Williamsburg and the College, in the seven years I have been here, has drastically improved,” Chris Connolly ’15, a Williamsburg native and a member of the Planning Commission, said. “The establishment of the Neighborhood Relations Committee and the work that it does allows more communication and alleviates some of the tensions between students and long-term residents. This has helped a lot.”

Other upcoming plans are sidewalk improvements and increasing the number of units per acre, which would allow for more apartments or rooms in off-campus housing. Currently, up to 14 residential units can exist in one acre with special permission. The Planning Commission of Williamsburg is working to make 14 units per acre the standard, with the maximum being 22.

“It will allow for more dense development downtown and more of a vibrant community,” Connolly said.

If the policy had been implemented before the construction of Tribe Square, two of the three study lounges could have been used for more housing units. But, because of the policy’s limit, Tribe Square currently sports three lounges.

“College students are residents, too, and we want to hear from them.  We care about what they think.  We are trying to find ways to make it easier for students to participate, by using things like social media,” Kate Hoving, communication specialist for Williamsburg, said.


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