Balancing Economic Growth and Environmental Stewardship – Purcellville’s Sustainability Strategy
For small communities around the country, economic development can be both a blessing and a curse. Development offers new job opportunities for local residents, increased tax revenue for town coffers, and a larger variety of goods and services. However, development can also threaten local businesses, damage the environment, and change the social cohesion of the general community. The challenge, then, for small communities is to attain the positive economic benefits of development while protecting their local environments. Purcellville, Virginia – a finalist in the 2012 Siemens Sustainable Community Awards – has been able to do just that.
Purcellville is a small town of 7,700 people located outside of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Its Go Green Purcellville plan is part of its overall strategic growth strategy, and the town has received local, state, and national recognition for its commitment to preservation and public/private partnerships. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, as well as former Governor Tim Kaine, have recognized Purcellville for its demonstrated commitment to the stewardship of Virginia’s natural resources.
Furthering its commitment to environmental stewardship and economic growth, Purcellville has recently taken on two important projects.
In 2007, Purcellville purchased the Bush Tabernacle (exterior pictured) with the goal of restoring the historic structure and making it a central meeting place for the community. The Tabernacle was built in 1904 and has hosted historical figures including Patsy Cline, William Jennings Bryan, and Billy Sunday.
When Purcellville started the renovation process, it decided to make the Tabernacle as green as possible. Purcellville added a geothermal heating and cooling system, manufactured a new roof made of recycled metal, installed LED lights, and made the water system more efficient. The Bush Tabernacle reopened in 2010 and is named on the National Register of Historic Buildings.
Since then it has served as an integral space for community events, including the Loudoun Expo– an annual festival showcasing local farms, wineries, and other businesses attended by more than 2,000 people. Speaking of the significance of the project, Mayor Robert Lazaro stated: “At the end of the day, this is something that the people of Purcellville will be able to look back on forever; it really is a gift to the community.”
This commercial project featuring a 53,000-square-foot supermarket; 30,000 square feet of retail space; and 22,000 square feet of office space will be a significant source of economic growth for Purcellville. When the project was first proposed, the town and developer worked together to ensure that the development did not end up as “just another strip mall” and instead aimed to incorporate the look and feel of Purcellville’s history.
To that end, the project’s plan incorporates all of the existing structures of the old Cole Farm that has stood on the land for generations. The developer will also increase the tree canopy for the area and add a water feature to ensure that the site maintains its rustic feel.
The partnership has also been efficient: after beginning construction in March of 2011, a major portion of the development will be completed in June 2012.
The Bush Tabernacle and Purcellville Gateway demonstrate how small communities can preserve their traditional values and protect the environment while also offering increased economic prosperity. The town was able to use green methods to rejuvenate the Bush Tabernacle and make it a central meeting place. Purcellville was also able to collaborate positively with economic developers to ensure that the Gateway commercial property provided new economic opportunities while maintaining an authentic feel.
Purcellville will be honored at the Siemens Sustainable Community Awards Ceremony, a part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce National Conference. Purcellville Mayor Robert Lazaro, Jr. will be joining representatives from communities around the country, as well as private and public sector sustainability leaders at the event.