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Barry Kelley ('83)
Downtown Harrisonburg was once a booming center for the local community, filled with shops and restaurants. Yet many of these businesses left downtown when large peripheral shopping centers were built. The heart of Harrisonburg quickly became deserted, save for the courthouse, the jail and a handful of shops and restaurants. Over the past decade, though, things have changed. Barry Kelley ('83), president of MatchBox Realty, with the help of Andrew Forward ('86), is changing downtown Harrisonburg from a once drab and dreary place to a social center with a cultural heritage. Kelley turned the old Wetsel seed building into City Exchange, a restored building that maintained the historical essence of Harrisonburg, while offering fashionable flats with modern amenities. He also worked on the restoration of the Walton Hotel, which now houses the Blue Nile, a popular bar and restaurant that has become a staple of downtown nightlife. His biggest project, however, Urban Exchange has changed the culture and landscape of downtown by turning a barely used parking lot into a modern, green living space, attracting a diverse group of tenants from all walks of life. And Barry isn't finished changing Harrisonburg. Future projects include renovating and restoring an old car shop into offices and turning an old icehouse into an artisan space for artists, lofts for residents and even a place for aquaculture.
”We saw the UE becoming a place where campus, city and corporations live together. I believe this has greatly impacted our community in a positive way … At the end of the day you are creating space/place and that is what counts.“