Andrew Forward ('86)
Preserving the past
The culture of Harrisonburg is rapidly changing, and this is no accident. Spearheading this change is Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, an organization of local-area businessmen and professionals who are focused on turning downtown into a vibrant, urban community, while maintaining Harrisonburg's historical heritage. Designating parts of downtown as an historic district, developers, such as Andrew Forward ('86) began looking at Harrisonburg as a potential place to develop property, both residential and commercially. Forward, in partnership with Barry Kelley ('83), renovated the City Exchange building, turning it from an old abandoned seed factory into a complex with a restaurant and modern day flats. City Exchange became a huge hit among current JMU students and a common hotspot for weekend nightlife. Encouraged by his success, Forward began looking at other properties to develop downtown and discovered a need and a desire for more modern housing. Forward and Kelley then built Urban Exchange, a sustainable living space that is now home to a diverse group of tenants, from all walks of life. The modern living environment was constructed with energy efficient building materials and features outlets designed for charging electric cars. Such sustainability and technological advancements, once rare in Harrisonburg, signal the beginning of a brighter and sustainable future for Harrisonburg.
”I love being able to see the vibrancy of the area. We knew we could create opportunities to provide a unique environment to downtown that previously hadn't been available.“