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Spotsy's villages part of trend
Fredericksburg's downtown not the only game in town

 The fledgling Spotsylvania Courthouse Village is modeled after a traditional downtown such as Fredericksburg's.
Visit the Photo Place
Date published: 7/5/2010


On Saturday morning, as event organizers prepared to welcome the crowds a July Fourth festival would bring, shoppers perused produce at a small farmers market around a public square lined with brick sidewalks, decorative light poles and embellished street signs.

Within walking distance were a school, a local government headquarters and a line of storefronts with living space above them.

It could have been a scene out of many Virginia downtowns--these days, the proliferation of "For Lease" signs on the empty storefronts wouldn't have been too out of place.

But this wasn't an established city center. It was the beginnings of Spotsylvania Courthouse Village.

The plan for the village is an example of "new urbanism," a trend that seeks to re-create the range of activities, from retail to residences, that exist in traditional downtowns.

This concept has been popular nationwide for some time, as developers and localities seek to allow people to live, work and entertain themselves all in one place.

And it can be found in developments and government planning documents around the Fredericksburg region.

Make no mistake--Courthouse Village as it exists today is no match for downtown Fredericksburg. The economy has slowed its development somewhat. There are more empty storefronts than active ones, and crowds are so sparse that the farmers market has had a hard time retaining vendors.

But Courthouse Village developer Bill Vakos III said last year that he expects the village to fill out over the next decade, and he emphasized that it's not a "shopping center."

"We truly believe, and I think the county believes, that this will be their downtown," he said at the time.

Closer to the city limits, the Cafaro Co. recently opened its Village at Towne Centre.

The open-air "lifestyle center" puts on-street parking, sidewalks, grassy "town squares" and outdoor events together in a way that approximates a traditional central business district.

In addition, Stafford County is discussing redevelopment plans for several areas of the county that look a lot like traditional town centers.

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