JMU — Community Calendar Spring/Summer 2012
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Partners At The Center Of Downtown
Gabrielle Piccininni

Andrew Forward (’86) and Barry Kelley (’83)

JMU alumni Andrew Forward (’86) and Barry Kelley (’83) have brought a vital front into the converging perfect storm that is revitalizing downtown Harrisonburg and making an impact on the wider economy and culture.

The local businessmen had a simple but ingenious vision in mind when they teamed up as co-developers in 2005 of two real-estate ventures, The Flats at City Exchange and Urban Exchange apartment complexes. The two enterprises have been empowering a new kind of locally aware lifestyle for a growing breed of highly social and sophisticated residents and have contributed to a 250 percent increase in downtown residency since 2003. According to Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, residency is one of the key building blocks of sustained downtown revitalization.

Forward and Kelley’s business interests have aligned with those of other corporations like Rosetta Stone and SRI, financial and educational institutions like Eastern Mennonite University and Bridgewater College and, of course, their own alma mater. The influx of downtown visitors and residents have promoted an urban environment and supported new and veteran businesses, restaurants, clothing and jewelry stores, and cultural attractions.

These innovative alumni are themselves a phenomenon of a growing JMU, which during the last decade especially has been bringing jobs and opportunity to the area — along with new residents who have both contributed to the local culture and economy and demanded more from them. Forward is the owner of Chathill & Associates and Kelley the president of Matchbox Realty.

They collaborated with many other interests to put together the renovation and construction plans of their two apartment complexes. City Exchange is the product of a 12-month partnership with the Department of Historic Resources. With 32 luxury apartments and the Chop House, a high-profile restaurant, City Exchange provides unique living spaces that respect Harrisonburg’s agricultural history. By reintegrating on-site materials including windows, doors and beams, Forward and Kelley maintained the integrity and history of the building’s original structure.

Conversely, Urban Exchange was a ground-up job located in the heart of downtown. With a business model stressing sustainable building, Forward and Kelley closely adhered to Green Building Principles throughout construction. With 194 modern apartments, ground-level retail spaces and two levels of underground parking, Urban Exchange brings a wave of new life to downtown without the increased use of land.

“We saw the UE becoming a place where campus, city and corporation live together,” Kelley says. “ It is a one of a kind that was designed for the needs of our community.”

With new projects on the drawing board, Forward and Kelley continue to play an instrumental role in downtown revitalization.