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Posts Tagged ‘City Hall’

Valley: Week Four

In Valley on August 8, 2012 at 11:58 pm

Audrey Ross is living democracy in Valley, Alabama.  Originally from Siloam Springs, Ark., she is an honors students majoring in mathematics at Auburn University.  Living Democracy is a yearlong collaboration between students and citizens on issues that matter to local communities.

There are many different civic spaces in which the work of the city takes place. Naturally, the center of the city’s civic work is Valley City Hall. Most of the official business of the city is conducted here, and citizens can attend city council meetings in order to stay up to date with what is happening in their community. City Hall isn’t just a place for business; it’s also the place to start if change needs to occur. What makes City Hall a great civic space are the knowledgeable and caring staff who listen to the citizens’ needs and point them in the right direction to solve their problems. By having access to the many contacts of City Hall, one or a few citizens can get the answers and support needed to make positive strides and changes for the community as a whole.

In addition, Valley City Hall, the police department, the post office, Alabama Power, and EMS are all located in the same complex of buildings. This allows for better connectivity within these entities and brings a variety of people to the same location. Another important civic space is the Valley Community Center. The unique thing about this location is that the community center and sportsplex are combined into one building. This can allow for many different types of events to be held at the Community Center, and it also draws different demographics to the same area. Various community programs and events take place at the Community Center, but there are also the members who come to use the walking track, weight room, and indoor pool.

Another great civic space is the Langdale Mill, which holds offices and hosts a farmers’ market throughout the summer as well as other community events.  But the real potential of the space is to come, with revitalization plans in place to turn the area into a city center. Though the traditional areas of civic commerce in Valley are great, citizens’ work does not stop when we leave city hall. Places such as the beauty shop down the street, the local coffee shop, and the many churches throughout the area are also key locations. Like many communities, much of the civic activity that goes on in Valley happens in these “third places”. Citizens can gather, discuss city issues and politics, and most importantly become a more cohesive group. The majority of these types of places start with a small group of people who understand the value of unity and community. They are able to quickly grow by word of mouth and citizens can accomplish goals by the group’s shared connections and resources. For this reason, oftentimes a city’s third places can be more effective than traditional civic spaces.

One of the things that is lacking in Valley is a city center. Many cities have a downtown area where much of the work and commerce of the city takes place. Shops are located back-to-back and citizens can go there just to browse, walk around, and spend time with their community. Because Valley doesn’t have an area such as this and the community is too spread out to allow for most people to walk from place to place, there are fewer opportunities for everyday interaction between citizens. The plans to revitalize the Langdale Mill recognize this problem and strive to create that “city center”. The addition of the Langdale Mill complex has the potential to greatly improve the overall civic health of Valley by giving citizens a central location to gather, exchange information, and become more connected with their community.