Our 2012 annual community conversation took a look at the concept of placemaking and the  findings from the Knight Foundation’s Soul of the Community project which reveal how attachment to place drives economic vitality – and how understanding those attachments can direct the ways in which a place chooses to change and grow.

This series features reflections from community members who attended the event. We hope their stories will inspire you to define your version of this community’s narrative and use it as a lens through which to view decisions that will impact the character of this community.

Name: Andrea D. Copeland
Age: I am a brand new 40-year-old as of June 19
City/County resident? I live in the city of Charlottesville
Occupation: Director, Member Education Services with the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce, www.cvillechamber.com; Owner with Positive Channels, www.positive-channels.com

How long have you lived in Charlottesville?
I’ve lived in Charlottesville all of my life.

Why did you stay here?
I have chosen (for now) to remain in my hometown because I have deep roots here. My family, friends, church, business, involvement and investment with community programs and the love of this community has kept me here this long. I am not averse to moving to another city or state. But until that time comes, I will be here. 

What do you love most about where you live? 
There is so much that I love about living in Charlottesville. In fact, the older I get, the more I appreciate my hometown. It’s aethetically pleasing, although some of this beauty came at a high cost to some communities; the citizens are civic-minded, they get involved; it’s just the right size to stay connected to one another. I also love that I am able to take my skills, gifts and talents and serve the community where I grew up and was educated. 

Any takeaways from the Placemaking event?
It was interesting to learn about the 4 attachment drivers and to hear from those attending the luncheon speak about where they feel we are as a community as it relates to these drivers. 

The Soul of the Community research says there are four happiness drivers which connect a person to their place: aesthetics, openness, social offerings, and education. Of those four things, where are we most successful and where do we need more work?
For some, Charlottesville is successful in all four areas. And while I am of the opinion that this city is pleasing to the eyes and offers a plethora of opportunities for most to receive a quality education, we can certainly increase our social offerings in such a way all members of the community can and will support them. Also, if we spent as much time talking about and fixing the achievement gap as we do talking and boasting about The University, perhaps parents of children & students who are struggling academically and who are falling through the cracks will feel as if we care about them as much as we do those that are doing well academically. 

If placemaking was central to our decision-making, what might this community do differently?
We can ensure that when making decisions based on aesthetics, openness, education and social offerings, we keep in mind how it will impact those communities not represented during discussions. Therefore, it behooves us as a community to have a healthy cross-section of the community intricately involved from the beginning so it doesn’t give the appearance of catering to a select few rather than the masses who make up the community.