PETERSBURG, Va. -- Stuart Turille Jr., who is less than one month into his new job as Petersburg's city manager, said he has a vision for the historic Virginia city.
"Look at these beautiful homes right here," Turille pointed on a recent drive with WTVR CBS 6 Senior Reporter Wayne Covil. "I see the future. I see the vision for this place."
Born in Englewood, New Jersey, Turille's family moved to Virginia when he was five years old.
"I'm a native Virginian. I'm from Lynchburg," he said. "And I have a bias to these to old Virginia historical towns that have roots in history."
While not focused solely on the past, Turille said he understands the significant role Petersburg played in U.S. history.
"This community loves its history, preserves and protects it. Look at the wonderful architecture here dating back 200 years," Turille said.
That includes Pocahontas Island, which had the largest free Black population before the Civil War.
"That's something to be celebrated," he said. "That's something only we have."
The new city manager also comes to town knowing the problems that have plagued City Hall in the not so distant past, including the financial crisis, utility bill problems and and more recently, the Old Towne Square controversy.
"It was a pilot project, and it was successful, brought people down primarily on the weekend," Turille explained.
The plan to reopen Sycamore Street on Aug. 9 to traffic more than a year after the city turned the space into Old Towne Square -- an outdoor dining area to help restaurants -- during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"So the sad part is, is if it goes down there, the odds of it being utilized are slim to none," one woman said about relocating the square.
"I see the potential for this," Turille said. "It just needs to be done in the right way, with the right design, a master plan that we can all have our visions considered an integrated into the plan. And then we build it."
It's not just Old Towne, but all of downtown that Turille sees as a unique business opportunity.
"I mean it the Old Towne downtown is going to be the center point of economic development," Turille said. "That's where things are gonna happen. That's where the vitality, all the vitality and vibrancy will emanate from there."
Turille cited urban infill, what he described as the movement of suburbanites wanting to live downtown.
"It's a whole different dynamic," he said. "It's very exciting, which is what attracts me to be here."
Infrastructure is another issue Turille wants to tackle.
"Frankly, hundreds of years ago, the infrastructure was laid at the founding of the city," Turille said. "What are we going do to upgrade that and... take it from its antiquated form into a more modern capacity?"
Turille is meeting with department heads trying to fast track the learning curve of moving to a new city.
But the city manager insists on a hands-on approach when learning about the community.
"I seek firsthand information from the citizens. I want to know what they think," he said.
And dealing with the public will soon include a public-private partnership called Save Historic Petersburg.
The history here, the homes cannot be allowed to deteriorate. Not one more historic home or structure to come down," Turille vowed.
Turille comes to Petersburg with a strong background in economic development. He said he is confident in Petersburg's future, which he believes includes a restored connection to the Appomattox River for commercial and recreational use.
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