The remodel of Rouss City Hall in 2020 offered me my first opportunity to learn from Tim Youmans, the current planning director but widely regarded as Winchester’s unofficial historian. Staff held tours to highlight the changes, and I persisted on sneaking into Tim’s group because I knew we’d learn so much more. I wasn’t mistaken. So it was an honor to sit down with him and talk about his own experience in Winchester as well as his future plans.
Planners, like most cities grappling with their future, often bear the brunt of local opinions on what should and should not be constructed. A look through any local groups on social media will give you an idea of how much the public doesn’t comprehend about planning, as well as a look back at the changes that have occurred in the past. When Tim first moved to the city in 1988, the Old Town walking mall was teeming with furniture, hardware, and drug shops; today, we have only one of those in our footprint.
“So that’s what I’m seeing change, it reinvents itself depending on what the vision is for downtown, and right now, the vision is that we want to encourage both empty nesters and young professionals and college students.” And so things like breweries and eateries with a certain vibe are popular right now. “I’m not sure if there will be any breweries downtown in 15 or 20 years, maybe not, but we’ve kept the fabric of the historic downtown setting,” Tim adds.
Tim has worked on five comprehensive plan updates, over 60 elected officials, and at least three walking mall renovations, so it’s no exaggeration to say he knows the most about our past right now. He will be releasing a gazetteer with the Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society that will document the name origins of over 580 current and former streets and alleys within Winchester City limits, with more publications in the works.
Because city planners do not receive immediate gratification, their aim is to be able to say that after 20-30 years, this place, Winchester, is better than it was. Tim would contend that it is, and we would wholeheartedly agree.