Tuesday, August 30, 2016

What's in a name?


It’s kind of interesting to hear someone say that they live near Rt. 250 in Manakin, because Manakin is on Rt. 6. They probably mean that they live in the Manakin-Sabot zip code, which encompasses a large part of eastern Goochland. According to a recent item posted on richmondbizsense.com it has the highest per capita income in the region.
This water tower, which rises just north of Broad Street Road, welcomes all to Centerville.

To further confuse matters, many people whose homes are geographically in the Centerville Village, have zip codes for Rockville, which is in Hanover County, or Richmond. Part of the River Road enclave also has a Richmond zip code.

Thanks to the United States Postal Service, folks who live in Goochland may have mailing addresses in Hanover, Louisa, and Fluvanna counties too. Some people who live in Hanover and Louisa have Goochland zip codes. Telephone exchanges are just as confusing.

There are lots of places in the county, that use the Goochland 23063 zip code, including Othma, Bula, Georges Tavern, and Fife, that no longer have post offices. Sabot, which was once a thriving village near what is now Route 6, with its own train station, ferry crossing, and church, is just a memory. Then there is Deep Run Hunt Country, in the middle of the Manakin-Sabot zip code, that is defined in the county’s comprehensive land use plan, and the hearts and minds of the Goochland’s equestrian community.
This is the heart of Manakin. The post office is at the right.


Goochland has no incorporated towns. Courthouse Village, which contains government offices, a church, schools, and commercial activities, elements of what is traditionally considered a town, is just a place. Centerville is trying to figure out what it will be when it grows up, but the zip code matter confuses things, as do local enterprises physically located in Centerville that use Manakin in the name.

For instance, McDonald’s and Taco Bell list their location as Manakin-Sabot, even though they are in the shadow of the water tower that welcomes you to Centerville. Many people navigate by GPS, which uses zip codes to find things. Business owners don’t care what the Postal Service calls their location, they just want customers to find them.

The Audi dealership soon to take shape inside the boundaries of the Centerville Village, seems to be having an identity crisis. One sign on the property announces the pending arrival of West Broad Audi, another Audi of Richmond. As the property is located in the "Richmond"23233 zip code, either would be correct.

Our six fire-rescue stations have names that match their location. Manakin Company 1 is on Route 6 in, well, Manakin. Centerville Company 3 is right next to the Broadview Shopping Center on Broad Street Road and so on.
Manakin Company 1 is on Route 6.


A great deal of time and energy has been expended over the past few years to determine exactly how the Centerville Village will develop. Market forces and private sector investment, not the county, will ultimately determine what springs up there. Will lacking an identity hamper that?

Centerville has been designated as ground zero for economic development in Goochland. It has public utilities, good road access, and in the path of westward bound growth as Henrico builds out. Differentiating Centerville from Short Pump is a tricky task. Efforts to create a unique sense of place for Centerville have been ongoing with limited success.

Placing a “Welcome to Centerville” sign at street level, is not an option. VDOT—the state agency whose motto is “Oops!”—does not permit welcome signs for places that are not incorporated political subdivisions. That’s why there is a “Welcome to Henrico County” sign in the middle of Broad Street east of the county line in what is clearly perceived as Short Pump.

Sometime this fall, the county will begin installation of the first phases of the Centerville streetscape project, intended to visually unify the Broad Street Road corridor in the core of the Centerville Village, between Ashland and Manakin Roads. Improvements will include cobblestone “noses” on the median ends accented with low maintenance drought tolerant landscaping. A more ambitious design, which included street trees, white spilt rail fencing, and street furniture, was modified due to concerns about cost of installation and maintenance.

County Staff is looking for sort of “feature” to capture the rural nature of Goochland in lieu of a sign in entrance corridors. Perhaps something as simple as the county logo without words would suffice and might pass muster with VDOT.

The Centerville Village overlay district has stringent design standards to ensure that new businesses are attractive and harmonize with their surroundings. Perhaps just having lower density than the residential and commercial development just over the county line will send a clear signal that you’re not in Short Pump any more.

Does the name of a place really matter? If so many people refer to Centerville as Manakin because of its zip code, maybe the county should just follow suit and stop using the name Centerville altogether. Does the cachet of a Manakin-Sabot zip code attract business? Maybe Manakin on Route 6 could become Sabot—no one seems to be using that name and it would help things come full circle.







1 comment:

Doug Zeigler said...

We love the cachet of Manakin Sabot, and have enjoyed the pleasant complications of explaining, spelling, and describing our hyphenated village name ever since moving here five years ago. We derive extra pleasure from living in Boscobel Country subdivision, to boot.

Doug Zeigler