Harrisonburg is an independent city in Rockingham County, Virginia. The population was 40,468 at the 2000 census. It is the principal city of Rockingham County and is included in the Harrisonburg, Virginia Metropolitan Statistical Area. Harrisonburg is located in the Shenandoah Valley and is home to James Madison University and Eastern Mennonite University. It is the county seat of Rockingham County. The Bureau of Economic Analysis combines the city of Harrisonburg with Rockingham county for statistical purposes, while the US Census Bureau treats Harrisonburg as an independent County for census tabulation.
In 1849, trustees chartered a mayor-council form of government, although Harrisonburg was not officially incorporated as an independent city until 1916.
As of the census of 2000, there were 40,468 people, 13,133 households, and 6,448 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,304.4 people per square mile (889.8/km²). There were 13,689 housing units at an average density of 779.5/sq mi (301.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 84.84% White, 5.92% Black or African American, 0.19% Native American, 3.11% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 3.35% from other races, and 2.57% from two or more races. 8.85% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 13,133 households out of which 23.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.4% were married couples living together, 9.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 50.9% were non-families. 28.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.53 and the average family size was 3.00.
The age distribution, which is strongly influenced by the city's two universities, is: 15.4% under the age of 18, 40.9% from 18 to 24, 21.2% from 25 to 44, 13.2% from 45 to 64, and 9.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 23 years. For every 100 females there were 90.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.5 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $29,949, and the median income for a family was $45,159. Males had a median income of $29,951 versus $22,910 for women. The per capita income for the city was $14,898. About 11.5% of families and 30.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.7% of those under age 18 and 11.4% of those age 65 or over. However, traditional poverty measures can be misleading when applied to a community with a relatively large student population, such as Harrisonburg.
A large portion of this black neighborhood was dismantled in the 1950s when the city government used federal redevelopment funds from the Housing Act of 1949 to force black families out of their homes and bulldozed the neighborhood in the name of urban renewal. This effort, called "Project R4," focused on the city blocks east of Main, north of Gay, west of Broad, and south of Johnson. The city later sold the land to commercial developers.
In early 2002, the Harrisonburg community discussed the possibility of creating a pedestrian mall downtown. The trend for cities nationwide had been to close their downtowns to automobiles, creating a walker-friendly area. Public meetings were held to discuss the merits and drawbacks of a pedestrian mall in Harrisonburg. Ultimately, the community decided to keep its Main Street open to traffic. From these discussions, however, a strong voice emerged from the community in resounding support of downtown revitalization. On July 1, 2003, Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance was incorporated as a 501(c)3 non-profit with the mission of rejuvenating the downtown district. Since this point, downtown has been designated as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places and a designated Main Street Community, with the neighboring Old Town residential community gaining historic district status in 2007. Several vacant buildings have been renovated and re-purposed for new uses, like the Hardesty-Higgins House and City Exchange, used for the Harrisonburg Tourist Center and high-end loft apartments, respectively. In addition, downtown's reputation as a hub for trendy, locally-owned restaurants has helped to attract young professionals to the city core. Restaurants opening their doors since the revitalization movement began include Downtown 56, Luigi's Pizza Co., Clementine, Blue Nile Ethiopian Cuisine, Earth & Tea Cafe and the Teratsa at Dave's Downtown Taverna.