BEDFORD, Va. -

They call it Centertown for a reason.

Bedford is not only the center of the county, it's also a midpoint between the region's two largest cities.

Aaron Bond believes the location is ideal for development.

"The buildings and infrastructure are unparalleled anywhere else," said Bond, a student at the University of Illinois who has family in the Bedford area.

Bond and his friend Zach Klaas are students at the University of Illinois, where they're working on a master's degree in urban planning.  As part of their studies, they're putting Bedford under the microscope.

"Every time I meet someone on the street, they're willing to stop and talk with me and I really like that about this place," Klaas said.

Those friendly conversations have a purpose.

Klaas and Bond are working on a project called "Bedford Connections."  They're forming a long-term vision for the town, using input from residents.

"We're really interested in the connectivity issues in Centertown," said Bond.  "We're trying to just bring more vibrancy and opportunities downtown."

One area they're focusing on is the corner of Washington and South Bridge streets.

With a neighborhood grocery store nearby and lots of pedestrian traffic, Klaas and Bond believe the intersection could support new business.

As for what should be built, that's where the community comes in.

"I think that's one of the most important parts of our project," said Klaas.  "We're really trying to get the ideas to come from the community, to find out what people here really want."

The ideas are generated through workshops.  On Friday they held a brainstorming session with students at Bedford Science and Technology Center.

"We're looking to get ideas from these workshops, and then go off of that and see what would be feasible," Bond said.

They hope to design a plan that will meet the needs and desires of town residents.

"It's important for them to show their interest in the community, because that's the only way to make Bedford a better place," said Klaas.

You can share your ideas at a workshop Saturday morning at the Bower Center for the Arts on North Bridge Street in Bedford.  The free event starts at 10:30.  Residents and everyone else with an interest in Bedford are invited to attend.

Bond and Klaas will take the ideas generated back to Illinois, to form a final plan for Bedford that will be presented in May.