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Roanoke is, as the mayor says, on the right track for growth. Plans are under way that will bring major change.
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Mayor David Bowers’ annual state of the city speech usually affords him the opportunity to gaze upon Roanoke through his star-clouded glasses and offer a vision rooted more in zeal than in any real foundation.
But Bowers’ enthusiasm in his speech delivered Friday was not misplaced. Those not paying close attention to city government might have thought Bowers hit a grandiose note when he said: “The future destination of our city will be grand in that the skyline of Roanoke will be dramatically changing over the next 20 years. You may want to take a postcard photograph now and compare it to two decades from now. I think you will see a whole lot of development and change.”
He isn’t talking just about a few hotel floors tacked on top of the Market Street garage, though that, too, will come.
The mayor’s forecast of 20 years might be a smidgen Pollyanish, but Bowers is on target with the pronouncement that valley-changing development along the Interstate 581 corridor is inevitable. It’s already under way, guided by two documents the mayor and city council endorsed since Bowers’ last state of the city speech.
n The first document, a performance agreement with Roanoke River Associates, will guide redevelopment on 20 acres along the Roanoke River. It builds upon the last decade’s public-private partnership that not only physically transformed that area of South Roanoke with the Carilion Riverside Center, but germinated an emerging industry through the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute.
n The other document, a new neighborhood plan for Evans Spring, will guide growth north of downtown. Once the Virginia Department of Transportation finishes the interchange of I-581 and Valley View Boulevard, 130 acres of private land will open up to developers, as access will no longer impede growth. Wisely, city planners worked with the landowners and people from nearby neighborhoods to define amenities they desire and to control the growth so that the land does not become a sequel to Valley View. Each developer’s proposal will be vetted to determine if what someone wants to build coincides with what the community wants built.
How dramatically both of these developments will change Roanoke’s skyline, and how quickly, remains unknown. But the mayor is right: Change is coming.