Win tickets to see the smash hit musical Mamma Mia at the Roanoke Civic Center. Two winners will each receive four tickets!
Having checked off much of its wish list for downtown Roanoke, it’s time to draw up a new one. Add your wishes to the new list.
Monday, September 9, 2013
When Outlook Roanoke Update was compiled in 2002, the downtown consisted of a collection of aging buildings ripe for change. Now, 11 years later, the evolution is evident on nearly every block. Some 1,300 people live downtown, and more will surely follow as newly converted spaces come online.
Roanoke’s cultural offerings — its museums and prime downtown park — have also transformed into new dynamic spaces. Having checked off nearly all expectations spelled out in the 2002 plan, it’s time to start anew and to begin addressing emerging concerns: balancing the mix of residents and office workers so that new condos and apartments don’t crowd out office space; ensuring there’s a diverse mix of commercial space that accommodates all sizes and types of businesses; encouraging a stronger retail presence and development on parking lots; strengthening bordering neighborhoods.
To seek solutions and set a guiding vision, the city of Roanoke and Downtown Roanoke Inc. have teamed up to write a new downtown master plan. The aim is to continue building on the central business district’s new strengths and to tie in the neighborhoods that surround it: Gainsboro, Southeast, Old Southwest, West End.
City planner Frederick Gusler said the city is purposely leaving the borders fuzzy because “downtown” isn’t neatly hemmed in by particular streets. Even internally, planners differ on hard boundaries, but they do agree the edges should be included in the new plan so as to create a seamless transition that invites people to cross from one area to the next.
Though the definition of the downtown district has grown, expanding into Riverside and including the Carilion-Virginia Tech complex, Gusler said a redevelopment plan exists for much of that new area, so it isn’t the focus of this new plan. But the South Jefferson Street corridor connecting Riverside and Elmwood Park will be addressed.
The downtown plan is expected to take a year to develop and will include many opportunities for public involvement. A steering committee and an advisory committee will guide the process, and several rounds of public meetings will be hosted, starting with an open house this Wednesday in Charter Hall in the City Market Building from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Evening meetings will follow on Sept. 25 in Charter Hall and Oct. 17 at the Virginia Museum of Transportation.
The gatherings will allow people to come and share what it is they like about downtown Roanoke and what they would change or like to see happen. Online surveys asking much the same are available through social media to capture the opinions of younger Roanokers who aren’t as likely to attend meetings but who are a very large part of the downtown scene.
From all these comments and ideas, planners will be able to begin shaping the new blueprint to guide downtown’s continuing transformation.
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