RADFORD — The city approved its highest valuation of building permits in more than a decade, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, according to officials.

Radford approved 285 permits worth just over $14 million in development for the fiscal year 2020, which ends June 30, according to city spokeswoman Jenni Wilder.

With nearly 100 more permits than the city has approved in each of the past five years — and millions of dollars more in investments — City Manager David Ridpath said the “significant private investment in renovations, commercial property and new housing starts” reflects confidence in the Radford market. He said the permits will have two main effects: an increase in property values and spurring new business development.

“This also affects increases in utility accounts. The permits are an indicator of the economy,” Ridpath said.

Mayor David Horton said the high numbers can be attributed to a number of initiatives supported by city council.

“We feel at least a little bit we’ve helped improve the morale and the positive feeling about the city of Radford moving in the forward direction to make it possible for people to feel like they can get a return on their investment,” he said. “Ultimately the things we’ve done like the POP program and facade enhancement support have helped sow the seeds. Doing projects the the triangle plaza on Main Street and adding improvements where we can ... have inspired other people to make those investments as well.”

Horton said finally getting long-awaited school capital projects off the ground will have a lasting effect on the community, making the city more desirable for families.

“There’s a lot of housing that’s going up. One of the needs we have is for single-family housing and that is a multi-component element. You have to have investors who are willing to build and develop ... You have to have an environment where people want to purchase in your market,” he said. “I think the improvements we’ve made to our school system and some of the plans we’ve made to improve our business districts and reworking some of our zoning districts have eased the concerns of investors that they’ll get a return on the investment.”

He pointed specifically to the housing development — some to buy and some to rent — that is currently being built off of Rock Road.

Additionally, Horton believes the Food City that opened this week, and the shopping center adjacent to the new grocery store, will further enhance Radford’s economic offerings.

He also said multiple restaurants have popped up in the city over the past year, and improvements were made to the Central Square Shopping Center, along with many improvements to some Main Street businesses.

Horton said that getting the city on track financially since the new string of council members — including Horton — were elected in 2018 has helped facilitate some of these projects and efforts by the city as well.

“We are at a place where we aren’t dipping into our reserves to cover costs and have them back where they need to be over the last two years,” he said.

As far as economic downturn due to the pandemic, Horton said a lot of unknowns remain, but he is confident Radford will weather the storm.

“There’s a renewed enthusiasm and spirit of hope for our community,” he said. “The future is bright in Radford.”

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